All dressed in their Sunday Best

Ernestine, Doris, and Aubrey Rich, early 1930s

There are very few photos of my grandmother when she was young.  I have some of her in her teenage years (look for some of those soon!), but only one I can find of her age ten or younger.  Growing up in rural, southern North Carolina, her dad, Graham, was a tobacco farmer and gas station owner.  Her mother, Filidia, helped on the farm and raised three children, with my grandmother, Ernestine, being the youngest.

I love how this photo is composed.  Doris, the oldest daughter and the one in the middle, looks resigned and dignified.  Aubrey, to the right, looks wary.  Ernestine, the youngest, with her white blond hair and short dress, looks as if she’d rather be playing than stand in her best dress for a photograph.

I love how crisp and clean their clothes are.  Taken in the early 1930s, it was probably extremely rare and expensive to have a formal photograph such as this taken, as well as to wear their summer best.  The hard times are not quite evident in this photo, and perhaps, for a tobacco farmer, their financial situation may not have been as bad as other parts of the country.  However, Ernestine’s dress is just a smidge too small (as evidenced by the high empire waist, the height of the dress above her knees, and the length of the sleeves on her shoulders), and Aubrey and Doris’ shoes are worn at the toes.  The lack of smiles may also relate to the hard times; however their looks of boredom may relate to their discomfort at being made to stand for a photo.

I wish more photographs of Ernestine were taken when she was young.  I also wish I could have asked her about her childhood.  Just another case of realizing what wonderful stories you had at your fingertips, just a little too late.

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7 Comments

July 9, 2013 · 8:00 am

7 responses to “All dressed in their Sunday Best

  1. A nice family keepsake.

    • Thanks for the comment! I definitely agree! My mom keeps a print of it by her bed, and I’m contemplating framing a print of it as well (keeping the original stashed away in an archival sleeve, of course!) I wish I had more like it, but with this one being in such wonderful condition (and a wonderful portrayal of them and the times), It’ll have to do! 🙂

  2. I’m extremely pleased to find this great site. I want to to thank you for your time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new stuff on your blog.

  3. Zed

    My mother always said you should right the date, location and people’s name on the back of photos so In the future everyone would have the details. These days,with digital photos I am not sure how to best keep track

    • Your mother was smart! I always try to write names and dates on backs of photos when I print them out, too! Even with my digital files, I break them down from general to specific: a folder for year, a folder for month taken (with event they were taken at), and then if people are in it, I’ll even name my files with the individuals pictured. It’s time consuming and does tend to take up space on the computer screen, but I feel it’s worth it in the long run 🙂

  4. Pingback: Patterned Portrait | Blue Ridge Vintage

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