Friday, December 07, 2012

Sepia Saturday 155 : Genetic Grease


Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week shows an advertisement for Oshkosh Overalls and Workshirts, "the big overall for all big jobs". My initial reaction to the prompt was that I had several photographs of all manner of relatives in overalls - I come from a long line of mechanics and machine men: oil and engine grease lubricate my very genetic code. Perhaps it would have been better for me if I had come from a long line of archivists, at least that would have meant that my family photographs would have been catalogued and I would have been able to find the photographs I was looking for. The only "overall photograph" I could put my hands on - without too much hard work - was this one which shows my Uncle John (left) with a fine looking wagon from the 1920s or 1930s. I suspect that I might have used this image on my Blog before but all my efforts to track down a new "old" photograph were to no avail.

In many ways it should have been a photograph of my father, because I always associate overalls with him. Even after he retired he would often go off to his shed or garage, put an old pair of overalls on and start sorting through his collection of screws, or bolts or gears or whatever. There is something almost timeless and constant in this vision of my father in overalls, it is part of the background to my life, like Yorkshire, boiled sweets and fish and chips. But as I searched through a distant shoebox looking for a picture of my dad in his overalls I came across this letter.


As you can see it is a letter from a firm of printers in South Africa trying to find out if my father was still interested in applying for a position with them. There is talk of a telegram from my father and a letter to follow. The letter fills in some of the gaps in the story I vaguely remember being told about. The story of a job being offered in South Africa, my parents on the verge of emigration and then backing out at the last minute. Sat here 64 years later I wonder what caused them to send the telegram, back down from the job, and remain in West Yorkshire. And then I notice the date of the letter which was sent just seven days before I was born. What might have been, what might have been.

Take a look at the overall contributions for Sepia Saturday 155 by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links.

23 comments:

  1. Had you come from a long line of archivists, you might not have stumbled upon the last piece of a puzzle. So it all worked out for you, overall.

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  2. On the other hand the letter might have been filed in the binder "What might have been -1948." Good find though, wherever it was.

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  3. What a great find the letter is...a window into your parents life at that moment. Mind boggling how different your life might have been and it seems they made the right decision as you have such wonderful memories. Can you imagine them even thinking about making such a move when 8 months and 3 weeks pregnant - a time when most women are in full hormone-induced nest-building mode? As an aside, I looked up Herzeberg Mullne and the company, along with others, morphed into Nampack which is the largest packaging manufacturer in South Africa.

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  4. You could have grown up in South Africa. Imagine how different your life would have been. Although I don't have a post for Sepia Saturday, I happen to be wearing overalls at this very minute. They are the perfect attire for gardening and raking leaves, although I don't get any admiring looks.

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  5. That letter is quite a find. I wonder if we would have had Sepia Saturday if you had grown up in a different place. mmmmm.
    Nancy

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  6. Alan, a letter from the past, I wonder very much what made your parents reverse the decision. Migration is a huge undertaking and something must have "spooked"
    them, perhaps you!?

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  7. The overalls picture has a genuine look to it. These guys were grubby hard working characters. "What ifs" could probably make a complete blog.

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  8. "Perhaps it would have been better for me if I had come from a long line of archivists, at least that would have meant that my family photographs would have been catalogued and I would have been able to find the photographs I was looking for." LOL - I know the feeling. But the photo you did manage to lay your hands on is great.

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  9. Ah! Fate would not have it that you should be raised a South African, Alan. Wow.

    In the 1970s, my father was offered a big job and promotion with a company which would have seen us moving to Germany. I was old enough to kick up a real fuss, and that never happened. Sadly, my German is still restricted to "Sprachen zie Deutsch?" and "Danke Schoen".

    What might have been, indeed.

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  10. Another fine photo essay to take us into another world, Alan. But blogging about alternative history sounds too much like the Twilight Zone to me. Just turning your geography of Yorkshire topsy-turvy for Sud Afrika would be too much.

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  11. Perhaps it was apartheid that stopped them - you know how the South Africans looked down on the Yorkies.....

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  12. I feel that you've inherited your dad's 'sorting' gene, Alan. I'm thinking postcards and old photographs, here.

    When I was about 6 years old, my parents were close to emigrating to Rhodesia. They, too, backed out at the last minute...and boy, am I glad they did.

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  13. What a intriguing piece of personal history....

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  14. If you had been born in South Africa you would not have been eligible to play for Yorkshire. Not that I'm suggesting that's why your parents didn't go.

    Your archives can't be that bad if you can turn up a letter like this.

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  15. I was admiring the shot of your uncle and his buddy when I realized that, even after all these years, the overall hasn't changed a single bit! Most things get redesigned, reshaped, updated, etc., but the basic overall has withstood the test of time. Amazing!

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  16. Oh, the best made plans ... and then a baby changes everything! What a great post, Alan, and the picture and letter are both wonderful.

    Kathy M.

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  17. Excellent archival information with your influence on your parents decisions, even before you were born. Though I never had overalls, my 2 boys in the 70s did, and yet I think it was only that one pair for each of them. Back to regular jeans for them then. Thanks so much for doing Sepia Saturday!

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  18. Alan, I hope a photograph of your father in overalls turns up. I understand what you mean when you say that the vision of your father in overalls is part of the background of your life. Do we all have memories/visions like that from our younger years carry with us through the years? I sure do!

    About those overalls the men in your photo are wearing: what a mess to wash and try to get clean (coming from the perspective of one who does the laundry at our house).

    Your Uncle John looks a lot like your father.

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  19. That's a very fine photograph you've shared with us, whether you've shared it before or not. And it is new to those of us who are relatively new Sepia Saturday participants. So, all is well. My grandfather was also a mechanic. And I've written about him on my blog.

    The letter is quite an interesting find!

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  20. I am trying to envisage what Sepia Saturday would have been with you in South Africa and Kat in Germany. Must have been something like Black&White Samstag. That letter keeps puzzling me. I mean, your parents possibly have made their preliminary decision to emigrate a couple of weeks before you were born, when they dispatched the telegram. Your mother must already have been pregnant then for some time. So apparently during that short period of time, they changed their mind... The other thing that I don´t know is, what is a Laube operator? A Laube must be a machine of some kind I guess. I like the picture with the van! It looks like there is a lot of industry in the background.

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  21. So amazing to find such a piece of paper showing what might have been. Fascinating that it was kept all these years. I suppose it was a physical reminder of the choices they made.

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  22. Well, well, imagine the accent you'd have now if they had decided to...
    you know...
    ;)~
    HUGZ

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  23. Great old photo..what struck me was the tires on that truck..they seem so new. South Africa..now that would have been an adventure..have you visited there? If not perhaps you should put it on your list:)

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