Friday, July 31, 2015

Sepia Saturday 290 : On The Boardwalk With Grandma Kate


To the best of my knowledge my grandmother, Kate Beanland, never went to Ostend; and I can pronounce with an even greater degree of certainty that she never stayed at the Hotel Ostend in Atlantic City. It would therefore be a perfectly reasonable question to ask why, given that the prompt for Sepia Saturday 290 features the said hotel in all its wooden glory, am I sharing a Victorian portrait of my mothers' mother. The answer is that the rules of Sepia Saturday allow the most relaxed interpretation of what passes for a weekly theme (I know they do because I made them up) and this week I am going to embrace thematic relaxation in the company of a lady I can only just remember.
Catherine "Kate" Kellam was born in the village of Morcott in Rutland in 1877, the second daughter of a strangely itinerant grocer, Albert Kellam. The family moved to South Wales where her father died when Kate was just 13 and later to Middlesborough in the North East of England. By means that are uncertain in fact and clouded in family rumour, she ended up working as a barmaid in Keighley at the turn of the century and it was there, in the best Beanland traditions, that she met my grandfather (yet another of those endless Alberts).

She lived the rest of her life in Keighley and Bradford and died in 1960 when I was twelve. I remember going to see her (she lived with my mothers' sister Amy and her husband) and recall a little old lady with false teeth and spectacles who smelt vaguely of camphor balls. The image is a hundred miles from the rather pretty young woman in my main photograph and a thousand miles away from the exotic sophistication of the Hotel Ostend in Atlantic City. 

But it doesn't take much effort to start constructing connections. Where did Albert Beanland meet is wife to be other than in the King's Head Hotel in Keighley: so that means we have a hotel connection straight away. The hotel might not have been in America, but take a look at the studio where Kate's portrait was taken and you have the grandly named "American Art Studio" of Mr J Lister.

But it is the design of the reverse of the studio portrait and the advert for the Hotel Ostend that is my favourite connection - that harmony of design, typography and line drawing that is such a feature of the period - whichever side of the Atlantic Ocean you happened to be on.

Kate Beanland may not have been to Atlantic City in her lifetime, but - in my mind - she is accompanying me there now. Her camphor balls and wire spectacles have been left behind and she is as beautiful as she was when she was 23. We walk along the boardwalk, tasting the salty spray of the Atlantic waves. People speak in strange and exotic accents and we are thousands of miles from the woollen mills of Yorkshire. We sit for a second, leaning against two lamp-posts on the sea wall and look back at the Hotel Ostend and think, "what a strange world this Sepia Saturday allows us to inhabit".

If you would like to investigate even more of the strange world of Sepia Saturday then go along to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.





15 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post Alan, I wish I had half your writing talent and a quarter of your imagination. You have inspired me to think beyond the theme in future posts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, I love this! And Grandma Kate was a beauty! Look at those full lips....people are paying big bucks for injections to get those these days!

    ReplyDelete
  3. A lovely image of sitting between the lamp posts with young Kate, however great a stretch of imagination it may be.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You breathed like into Kate. My own grandmother smelled of camphor balls too...only we call them moth balls.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a lovely Cabinet Card, you made it come alive...my Grandfather smelled like moth balls everytime I smell them I think of him:)

    ReplyDelete
  6. You have a wonderful imagination! Great post. No matter that Kate was never actually at the Ostend, you took her there anyway & managed to touch all three suggested ideas for a post at the same time! And she was lovely. I wonder if she enjoyed being a barmaid in Keighley? I would think, at her age then, it might have been fun?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I knew lots of little old ladies who were wrinkled, spectacled, grey-haired, out-of-shape, and with or without false teeth. So it's always a bit of surprise and definitely a delight to find photos of them when they were young, pretty, and flirtatious.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I like the inclusion of the people in the hotel illustration. They make it possible to inhabit the scene vicariously.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lovely, imaginative post. Your grandmother as very pretty in her youth. Was she nice to you as a kid?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Of course I love the photo of your grandmother but I also love the font of American Art Studio on the back of the portrait - just something about it speaks volumes for the era...such elegance.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Your imagination knows no bounds!
    There is an elegance to both your grandmother's portrait and the studio's logo.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a lovely intro for your grandmother and your memories and telling of a stroll even now if only in your thoughts, I can see you both. You no doubt will sample a brew while she must order just one pastry!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Somehow you always manage to find more than just two sides to every photograph, Alan. Thank you for taking us along with you and Kate on your stroll along the boardwalk

    ReplyDelete
  14. Ahh, man of many connnections --- Kate would be so glad to be rid of the glasses and faint smell of camphor, and to walk with you, arm in arm, along the boardwalk.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's so fun to imagine the lives of our ancestors, but you've even stepped into your grandmothers, and brought her forward into yours. How daring! (Barb Rogers at Alchemy of Clay)

    ReplyDelete