Category Archives: HOBBIES

PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE FAMILY

At almost any family get together, half a dozen or more people will be taking pictures—often of the same thing. Before the Internet and I-phones, it made sense to have a bunch of us taking the same pictures at the same time.

At the wedding of a great-niece last April (2016), I toted along two of my cameras—one a Canon rebel that uses film (yes, the real thing) and the canon Rebel digital that I had coveted for over a decade—I finally bought one for myself, figuring no one was ever going to buy it for me.

I was at my brother Bill’s for the weekend and as he looked over my camera, he said to his wife, “Su, this is the same camera we have” – “Well, GREAT!” I said, “you can take the pictures of the wedding party and I can be IN the pictures for a change!” So, that was what we did all weekend—at the wedding on Friday, then a get together with some classmates from St Leo’s class of 1954 on Saturday, as well as a family get-together, primarily nieces and nephews, at my nephew Scott’s Bar & Grill, Crosley’s, on Saturday afternoon. We also managed to get in more than a few pix of my great-niece, Olivia, my brother’s first granddaughter who was not yet a year old in April.

As it turned out, the canon that uses film used less than a roll of film; I am pretty much converted to the digital camera. And I owe my younger brother Bill such a huge thank you, for picking me up at the airport in Columbus, schlepping me all over the place, and then getting me back to the airport on Monday morning long before daylight.

I’ve been thinking lately about all the different cameras and all the photographs we have been taking, year in and year out. This started, for the Schmidt family, back when my parents, Viola and Pete Schmidt, were newly weds in 1935, sharing a Brownie camera. My parents were both avid photographers—for some reason I thought my mother was the chief photographer in the family until I realized that she is in so many of the pictures taken by my parents; my father isn’t IN many of those early pictures.

In the beginning, my mother mounted all those black and white brownie pictures in the men’s clothing albums that my paternal grandfather used to show potential customers. My Grandpa Schmidt was a tailor and made men’s suits. When new catalogs of suits came out, the old catalogs would have been discarded if not for my mother, who was an avid hoarder of paper, such as old envelopes, and she found a use for those catalogs of suits—she mounted the photographs they had developed onto the pages of those suits. I think it had as much to do with the depression and a scarcity of just about everything.

Then, after WW11 was over, she began tearing the photographs out of the suit catalogs, and mounting them in albums with customary black paper. Still, hundreds of photographs were packed into boxes and kept in my mother’s Hope Chest. She wouldn’t let me have any of the pictures.

When I was about thirteen and really getting “into” photography, I dug through my mother’s huge collection of negatives which were as large as the photographs, and having reprints made of any that I was in. It’s to my forever regret and sorrow that I didn’t just TAKE the negatives.

Years later, when a girlfriend and I were taking B&W photography classes one night a week at a community college, I realized that I could reprint all of those old negatives; I questioned our photo instructor about making reprints from old negatives. All I needed, he told me, was to fit the negative to a right size negative holder and the lab had an assortment of negative holder sizes. And I discovered that, due to the high silver content in those negatives, I could make sharp 8×10 reprints with very little adjustment.

I reprinted those that I HAD taken but knew my mother had hundreds that I had not taken. I called my mother one day to ask her what she had done with all those negatives. There was a silence on the line, then she said “Oh, Sandy, I think I burned all those before we moved to Florida” –I wanted to cry. it was incomprehensible – this woman who saved everything from empty lipstick tubes to the backs of envelopes, old pencils, rubber bands, and dozens of margarine tubs—did not keep those wonderful negatives.

So I did the next best thing; I asked family members to send me their old photographs, that I would return them unharmed, and I spent weeks setting up my tripod and with the help of a macro lens that took sharp close ups of the photographs, I re-created as many family pictures as I possibly could.

When I was a teenager, I put together my first photo album. By the time Jim* & I got married, I had created half a dozen photo albums.

(*Jim Smith & I got married in December, 1958. Divorced April, 1986)

For many years, my photography was limited to point-and-shoot cameras. When my dad died, my brother Jim suggested to our mother that I should have Dad’s Nikon camera that was still in a box. He told mom that I was the only person in the family who didn’t have a good camera.

Not long after this, my girlfriend Mandy suggested that the two of us take classes at Glendale Community College. God bless Mr. Liota, our teacher, he taught us so much about photography!

You can be sure that, in our family, many cameras will be busy snapping pictures—although now many of the pictures being taken are on I-phones.

As for me, I still have photographs printed and then mount them in my albums that I started buying in the 1970s. When I bought a house in the Antelope Valley in 2008, I converted the linen closet into a photo album closet. Makes sense to me – I don’t have a lot of towels and linens, but I do have a lot of photo albums!

–Sandra Lee Smith

A LOVE AFFAIR WITH DOLL HOUSES

(Originally titled “Something about Doll Houses 2006” and featured in the Inky Trail News Newsletter and posted January 2012 in this blog)

When I was a little girl, Santa brought me a doll house for Christmas one year. I think I was about five years old. It was one of those 40s tin-dollhouses, furnished with Bakelite furniture and a bendable family of four. I loved that dollhouse and spent many hours playing with it and rearranging the furniture. Then when I was about twelve, I came home from school one day to discover that my mother had given my doll house to an acquaintance for her daughter. I was horrified.

“You never played with it anymore!” my mother claimed. (It was the bane of my existence, as well as that of my siblings, that our mother would arbitrarily decide which of your possessions you could keep and which she would decide to give away)
While she kept things like used envelopes (to make lists), all shapes and sizes of plastic containers, empty lipstick tubes and all string and rubber bands—she gave away my brothers’ baseball card collections and collections of comic books—or equally perversely, she would decide to burn those things. If something was in her basement or under her roof, it was hers to dispose of. That was my mother. One time my son Steve asked her if he could have a few of the comic books that were stored in the basement. She said no, and later got rid of all of them.)

She was mistaken about the doll house. I did play with it. I never tired of rearranging the furniture and moving the dolls around. I had a tiny little lamp that you could hold close to an actual light and then the tiny lamp glowed in the dark. (Needless to say, this doll house didn’t have real, working lights!)

I never quite got over my mother giving away that doll house. Obviously, I was ripe for collecting doll houses. I didn’t intend to collect doll houses but I’ve heard that if you have more than three of something, it’s a collection.

I found the first doll house in a thrift store in Burbank. It was in five or six pieces and the price was ten dollars. A girlfriend helped me carry the pieces to my car. Bob put the frame back together and it sat on a coffee table in the living room for several years without any additional remodeling. We began collecting an assortment of tiny dolls and dollhouse furniture. My niece and nephews and grandchildren played with it whenever they visited. But I wanted a Christmas Doll house. Bob began working on the doll house in his spare time. It became his hobby.
In 1997, we finally got the dollhouse up and decorated. It turned out too cute for words. We bought some strings of itty bitty lights and put up a Christmas tree in the living room of the doll house along with a Santa and his sleigh on the rooftop, taking off with his reindeer.

We spent two weeks adding fine touches; one night I was laying on the floor in front of the doll house, sticking furniture inside, and Bob was handing me pieces from a basket of “stuff” we had collected, when he suddenly says, “You know, we could be committed for this. Most people would say we’re crazy.” But we had such a good time with the dollhouse – not just the decorating and remodeling, but spending hours poring over miniature catalogs we received in the mail. It became our joint hobby.
Another time, he said to me, “You should take that bed out of the master bedroom” and I said “well, gee, then we wouldn’t have a BED in the master bedroom” and HE says “yeah, and then you wouldn’t have all those BABIES in the nursery.” (Our nursery had about 10 little baby dolls in it. I think 3 are triplets. They started taking on a life of their own).

That house looked darling alongside the tree! The following year we began to finish off the 3rd floor, creating a teen-age girls room and a bathroom. One time I found miniature ball gowns at a shop in Disneyland—creations patterned after the various Disney princesses; I bought two of the dresses which I think were intended to be Christmas ornaments—and then decided that, since we had those dresses, the two teenage girls were going to a ball that night. Since the two teenage girls were getting ready to go to a dance, a girlfriend made petticoats for them to have on.
The Christmas doll house became an on-going project for many years. The doll house’s mother is in the kitchen putting finishing touches on a gingerbread house; the doll house’s father is about to eat a Dagwood sandwich and sits in the living room which has a Christmas tree and a lot of presents and toys – the babies are all snug in their beds while Santa Claus is taking off in his sleigh, on the rooftop.

Every so often I’d find something perfect for the dollhouse–one year a Hallmark ornament that is a refrigerator, just the right size for the doll house—another year it was a Hallmark stove. (it disappointed me that Hallmark didn’t come up with more “creations” that would fit into my Christmas doll house).

The rooms light up and we calculate that some of the lamps, and the chandelier, cost more than some of our real household lamps. That Christmas doll house became our pride and joy.

But, I still longed for that 50s tin-dollhouse. Some years ago while on vacation and visiting relatives, we found one in an antique store in northern Ohio. Those tin dollhouses had tabs and could be taken apart and laid flat, so, we took it apart and laid it inside one of our suitcases to bring home. Meanwhile, a girlfriend found another tin dollhouse for us, complete with furniture, at a shop near her home and bought it for me. Ok, I now had three dollhouses. A collection.

Then another friend found “Grandma’s cottage”, a little dollhouse constructed from one of those kits. It was perfect for a grandmother’s house. Grandma is sitting in her rocking chair while two grandchildren play at her feet.

The piece de resistance is a huge, heavy dollhouse that we learned about from a doctor friend. It once belonged to the daughter of an artist who lived in the nearby Hollywood Hills. The artist had built it for his daughter. He had passed away; the daughter had outgrown the dollhouse, and her mother was moving to Santa Barbara. Did we want to buy the dollhouse? Of course we did! We lugged it home in the trunk of my car, tied down with rope.

This dollhouse shows obvious wear from being played with for so many years and requires paint, wallpaper, wiring—the works. The neat thing about this hobby is that it was a joint venture; Bob did all the actual work while I’d stand back and make suggestions. We’d both study hobby catalogs choosing wallpaper and bathroom tile flooring*

We acquired a respectable collection of books about doll houses, including some that are hundreds of years old—fascinating! There are actually tours you can take to visit those dollhouses throughout Europe!

I searched constantly for just the right doll house furniture. Another neat thing is that now my best friend has gotten into dollhouses too—she’s refurbished and furnished one and is working on her second. When we are together, we can always go antiquing and search for anything suitable for our dollhouses. Another friend found some 1930s oak bedroom dollhouse furniture and gave it to me one year for my birthday. Another time a niece sent me a boxful of ornate dollhouse furniture that I have since seen featured in a Hobby magazine. Who knew?

And since the Christmas doll house was now furnished (expensively, I might add) it was no longer suitable for the grandchildren to play with. We solved this by first buying a Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouse for the kids to play with when they were here visiting. And, the tin dollhouses are furnished and children are allowed to play with them. The original children to play with our doll houses were my sister’s children – now grown. Then along came my grandchildren, all of whom – including the boys – would make a beeline for the dollhouses when they visited. Now those children are “too old” for dollhouses … and we have two more little girls ready to play with these houses when they visit Grammy.

*This post was originally written some years ago, for Inky Trail News, a newsletter for women and seniors. Since writing the original version, Bob passed away, on September 22, 2011. That last doll house we purchased from the woman who was moving to Santa Barbara? It’s in Bob’s workshop, incomplete. He was shingling the roof when he became too sick to work on it anymore. Our oldest granddaughter says she is going to finish it but that may take a long time, considering how busy she is with school and other interests.

–Sandra Lee Smith

APRIL 7, 2016 in memory of Bob Fend, who loved the doll houses as much as I did.

COLLECTING PICTURE POSTCARDS

When did I seriously start to collect postcards? I don’t remember; what I do remember is starting a collection of the fifty states—in postcards – to create am album to send to my Australian penpal. Eileen and I became penpals in1965

I remember a few years later starting to collect cards from all fifty states, in exchange for California postcards or some other inexpensive item. It took about a year to complete the collection which also included cards of the homes of previous American presidents as well as postcards of the presidents.   The album was a Christmas present for Eileen one year – and after that I was off and running, collecting and exchanging post cards with other collectors.

Recently, I began searching through closets for all of the postcards I have collected over the years; in addition to new, unused postcards, I have kept all of the postcards sent to me over the past forty-something years. The oldest card in my possession was sent to someone in Newport, Kentucky, in 1898 on a penny postcard. The penmanship of B.F. Beale is beautiful but I can’t for the life of me figure out what he or she was asking for.

And another thing I remember doing was buying penny postcards when I was a young girl—ten cards for ten cents—and I would send away for free recipe booklets, mostly—or anything else advertised in a magazine, free—sometimes samples of Cuticura soap or lotions.

I found some stacks of magazines in my grandmother’s basement (it appalls me to think of those old LIFE or LOOK magazines from years ago—and me clipping out ads) . I learned about the Dionne Quintuplets from those magazines. In retrospect, I think the magazines must have belonged to my aunt and uncle who lived on the third floor of my grandmother’s house. I think the only magazine my grandmother subscribed to was something written in German. And I began sending away for recipe booklets long before I really knew anything about them.

Years later, I wrote about collecting postcards for a newsletter I was subscribing to; I also wrote a poem about collecting postcards for a Deltiology newsletter that published it.

The history of postcards is fascinating and postcard collectors can be found all over the world!

The first officially released postcard was in Austria in 1869. The concept quickly caught on and the US Postal service began issuing pre-stamped postcards in 1873. The public wanted an easier way to send quick notes, but the US Post Office was the only agency allowed to print postcards, and it held onto its monopoly until 1898, when Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act which allowed private publishers to produce postcards. These also could be mailed for a penny each (the letter rate was two cents!). Initially, however, privately printed cards did not allow messages on the backs of the cards; there was just a small space left on the front for your messages. In 1907, a major change took place; the left side of the back of the card was allowed for messages while the right side provided space for an address. During this period, the blank space on the front of post cards, left previously for messages, disappeared.

By 1907, European card publishers began opening offices in the US and accounted for over 75% of all cards sold in this country. At the end of this period in time, the hobby of collecting picture postcards became the greatest collectible hobby that the world has ever known. The official figures from the US post office for their fiscal year ending June 30, 1908, cite 677,777,798 postcards mailed! (At that time the total population of the USA was only 88,700,000!)

Post cards continued to evolve over the years; you can find any number of fascinating websites through Google.com which explain how these changes took place.

Modern photochrome-style postcards first appeared in 1939 with the Union Oil Company carrying them in their western service stations. The photochrome cards were in color and are the closest to real photographs. They’re the ones most familiar to us today. Since 1952 post card rates have changes from 2 cents to the current rate of !! cents.

Deltiology is the official name for postcard collecting and is considered to be one of the three largest collectable hobbies in the world, along with coin and stamp collecting. Postcards are so popular because of the wide range of   topics—everything under the sun can be found on a postcard. Years ago, I was enchanted with postcards of mountains, covered bridges, former presidents, and presidential homes.

A few years ago, however, when my granddaughter and I went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to visit my son Steve and his wife, we couldn’t find postcards anywhere! We eventually found postcards at the gift shop at Sioux Falls—a few other times when I have been on a trip somewhere, I have been   finding picture postcards almost impossible to find. Does this mean picture postcards are becoming obsolete? I don’t know! If postcards are becoming obsolete, private collections of the cards will surely become more valuable.

If you are looking for a hobby that is relatively inexpensive, think postcards! No hobby quite compares with collecting postcards, which caters to all interests. Even vintage cards can often be found in antique stores, starting at about $1.00 each.

The following is a poem I wrote about collecting postcards; it was published in the Deltiology newsletter some years ago:

Vagabond

I’ve seen canyons splashed with streaks

Of brilliant rainbow hue;

I’ve felt the mountain’s majesty, and

Visualized the dew

Of morning droplets sprinkled on

The Lordly Redwood trees;

I’ve been to Eastern cover and inlet,

Felt the ocean breeze;

I’ve felt the humid warmth of bayous

In swampy southern lands;

I’ve seen the shimmer of the sifting,

Glistening desert sands;

Covered bridges, old light houses,

Ships upon the seas…

I’ve toured a thousand famous places,

Everywhere I please.

I’ve never stepped beyond my door;

An album holds the key,

For it’s a traveler’s passport to

All lands…the sesame…

To open doors, to take me here

And there and everywhere…

I’m a Deltiologist, in my easy chair.

–Sandra Lee Smith