Friday, May 1, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Good Sport

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.



This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt suggests football, but it is not football season here yet. My grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker’s collection of photos which were passed down to me includes one of each of the sports in-season right now:  basketball and baseball.

Naval Supply Station Basketball Team 1920  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com

When I saw this photo postcard of a basketball team, I first thought Helen might have had more athletic genes in her than I had given her credit for. Then the faint white lettering at the bottom caught my attention. With magnifying glass in hand, I strained to read it under a lamp, by a window, by a different lamp and a different window. Tilting the photo to the side, to the back and forward helped. Finally the words appeared:
Naval Supply Station Basketball Team
Naval Base Hampton Roads VA April 19, 1920

According to the 1920 census for Portsmouth, Virginia, 17-year old Helen was a stenographer at the Navy Base. What was the Navy doing with a women’s basketball team and was Helen a member?

My search for Helen on the team came to an end when I fiddled enough with that list of names on the left of the photo to realize “Killeen” was not there. What had looked like “Killeen” turned out to be “Ripler” or “Miller” or maybe even something else.


Naval Supply Station Basketball Team 1920 http://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Left to Right
Mantinband
Moore, cptn
McPherson
Ripler ? Miller?
McConnell
Mary Howard
Mildred Metcalf
Humphries, Mgr
Mahler
? Coach
Forehand

Without more to go on, I cannot identify these members of the basketball team. There is a Mary Howard in the 1920 Portsmouth, Virginia census, living at home without occupation; however, coincidentally her sister Pauline was a typist at the Navy Base. Mildred Metcalf was listed in a couple city directories for 1922 and 1923 but alas, no mention of her occupation. A family of Mantinbands appears in those same directories but not in the census. So it occurs to me that perhaps these women were not residents but maybe Navy personnel, nurses maybe.

Obviously I can’t solve all the puzzles that old photos present, and this next one is no exception.

Baseball players about 1918-1920  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com


The time? Probably early 1920s at the latest based on the car and the dates on other photos in Helen’s albums.

The place? There is no sign of a stadium so maybe the players were local, maybe even one of the Navy’s intramural teams. The people in the background were dressed similar to people in another of Helen’s photos from a trip to either Richmond or Washington DC.


The people? No idea. Enlarging the patch on the uniform failed to produce a conclusive interpretation.  NH? N4? 1YH? 1Y4? M4? MH?

Any other ideas?




See who else is in the line-up at Sepia Saturday.


© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

26 comments:

  1. Wendy, wonderful images! I especially like the one with the women. It must have been very uncomfortable to play all trussed up like that, tights and all. The girl in the front row, far left — toes turned in slightly, big smile on her face — looks like she would have been great fun. I hope you're able to learn more about them some day.

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    1. Really! I don't know how they did much with all that fabric. But I guess they didn't know any better.

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  2. Yeah, and that was probably back in the day when it was thought women/girls couldn't run the full court so you were either a guard, or a forward (able to shoot baskets) and could only run half the court. I do hope they got to take those ties off when they played else they'd be flapping around in your face!

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    1. Oh definitely you couldn't run the full court. Heaven forbid you'd jiggle those ovaries out of position.

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  3. Interesting post. I checked out some Minor League info. for Portsmouth, but I couldn't find uniforms, just team names and the League name.

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    1. Yeah, I couldn't find anything either. I have a history of Norfolk and Portsmouth baseball but no uniforms from that period.

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  4. Interesting Helen was working as a stenographer at 17.

    betty

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    1. I know! But 17 was marrying age, so I guess she was a full-grown adult.

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  5. Perfectly reasonable for the Naval base girls to have formed a sporting team I would think, but frustrating that the names are there but don't help much with identifying them.

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    1. Yeah -- why use white ink on such a pale background??

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  6. Odd that so many of the names. begin with M. We're they selected alphabetically? Oh, those outfits...the shoes look horrible.

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    1. Other than Howard and Forehand, you're right -- it does look almost alphabetical. The shoes don't seem to offer much support, do they?

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  7. Appropriately, I saw the film "42" last night, about Jackie Robinson. Interesting photos, and I wonder whether some manipulation of the brightness and contrast on high resolution scans might bring up the text a bit better?

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    1. I'm afraid I haven't mastered Photoshop but I think that could be helpful. I'll have to put my brother-in-law on it -- he's Mr. Photoshop.

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  8. I really do like your account of dissecting a photograph to squeeze the last element of information out of it - even if the process doesn't always provide a definitive answer, the process itself is fascinating - like a well-plotted Agatha Christie novel.

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    1. Only difference is usually Agatha gets to the truth.

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  9. Very cool to learn about "Sepia Saturday". I need to dig around thru my photos - I have very few - and see what looks interesting to post.

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    1. You'd be welcome. Thanks for visiting.

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  10. Even when the puzzle doesn't reveal its solution, it's still fun.
    I've had good luck reading text like that by flipping the image to negative so the letters become black on white. The monogram looks like a stylised wide N on A.

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    1. Yes, it is fun to study an image and solve its riddle. Getting as much as I did was thrilling enough. I'm not opposed to learning more though.

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  11. Wendy, I have a couple of photos that are very similar -- and too are yielding up very little information. You have inspire me to take another look --- it also helps when you have had comments from Brett and all!! Sepia is great.

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    1. I agree -- Brett and Mr. Mike usually offer something helpful. I was really hoping they would pop in with the definitive answer. That's not too much to ask, is it??

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  12. My how sports uniforms have changed over the years. Just the other day we were laughing over the short shorts that the basketball teams wore when we were kids. I also remember in high school the girls had a separate gym from the boys.

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    1. When I look at our men's basketball team's uniforms from the 1960s, they were right scandalous by today's uniforms. Funny how now they're almost as baggy as these 1920s girl uniforms.

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  13. Those blouses have quite a nautical lool, suitable for a navy base.

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