Friday, November 23, 2012


Another wonderful Sepia Saturday (#153) shot!

Usually I go into Search Mode – flicking through boxes of photos to find one I can use (see my last week’s post), but this theme was an easy one for me – Best Friends!!! I knew exactly where to go to find this photograph: an old cabinet photo album that lives on the top shelf of my living room bookcase!

I’m not sure when this photograph was taken, but I’m guessing it was about 1875 or so, when these two young ladies were in high school in Gardner, Massachusetts. They were best friends – went to grade school and high school together, attended the same church.

On the left, Emma F. Whitman; on the right, Frances Taylor Sabin.

Emma Frances Whitman was born in 1857, daughter of Charles and Viola Whitman.  After her father died, her mother married Edwin Hill; Emma lived with them in Gardner while working in a printing office, until she married schoolteacher James Sullivan Stone Tidd on Christmas Day, 1882. James died on November 23, 1888, at 35 years of age, leaving Emma Tidd a widow. They had no children, and she never remarried. She was still living in the area with her mother in 1910, but at the time of the 1920 census, she was in New York with her nephew and his family.

Frances Taylor Sabin was born January 5, 1857 to Lucius Henry and Roxanna W. Adams Sabin. Her father was a carpenter and served in the Civil War (he couldn’t fire a rifle because he was missing one finger, but he could still build; he was a member of an engineering corps). On September 10, 1884, Frances married John Allen Gould in her family’s living room in Gardner; Emma Tidd was at the wedding (she and her husband James gave the couple a silver pitcher as a wedding gift). John and Frances had six children (you’ve seen a photograph of them on this blog), one of whom – Gardner Sabin Gould – was my grandfather.

Frances and John Allen Gould lived at 1206 Boylston Street in Newton, and Emma visited there frequently.  I have family diaries and letters that mention Emma Tidd; there are a couple of old photographs that have Frances and Emma together, but this cabinet photo was, by far, the best of the bunch. I also have old Christmas cards from her.

Frances Sabin Gould and Emma Whitman Tidd remained friends their entire lives. Frances died January 6, 1943 at the age of 86; I have no date of death for Emma.

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Friday, November 16, 2012



It never fails: I see Alan and Kat’s Sepia Saturday prompt, and start to scramble! I’m into closets, cupboards, old photograph albums, cardboard boxes, slide carousels (remember those?) – all in search of something that will stick to the theme...

I love this week’s prompt from the New York Public Library! It looks like an entire prep school class doing research, but it all boils down to three basic elements: boys, library, books.

I found something that represents two out of three, and that’s not bad – books and a library.

Or, to be more precise, books in a library.

This photograph was taken in the Adult Fiction section of the Curtis Memorial Library (which opened in 1904) in Brunswick, Maine. My novel (Household) is on the left, and my brother John’s novel (The Greenleaf Fires) is on the right.

We think we’re the only brother/sister act in Brunswick with published fiction sitting side-by-side on a shelf in our hometown public library!

My family has a long and dear relationship with Curtis Memorial. John and I both had library cards there, and we both spent a lot of time in that library when we were students at the local high school, back in the early- to mid- 1960s. We did homework there, worked on research projects, met our friends after school for study groups. I, for one, got into trouble in that library (there used to be a reading table into which I tried to carve my initials); I even kissed a boy in the stacks! I’m not sure that John behaved much better, but his secrets are safe...

Later on, my father sat on the Board of Trustees of Curtis Memorial. After he retired, he also spent a certain amount of time there every morning reading the library’s supply of local and national newspapers – he was a newsprint junkie – and met up with a group of his friends for their daily “meeting,” during which, of course, they solved the world’s problems.

When he died (1998), my mother established a trust in his name; the money earned by the Gardner S. Gould Family Trust still buys books on tape and CD. My mother, who had inoperable macular degeneration, listened to them regularly, and I still borrow them for listening in my car.

So, after more than 50 years, I still go there a couple of times a week: I find my father in the reading room, my mother in the audio book section; my brother John and I settled peacefully next to each other in Adult Fiction.

It feels right, feels good; it’s home to me.

NOTE: Be sure to visit to see what themes others have followed this week!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


We probably all went through the “code” phase! I remember creating codes in grade school, usually simple letter substitution (s = a, like the daily cryptoquote in the newspaper) or number codes, where each number stood for a letter of the alphabet (1= a, 2 = b, 3 = c, etc.).  And I vaguely remember a Sci-Fi “decoder” ring that made the rounds – it had two rings of alphabets to make letter-substitution codes easier to transcribe. There were also some cardboard dividers in Shredded Wheat packages that had Native American codes written on them, although I’m pretty sure that was just an advertising scam.

But take a look at this: I found this postcard at a show in Portland, Maine, and bought it instantly – the code looked too good to pass. It took me a while to solve it, but it helps if you know the names of the sendee (Gertrude) and sender (Burleigh). It was mailed on July 29, 1910, in East Union, Maine.

Gertrude Mae Wentworth was born in Hope, Maine, in December of 1890, to Charles M. and Carrie P. Wentworth. By 1910, her family was living in Union, Maine – mother, father, Gertrude and her two sisters, Florence and Olive.

Burleigh Esancy was born in Union in September of 1890, son of William H. and Bertha E. Esancy; his younger sister was Beulah. His WWI draft card describes him as of medium height, medium build, light grey eyes and black hair.

I like to imagine that Burleigh and Gertrude were high school sweethearts – after all, they lived in the same town, their fathers were both farmers, they were probably in the same grade in school. At any rate, whenever their courtship started, it clearly succeeded: Burleigh and Gertrude were married on May 29, 1912. They had several children (Mabel, Bernard, Thelma, twins Agnes & Arlene, Winona, Herman, Arnold).

Burleigh Esancy died in 1967; Gertrude in 1980.

So, good luck with the code; let me know how you do!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Alan and Kat tossed something unusual into the ring for us all this week, but it took me a while to recognize it!

In the Sepia Saturday #150 photo, there are the obvious themes: men, men in hats, men at sports, playing fields, uniforms – even a single pipe-smoking man in a crowd of men in hats, men at sports, etc.
This’ll be a snap, I thought.
I searched through my old family photos and found lots of suits, hats, men smoking pipes, athletic events and even a couple of shots of playing fields, but nothing seemed to click for me, not really.
And then it hit me.
I went back to the Sepia Saturday site, looked at the photograph again.
“Can you make out what the (albeit reversed) hand-writing says on the right-hand side of this image?” Kat wrote.

Reversed writing?

How about mirror writing!

I found this postcard in a flea market in Maine. It was written in the early 1900s to a young woman named Annie Dyer. It fascinated me so much that I included it in my postcard book, published last spring, and here’s some shameless self-promotion about that book: hop on to my website ( or Amazon and look for Father is here...he’s as fat as a pig.

I’ve enlarged the message to make it easier to read. The first part is easy enough: “Dearest Annie – Just a line this morn. I rec’d your letter and was very glad to hear from that dear little Dyer girl. Annie hold this up to a looking glass and read it.”

It’s the rest of it that’s amazing.

If you’ve got a parent who can mirror-write, then you yourself have a 50% shot at being able to do it. And if you’re left-handed, your chances are better, too. Famous mirror writers? Well, how about Leonardo da Vinci, who wrote lots of his notes in mirror writing; one theory is that it was harder for people to decipher his ideas, another is that he could write faster – he was left-handed, so his hand would smudge the ink as he wrote, and writing right-to-left gave time for the ink to dry without smearing.

So, print the image, then hold it up to a mirror and read the rest of the message to Annie Dyer.
Then give it a try yourself – let me know if we’ve got any mirror-writers out in Sepia Saturday Land!

Note: Be sure to visit to see what connections others have made!