Recently I received a gallery of photographs via email that were part of a Library of Congress exhibit. I anxiously opened the folder making my way through the pictures. A quick perusal was not nearly enough. This folder showed pictures of rural life as it was nearly 75 years ago.
A young couple paused from their work for a photograph. The man wore his work clothes; the woman had her apron covering her house dress. For those of you unfamiliar with the term ''house dress,'' it was a dress that a woman wore while she worked at home. It was nothing fancy, just serviceable.
My grandmother never worked in her kitchen without an apron. When she left the kitchen she hung the apron on a hook in what we called the ''cellar way'' - the steps to the basement.
Grandma never owned a pair of slacks. She wore a dress at all times. I remember playing by the old Singer sewing machine while grandma made house dresses and aprons. They were part of my growing up era.
There were wonderful pictures of weathered barns and silos. The wood looked so pretty as the sun reflected on it. At that time, all silos were made of wood. They were built on a cement pad and put up in slats that were secured by heavy metal bands that went around the silo. Doors allowed the farmer to remove one at a time as he fed out the grain stored in the silo.
The year my daughter was born, a new silo was built on the farm. The Unadilla silo arrived very early one morning on a flatbed truck. I have home movies of my husband, my brother-in-law and father-in-law building the silo. I did not even like to watch because the process was extremely dangerous, but my husband wanted the movies.
View From Hickory Heights
Another picture showed a family out in the field digging potatoes. When it was harvest time, everyone worked. We did things the same way. The year we picked our corn because of wet weather, even the toddlers were in the field helping.
One photo showed a farmer taking a horse-drawn wagon loaded with produce to town. My father-in-law used to tell us about the trip he and his father made each Saturday to sell their eggs and butter in town. It made a full day since there were barn chores twice a day as well.
Several photos showed a farm family visiting a local fair. The girls wore matching dresses I suspect sewn by their mother for the occasion. Before they entered the grounds they ate their picnic lunch in the parking lot. We once did the same thing when we went to the Meadville Fair. It cost too much to buy all of the food. We packed our lunch, then bought something for a treat.
I smiled when I saw the photo of couples at a square dance. When I was first told we were going to a square dance, I was not thrilled. I remembered all too well those dance classes in school that we all dreaded. A real square dance was nothing like those classes. It was fun. After we tried it we did it quite often.
A family dinner in another picture reminded me of home. A large glass jar held a gallon of milk - fresh from the farm. I remember going to Lesch's Dairy with my Aunt Mae taking the same kind of jar. I bought a couple of them at a sale just because of the strong memories that I had.
There were aerial views of farms with fields that resembled a patchwork quilt. We, too, have aerial views of the farms that the children treasure. You can really see the lay of the land when you observe it from the air.
A scene at school showed the old-time lunch boxes. Children used old coffee cans rigged up by parents with handles. There were no fancy lunch boxes or bags. Things were recycled, even then. That was the only way the farm families made it. I always said I was a recycler long before it was popular.
Once, when my hand lotion bottle malfunctioned, I transferred what was left to an empty shampoo bottle. One night my husband complained about being unable to get suds when he washed his hair. When I asked what he had been using he pointed to the recycled bottle of hand lotion. After that I marked the recycled products more clearly.
The pictures brought me a lot of joy because they depicted things I remembered or had heard about. I think I could have commented on most of them.
Never discount the value of the old photographs that you and your family have. They give the next generation a peek at personal history. Oh, digital photos are fine, but there is nothing like the real thing in an album that you can haul out and look at with the family.
A recently bereaved family commented about the amount of pictures that they found. They became so engrossed in the photos that it took a long time to go through their loved ones belongings. I remember it was that way when we had to go through my mother's things.
I have a lot of old farm photos, but a few years back I made each of the children a scrapbook that was a journey through their childhood. Most of what I have now are duplicates, but there are some from trips and occasions that they probably have never seen. I guess I will have to haul out my albums and fill in the gaps for the children before I am not able to. Oral history is very important, but pictures make the oral history real.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.