The Sun Was Bright That Day

It’s easy to look back at grainy black and white photographs of times gone by and let the difference imposed by the medium convince me that those times were different.  As if my grandparents wore only gray and lived in gray houses with gray shrubs outside and gray cake for birthdays.  As if yellow and orange were invented in 1963.  

It’s easy to keep those times at a further distance because everything I see in those images shouts “NOT LIKE YOU!”  

Then I see images like this one: 

fair ladies

This was taken around 1940, using a brand new invention called Kodachrome (color film).  As my friend, Cindy, said:  “I look at them and my mind just can’t believe they are in color. My brain is telling me that photos from that time period are supposed to be black and white. It’s a weird feeling when looking at them.”  

Pink satin!  Gold braid!  A piece of cardboard to keep the green grass from staining the white satin of your skirt.  A thin gold bracelet.  A sparkly ring.  Sun on a calf and the peak of a thigh.  Shadows and squinting into that bright bright sun.  

They had never seen a television or heard of World War Two.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt was their president, again.

Imagine the same picture in black and white.  Oh wait!  I have software that can make that happen:

fair ladies bw

Now they look like 1940.  I notice the hairstyles and the sheen of the satin, but the pink has disappeared into the myth of “they were not like us.”  

This is what my grandmothers would have looked like in their younger days.  Sitting on the grass, in the sun, at the fair.  

Just like us.  

7 thoughts on “The Sun Was Bright That Day

  1. Richard

    Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
    Tears from the depth of some divine despair
    Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
    In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
    And thinking of the days that are no more.

    Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
    That brings our friends up from the underworld,
    Sad as the last which reddens over one
    That sinks with all we love below the verge;
    So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

    Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
    The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
    To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
    The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
    So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

    Dear as remembered kisses after death,
    And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
    On lips that are for others; deep as love,
    Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
    O Death in Life, the days that are no more.


  2. Cynthia @ Flotsam of the Mind

    So true. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington, NPR posted several photos from the event that had been colorized. Unlike what you’ve posted, these were originally black and white, so the accuracy is up to artistic interpretation. I was blown away when I saw them. Somehow, showing the same photographs in color made the event seem less like ancient history and “more real.” Have a look:

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      Those are cool! I’m not a fan of colorizing per se because that feels like us imposing an artistic interpretation on that reality. I think that’s why I’m so fascinated with early Kodachrome–it feels like a time machine to the actual day.

  3. Michelle

    And clearly they were having some fun, I like to imagine what people where doing, and seeing the woman in the tux makes me think they were some vaudeville style act or something with batons and hula hoops. An original America’s Got Talent. Thanks for sharing – it reminded me of my Mom – which is always a great thing!


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