Two years or so ago, I found a World War 1 scrapbook at a flea market in Oklahoma City. I paid $50 for it, and only recently discovered that it is extremely rare. World War II albums are not entirely uncommon, but World War 1 albums of this caliber are quite an amazing find. Similar albums with fewer photographs and fewer human subjects have sold at elite auction houses for around $3,500 to $4,000. This album features more than 300 photographs that are in perfect condition.
I feel very blessed that the album found its way into my hands. I’m grateful that I was the lucky person at Mary’s Swap Meet that day. I’m glad I got there early. I’m glad I had that much cash on me.
Pictures of World War 1 Soldiers, Nurses and Bathing Beauties
The album features many pictures of World War 1 soldiers and World War 1 nurses wearing the Red Cross emblem. There are pictures of wartime lovers frolicking in the grass. There are at least a dozen pictures of beautiful young girls in bathing suits on the beach in Galveston, Texas. Most are wearing the Victorian-era or maillot-style bathing suits popular during that time. There are also pictures of people swimming in Bath Lake in Medicine Park, Oklahoma.
The Lost Generation
The Lost Generation was born between 1883 and 1900. All the young people in the photographs are members of this Nomad generation as defined by Strauss and Howe. Gen-Xers are also a Nomad generation and share many characteristics with the Lost Generation. It is beyond coincidence that this precious album, relegated to a junk table at a dusty flea market, made its way into my hands. It is valuable and precious and it feels like the people in the pictures chose me to be its caretaker.
Love and War, History and Time
For two years, I’ve struggled to decide exactly what I should do with the album. Initially, I didn’t want to publish the photographs on the blog because it would diminish their monetary value. It would also mean the people in the pictures would no longer belong only to me. I’ve grown to love them even though I never knew them. I look at their pictures often, their beautiful, joyful faces, and I wonder what God wants to show me about their lives. What does He want to teach me about love and war? Pictures and albums? History and time?
Over the last two years, I’ve learned to let them go a little more every day. The people in the pictures. And, although sharing the album on the Internet will diminish its value, I know I am not called to hoard it, but to share it, freely, and with everyone. It is the precise reason I was chosen to be its caretaker. Not so I could make a few thousand dollars, but so that you and anyone else who finds the pictures through Internet searches could fall in love with them, too. The Lost Generation, not unlike me and you.
100th Anniversary of Armistice Day
I’m still learning things from the people in the pictures. One of my favorite lessons so far is about friendship. The young women frolicking at Galveston’s Electric Park, known as the Coney Island of the South, loved each other so much. They went through a lot wondering if their brothers and boyfriends would make it back home from the war. The joy on their faces is unabashed, and I want to live like that. For every day, we cheat death and escape assault. Absolutely, bloodshed, struggle and strife are all around us. It’s a wonder anyone survives this mess. They survived so much chaos and tragedy to make space for the Ferris Wheel and penny arcade; Vaudeville shows and excursion trains. We, too, can be amused, and frolic despite the vicissitudes of life.
Finally, November 11, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the end of World War 1. It’s the perfect day to start sharing pictures from the album. (The presentation will be much better than what you see here. I used my iPhone to take pictures of the pictures.) So, please check back. I can’t wait to introduce you to some very special people.