Meet the ancestors

I was poking through some photos the other day, and found these:

Those are my paternal grandparents, William and Winifred (who were known as Fred and Grace, for obscure reasons).

You can probably guess the context from the clothing.

Fred was one of the Rats of Tobruk, and then later was one of the reinforcements who came in during the fight over Kokoda. He was shot there but survived (gutshot, impressive scar), and finished the war as a sergeant amongst the occupation troops in Japan. He was a good-humoured man, fond of a beer and a joke.

Grace spent the war working as a machine operator in a munitions factory (and put a hydraulic press through her hand at one point), but returned home afterwards to raise three kids and a bunch of grandkids. She was a small, gentle woman with an iron core.

They’re both gone now, and I miss them.

So: got any old family photos? What were your people like back in the long-ago 20th century?


One of my great-grandfathers. He was a crooked cop in Morrisania (now the Bronx) NY back when it was an Irish ghetto. Rumor has it that he never met a payoff that he didn’t like. He was eventually fired and took up selling ice cream, a business my grandfather ran all through the Depression.


I’m very fortunate to have extensive documentation on both sides of my family. We have older photographs but this one is my favorite. This is the 60th wedding anniversary of my great grand parents in 1974. He died a year later at the age of 91 She lived another 18 years before passing away at the age of 96. I never got to know him but I did know her. My grandmother (98 next week) is the woman on the right with the necklace. The celebration and photo was taken at the house she grew up in – it’s been in the family close to 100 years now. It’s the only home I knew as a child that I can go back to. I love this photo.


Your first photo immediately brought this to mind:

Not a direct ancestor, this is my grandmother’s nephew Ernest in his WW1 uniform. (My grandmother came to Canada, her sister went to Australia.)
Written on the back, if I’m reading the handwriting correctly, is “Headquarters, 1st Batt, Imperial Camel Corps, On active service in Egypt”

Your second picture looks as if it was taken by a street photographer, who would take pictures of random people hoping that they would buy a print. I have a similar photo of my Dad in his WW2 uniform.


Here’s my old man, circa 1954:

And here’s my brother on the day before the 1978 Oscars. He was tasked with remote-controlling his little cybernetic pal there for the telecast:

Lucky bastard.


Found another one. This is my grandfather (the son of the guy in my first picture) circa 1954-ish. He had a tough life. In this picture he’s five years younger than I am now, and looks 20 years older.


What about your grandfather-in-law?

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Oh, yeah… that guy.


My maternal grandfather, Irwin Frost - dentist, Army Air Corps veteran (dentist, stateside), RC deacon for 25 years, father of 14 - would have been 97 today. He was born on a farm in South Dakota, and raised pigeons to eat during the depression. He sometimes ride to school on a horse, and his house didn’t get electricity until he was 10, in 1929. Most of the wires went to the barn, but one bulb was in the kitchen.

The day of his viewing, the line to see the casket stretched out of the church to the front steps for 6 hours. His funeral was concelebrated by 25 priests, 2 bishops, and an arch-bishop.

Date unknown.

with my grandmother


This Uncle Throg. Borrow wheel. Not return it. Me no help him make fire.


your pops looks mad cool. great photo.

that’s crazy about your brother. I feel like maybe I was watching? it seems like a vague memory, but I would have been in pre-school.


I was eight at the time, and remember watching it. At the time, Mick was working as the receptionist for The Star Wars Corporation back when they were still on Lankershim in North Hollywood, and somehow he was assigned the task of driving Artoo for the Oscars telecast, so he got to take him home the night before. At some point a couple years ago I found this clip on YouTube:

When I sent the link to Mick, he was kinda thrilled to see it, since he’d never actually seen the telecast, and only remembered the moment from his offstage vantage point.


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