top of page

Unintended triple exposure on Kodak Verichrome Pan Safety Film taken with a Kodak Brownie Cresta Camera. Pictured: Shirley Sweeney, Thomas Sweeney, Cathy Labresh, Steve Sweeney.

 

BEST VIEWED ON A COMPUTER OR TABLET

MULTIMEDIA BLOG

ONCE UPON A TIME

In Memory Of My Parents Generation

 

A few years ago my mother bestowed upon me a lifetime of photographs organized by decade, and several 8mm films from the early 1960s to the mid 1970s. I had been avoiding looking through this material, but recently, as my mother’s health has declined, I decided it was time to immerse myself in his project as a way to deal with loss. I begin the process of digitizing the huge volume of negatives, slides, and prints. I converted the 8mm movie film years ago for my father.

There are few periods of time that stand out to me. The albums from the late 1920s up until the early 1950s were my grandparents’ photos that my mom inherited when they passed. One album from the 1950s contained photos my father took while stationed in Korea. There are also a few Kodachrome slides from his time overseas. The images from the 1970s are very family-oriented, capturing our extensive travels around the country in our Ford Country Squire and Layton Travel Trailor. This was a very special time for us, featuring trips to Florida, Chincoteague, Nova Scotia, California, and summers in Wellfleet on Cape Cod.

There is one particularly unique period of time that stood out above the others, the years between 1957 and 1970. These are my parents’ early years, beginning right after they moved into their newly built home on 43 Bluegrass Lane. The images and movies from this time document the beginnings of five young families living in the Trotting Club Acres neighborhood in Ludlow, MA; Chamberlain, Decaro, Labresh, Mastalerz, and Sweeney. These families formed a close social group, frequently coming together for picnics, parties, and square dancing.

These photos, primarily from the 1960s, bring back my earliest childhood memories. I clearly remember Keith, Marilyn, Mark, and Cathy Labresh, who moved away from the neighborhood in 1967. I recall waving goodbye to them through our living room picture window as they drove away one rainy day in April, heading for a new life in Weymouth, MA. A search of newspapers.com (see photo album below) revealed that the Sweeneys and Labreshes were particularly close and socially active during this time.

Over the decades, the Decaros became my parents’ closest friends. Every Saturday night since the late 1970s until my father’s death in 2004, they would play cards until midnight. I enjoyed hanging around to hear their stories and witness what method of cheating Dominic would employ on any particular evening. They would also get together once a year to make sausage, the best I have ever had due to Dom’s prodigious use of fennel. Home, hearth, great friends, good food, and good health. It’s the little things; there’s nothing bigger.

Twelve children and two grandchildren of the original deeded owners, currently own homes in Trotting Club Acres. Like myself, many returned to assist their aging parents. Returning to the neighborhood after 18 years away with my wife was joyous. It was comforting and relaxing to be back amongst lifelong friends and exciting to introduce them to Carrie. My Father and Dominic enthusiastically jumped in to help fix up our house and property. To Dom’s delight, I approved of them digging out the Bridal Wreath bushes that bounded our shared property line. Upon completion of the days work, we would jump over the fence to the Decaros’ to enjoy a home-cooked meal by Rita, with Dominic making it clear to us that he personally oversaw the “invention” of the tomato sauce.

Slowly over time, the 33 original deeded owners who lived in the neighborhood all of their adult lives began to pass away. In just the last few years, 10 of my lifelong friends have died. I’ve had a front-row seat to witness the passing away of my parent’s generation.  At the time of this writing, Rita Decaro is the last remaining original deeded owner who bought into the neighborhood when the homes were brand new. My mother is in hospice memory care very far from her home, friends, routines, and familiar places.

This webpage is a record, a testament, to the generation that came before me. I share these memories they have left behind, to honor their lives and friendship. Simply put, I miss my family and friends.

Truly, though our element is time,
We are not suited to the long perspectives
Open at each instant of our lives.
They link us to our losses: worse,
They show us what we have as it once was,
Blindingly undiminished, just as though
By acting differently, we could have kept it so.
-Phillip Larkin, Reference Back
________________________________

These images document post-war, middle-class suburbia, with tailfin cars, pastel houses, Danish mid-century modern furniture, and white picket fences. (see lifestyle photo album below)

Once Upon A TimeTony Bennett
00:00 / 02:57
Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time

Play Video

The events documented in this video are: Bluegrass Lane Picnic Sept 1960 • Picnic 43 Bluegrass Sept 1962 • New Years Eve 1963 @ Decaro’s • Bluegrass Picnic Sept 1963 • New Years 1964

THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Trotting Club Acres, 1956
Roland Lavoie Construction Co., Inc.

Great Grandchildren of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Houses.

During the dark era of America's Great Depression, California architect Cliff May combined Arts & Crafts styling with Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie architecture to design what later became known as the Ranch style. Perhaps inspired by Wright's California Hollyhock House, early Ranches were quite complex,. By the end of World War II real estate developers seized on the idea to build a flurry of simple, affordable homes that could be quickly constructed in America's rapidly expanding suburbs. The one-story Ranch quickly gave way to the Raised Ranch and the Split Level.

The little cape, or Cape Cod as it is formally known, is a small house with a living room, dining room, kitchen and one or two bedrooms on the main level, with two additional bedrooms on the second floor. Because the second floor rooms are directly under the roof, they have slanted walls and dormers, those little nooks where windows protrude from the sides of the roof. Cape Cods are named after the area in Massachusetts where they were common, and are an older design that offered good value for adequate living space.

*The original Trotting Club Acres brochure courtesy of Dominic Decaro.

Moon RiverHenry Mancini
00:00 / 02:42
Cover Spread.jpg

Click on an image to view a larger version