Etcheonda II
A Fanfare For us Common Folk
by Rob LeBlanc

Part 1. Harold Bradford's and Other Treasures

In boxes of old photographs sold to me -- actually given to me through their ridiculously low price -- by Harold Bradford, a friend and "ephemera" dealer from East Hampton, Connecticut, I found the faces of America. Orphans, those photographs, cast off from their families, lost to their relatives, past and future. Few photos had any writing on the back,  sometimes a first name, once in a while a date but seldom enough information to identify the family or location.
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Yet, in the cardboard boxes that I took away from Harold's magical emporium I found lives lived -- families raised from infants to adulthood and the start of another generation. Here there was evidence, often of the first step to the last step,  that a real person and family had made their way into -- through, and out of life.

Now -- I doubt that many of these faces on the fading photos came from people who got to be famous or made great fortunes either. They were working souls, common folks, trying to eke out a living through the sweat of their brows.

There are few historians who will write those stories. Perhaps there is no one alive who even remembers the laughing children in the park or any of their travails as they grew up or the kids who launched rockets from the football field.

Yet, once they, with real names, John, Jeff, Joey, Tony, were here and there, grew up, went to work, married, raised children, died and were buried. Many are gone now, but their images still remain, fading out, but holding on with a tenacious grip to the lives they once owned.
 
 

"Our house" -- family unknown
Each face tells a story to those interested enough to spend time looking into eyes, or studying the facial lines,  the stoop of the shoulders, or observing the pure joy of children discovering "the camera" or frolicking by the sea. No single story is more important than any other -- at least to those who lived them.

My own family was no different and the boxes of photos showing them growing up or working, or at a family picnic could one day end up as orphans in some cardboard box in a junk shop along the road. In the realm of history these relatives were not worldbeaters, and their names were not often inscribed in many journals. But, nevertheless, they were there in those history books, part of the folklore of Canada, Ireland, Scotland, France and England and of course America.

My father, Arthur J. White was a railroad man, an engineer who moved people and material from one place to another. It is probable that many millionaires, writers, artists, politicians, housewives and children at one time or another placed their lives, their wives and children's lives in the custody of my father, yet I doubt that any of them even knew his name.

What they felt was the surge of power as the great iron engine drew breath beneath their feet and shifted them from the world of New Haven to New York or Boston. As passengers they could not know that all that kept them from death and destruction were the eyes and mind of this man who surveyed the road-bed ahead, watching for danger. Often he found it in steel bars laid across tracks, or wooden beams left on the trackbed. So too if he didn't know and obey the signals of the road there was danger in collision with another train on its way to other cities.

Some runs were idyllic; on a warm summers day, Dad, with his head canted slightly out the window, looking forward, was always alert. But there were afternoons when the glass of a window cracked as a bullet, from an unknown rifle, went through the cab, or the whizz of countless bee-bees from mischevious little kids with air rifles richocheted within the cab.

Engineer Arthur White, known as Bob spent his boyhood on a small dairy farm in Brookfield, Vermont. In a simple life, filled with daily chores he, his little brother Oliver and sisters Betty and Rene worked long hard hours milking cows and caring for the other animals while working the farm. Then it was off to school. Holidays, for the most part, were unknown. Christmas was like any other day.

It was the fate of many of the boys from the Green Hills to eventually leave the farm and go to work in the major industry of the area, the granite quarries that gouged the landscape. Bob's mother, Ruby coached her son to beware of those "open mines" as her father James Buchanan Lafayette had died young of the "white lung disease."

So Bob packed his travel bag and with a friend and neighbor, Pearl Young, came down to Connecticut to seek his future. He'd planned to go to Coyne Electrical School but instead found work in the carpentry trade building houses with the Layden Company. It was there that he met Wilson Demusey from City Point in New Haven.

While visiting Kay and Wilson Demusey he was introduced to Catherine Moore who lived at the end of South Water Street, daughter of James Moore and Catherine Sanderson. Bob and Catherine dated, fell in love and married in 1934. They moved to West Haven and there, a year later there first child, Robert or Robin as he was called was born, assisted by Mary Fitzgerald wife of Catherine's brother Raymond.
 
 


A Storm Gathers at City Point

Catherine had grown up at The Point, as it was called, a sliver of land that ran out from New Haven and was the home of numerous oyster companies and their boats that filled the slips at "the docks" across the street from the Moore family home.

Catherine and her younger sister Mary were the two girls in a family of 8, Jay, the oldest, then Ray, Tom, Mike, "Red" (Walter) and Bobby. Another brother died at birth. Father James Marshall worked as a pharmacist on Congress Avenue and was revered by the neighbors as he helped in many ways during the Depression.

When Catherine was 16, her father James (on the left) came down with pneumonia and died shortly thereafter. Suddenly the family was practically without an income. But here the oldest boys went out and found work to help out. And the younger kids scoured the beaches for hunks of wood and coal to burn in the fireplace or to sell for a few pennies.

Living on the sea was an advantage too as they could go across to the docks when the oysterboats came in and there was always fish brought in with the days oyster catch. And the kids, friends of the oystermen were always taken care of.
 
 


The Moore "Kids" At Sister Mary's House:
Moores: L-R  Jay, Ray, Tom, Kay, Mike, Frnt Bobby, Red, Rear: Mary.

In time those small boys and girls grew into the men and women of the Moore family. Brother James (Jay) on the left became a vice-president at Copper's Coke in New Haven. He married Dorthy Wynn, a young girl from England. They had 2 daughters, Sarah Ann "Sally" and Kathleen and a son Jimmy.

Brother brother Ray, to his left, became an officer in the same company. Ray married Mary Fitzgerald, a nurse and they had three children, Bernard, Maureen and Kevin.

Next was Tom who became an independent sheet-metal contractor and ran his own business. Tom married Ruth Anderson from Branford and they settled on South Water Street to raise their two boys, Tom and Dan.

Catherine married Bob "Arthur" White and raised 4 children: Rob, Arthur, John and Ann Frances. During the World War-Two years the family lived in the family homestead where Catherine took care of her ailing mother. At the wars end they moved to North Haven to be near the Cedar Hill Railroad Yards and Catherine's brother Ray took over occupancy of the Water Street homestead.

After his tour in the Navy, brother Alban "Mike" worked on the railroad for a portion of his life, then moved to Vermont where he bought and operated a small grocery store. He married Martha Crosby from Greenwich, Ct. and they had a boy Donald and a girl Pamela Anne. When Mike died in Vermont, Martha remarried to Jerry Landsfeld.

Mary, in the back row, married Benjamin Staniewicz and raised a family of 3 girls and 2 boys: Mary "Bonnie", Jane, Susan, Gary and Jim. When Mary's husband Ben died at an early age she went to work as a teacher's aid.

In the foreground left is the youngest, Bobby, who joined the Navy to fight in the Second World War soon after his 18th birthday. When he returned he turned his finely honed skills at making model airplanes to the field of engraving and spent his working life as an engraver for Lehman Brothers, a New Haven firm. He married June Carrignan and they had two sons: Bobby and Joe.

Red "Walter" Moore spent the war years as an Air Force radioman and when he returned he became a printer for the City Point Printing Company in New Haven. He married Marilyn Mason from New Hampshire and they had 3 boys and 3 girls: Michael, Walter "Buddy," Richard, Patricia, Janice and Lynn. In time Red and his family moved back to City Point and he lives two blocks from the homestead on South Water Street .

The house is gone now, replaced by a sprawling condominium which covers the beach where they once played and swam. And the children have gone off to become adults, to marry and raise kids of their own, then to find a final resting place and be remembered through family photographs. Gone too are the oyster docks and the boats that once plied the shoreline. In their stead is a marina for pleasure boats and a well-to-do restaurant.

A trolley car no longer stops at the edge of the sea and the aroma of cigar smoke can not be found issuing from Charlie Eaton's store, now an antique shop. Kids no longer look longingly at the candy counter of Lipson's grocery store, boarded up over half a cenury ago now a storage basement.
 
 


City Point Kids at Charles Island
Tom Moore top right. Bobby Moore Front 3rd from Left. Red Moore. 4th from Right

It would be interesting if any of those children had kept journals of their childhoods, their growing up years and of their thoughts and feelings. Yet, few thoughts of any kind remain to tell us those stories, only the rememberances of few friends and their families.

Our culture has not been known to kindle that spark of creativity that transforms our inner images into words and pictures. And even among those who did have the time and talent to do so were not always lucky enough to have their works survive. Frank Connellan of City Point is one such artist who took countless photos of the City Point area. But when he died young his family, for whatever reason, cleaned out his apartment thoroughly, burning the bulk of his work in the incinerator in the backyard. So we have only a few choice photos to remember him and his work by.

As my interest in family history grew and I explored the literature of the New Haven area I was surprised to find just how little had been written about the common folks who lived there. Of course there was a wealth of material on Yale University and the "Blue Noses" of the area but hardly even a mention of "The Hill" or City Point.

In Benham's New Haven Directory for 1928 I found many of the names of the folks who lived in the houses, along Sea Street, Howard Avenue and South Water Street but there were no pictures or stories to go with them. At Wesleyan University I came across copies of Connecticut Magazine going back into the 30s and 20s. But there was little said about the area except for high-society and perhaps an add or two for oysters or fish.

To me it was amazingly obvious how the average residents of the city were ignored by "historians."

I began then to collect family photographs and at picnics and other events to try and tape record rememberances of uncles and aunts about the New Haven area. But it was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. People, in general, don't write their thoughts down in journals or articles. Its not what they do. Conversations are where the stories are and they don't record themselves.

Its funny how when I tried to listen to the tapes I'd made of family gatherings I could hardly separate the voices. There was not one story or even two going on at one time but a room full of voices, all in conversation, the details of their lives and thoughts spilling out one on top of the other. That was going to be an interesting project, trying to separate the conversations, perhaps. . .

In those boxes and albums of family photos I began to discover the family and people who were the source of my own existence. Each photo was a story in itself and I wished I had been there or old enough to understand the need to write down the details of the event.



The Sandersons from Langholm, Scotland lived at Congress Avenue in New Haven

My mother and her sister and brothers were the children of 2nd generation Americans, whose parent emigrated from Scotland and Ireland during the middle and late 1800s. Mother Catherine's mother was Catherine "Kit" Sanderson, daughter of Samuel Baird Sanderson and Martha Ann Warwick from Langholm, Dumfrieshire, Scotland.

Her father James Marshall Moore was the child of Thomas Moore and Hannah Cleary from Pilltown, County Claire, Ireland. It is doubtful that James ever met his own father as the man disappeared, presumably going back to Ireland to fight for Irish independence.

Catherine and her family lived on Congress Avenue in a brick apartment building above the drugstore where in later years she met and married James Moore who was employed there as a pharmacist.

Whenever I'd visit Harold Bradford in East Hampton, at his place that had once been a synagog he had a few more photos for me, more orphans to add to the collection. I was always fascinated by Harold's place, filled to the rafters with the bric a brac of life, and more. From those rafters hung original Barnum and Bailey posters of the big top, posters he'd been offered a lot of money for.

But the posters, the circus memorabelia, those were for his own enjoyment. In the backyard were barns filled with stuff too and one long welded-iron tank that looked like a submarine. And, indeed, that's exactly what it was, a contraption built by a local Italian gentleman who planned one day to return to his homeland in the vessel. But the man died before it was finished and Harold inherited the sub as part of the estate which he bid on.
 
 


The Original 120 of World War I.

Sometimes Harold had more than old photos and on several occasions he had albums that did indeed have names in them and once there was a scrapbook from 1917 by an old veteran of World War I which held the clippings from his regiment in the war, a medical division, 39th Div. U.S.A., who, after the war created a survivors group called "The Original 120 Club."

When the "author" of the scrapbook, Mr.Bertram Keene of Hartford, passed on and his worldly goods were auctioned off  Harold bid on some of them. Harold then sold the scrapbook to me for a few bucks and I spent an evening going through the writings and collected newsclippings of Mr. Keene and wondering what to do with them.

REUNION OF MEDICAL OFFICERS AND STAFF OF BASE HOSPITAL at Alexandria La., in 1957
Thirty-Ninth Division, U.S.A.

Later, as I wandered through a used bookshop in Hartford, weeks later, I came across a 2nd scrapbook of Mr. Keene's, mostly describing his genealogy and personal beliefs. The two books now reside together in my personal library at Wesleyan University.
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Alexandrians Look Back 50 Years
Oldtimers Recall Beauregard in 1917-18
by Tom Tromstar
"Thursday, April 6, will mark the 50th anniversary of United States entry into World War I. Camp Beauregard (Louisianna) played a key role in the training of troops for the "war to end wars."
Beauregard is still very much on the military map - one of the few survivors of the hectic preparedness program of 1917.

The Original "120" became possible, although undreamed of at that date, at 9 P.M., July 25, 1917 when a trainload of rookies for Training Company A arrived from Fort Slocum, New York, at Fort Ethan Allen, Vt. The Eastern Pennsylvania, New Hersey and New York City boys on that train all had bitter memories of Sergeant Knotlautch.

Approximately three weeks later, August 17, 1917 the Original 120 was born for on that day the list of names was posted on the bulletin board to go to Alexandria, La. Three days later, August 20, at 3:15 P.M., the train pulled out and was hastily decorated with signs at White River Junction with chalk furnished by railroad men.

This was one of the very first troop trains to go thru the country so marked. The signs reading "To Hel mit der Kaiser" and "Berlin or Bust" advertised the fact that all believed we were actually heading for France. Hopes began to fade after passing New York City, became dimmer when Philadelphia and Washington were left behind and we began to realize that the orger meant just what it said.

We reached Alexandria August 23d, 8 P.M., anxious to fill the void in anatomies after the steady diet of cold canned beans, dry bread and jam. We were held on the train until 9 P.M., before we were free to hunt good eats and a bath.

The next morning found us at Camp Stafford at 9 A.M., and the start of the "Battle of Beauregard." Some were doomed to stay there until the bitter end, but all have many pleasant memories of the old Camp..."



 Very quickly I was accumulating much more material than I had bargained for in my search for the family stories. So too was the realization that my own family, including my parents were also people -- uncles and aunts they were to to my cousins -- and friends to people I'd never seen.

And too, they had lives that existed long before my own world began with connections to landscapes and people I'd never meet. Though, in a sense, I was beginning to "meet" some of them through the old photos I was collecting.



Catherine "Kit" Sanderson and James Marshall Moore at City Point

Through these images from yesterday I was beginning to "see" and to know my parents and their siblings more as the people they were than as those who were part of my childhood. In the years that I knew my mother's mother she was a sick old woman with whom I could hardly communicate.

But now with these "new eyes" I could meet Kit Sanderson and her beau Jim Moore, a handsome pair destined for a life together. I heard of letters that Jim wrote to Kit and tried to find the location of those letters but learned that they had been lost in a flood. There was only one letter left but this was enough to find them and their life.


Years Later: Jim & Kit (Sanderson) Moore at the City Point oyster docks
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I was surprised to see what a lovely woman grandmother Kit Sanderson was and other pictures, over the years, showed the sorrow of life and death on her face as time and circumstances took their toll.

I became friendly with Uncle Jay Moore of Townsend Avenue towards the end of his life and we had discussions on the origin of both the Sanderson and Moore families. Uncle Jay had begun a family chart which included basic information on the lineage. But he was stymied by the New York relatives which we'd lost contact with

Unfortunately it was too late to fill in many of the details, especially of the New York branch of the Moore family. Uncle Jay's death ended my explorations with him, but I took over from him where he left off and tried to continue the research. Of course there weren't too many old folks left who were interested in the Reillys of Maywood New Jersey, the Fitzpatricks or Cleary's of New York or how they connected to the Moores of City Point.

Another line of research followed the Vermont ancestors of my father's side of the family. Here I was lucky in searching and came across Tom White, who was indeed, the family historian. So, in one giant leap that branch of the family tree filled in as far back as the mid 1600s, with names, dates and places to go with them.

In the tragedy of the expulsion of the French Acadians from Nova Scotia, the story Evangeline, I found my relatives and one ancestor Rene LeBlanc, the notary of the tale. But more important than that was the fact that, through Tom White, our branch of the family was reunited with "the northern family." As the saying goes: "that in itself is worths the trip."

With my aunts, Betty and Phyllis, we drove to Vermont to meet Tom, his family and his mother and Rosemary, Tom's sister and her family, the Normandeaus. We parked on a hillside in Barre, Vermont and walked to the door of Tom's mother's home where she welcomed us.

Instantly, it was as if we'd known her and the family all our lives. Mother White, Bid, as she was lovingly called by family, neighbors and friends was a hearty, warm, woman descendent from the exiles of Ireland, the Fitzgerald clan. We spent hours chatting away in her living room trying to catch each other up on half a century's family history. I was proud to call her friend for a number of years until she succombed to a long term illness.

Even though Tom had given us his research and we were happy to have it, still I wanted to trace the steps of the exiles -- to follow the footsteps myself. It was a personal journey that I needed to take. I  met with Robert Bisaillon, a French-Canadian who lived in Waterbury. Through Bob's  private library I got started by looking up the family names with Tom's family tree chart as a guide: LeBlanc, Hebert, Trahan, Phaneuf, Lafayette and on . . .

Through Robert I heard of a Hartford group who had a library. I found them  at the French Club in Hartford, in a small room beyond the bar. It was amusing really, as the bar-folks drank and sang at the counter, inside this small room sat 6 to 10 people at a time all immersed in books.

I met with other French Canadian researchers who were similarly engaged in family research. Henry Carrier, the founder of the organization introduced me to the small group of researchers: Rod Wilscam, Ann Marie Cote, and others who, over time, as I discovered, were all distant relatives.


Canadian Immigrants: Louis LeBlanc dit White and his wife Theophile Guindon
and their Vermont born children: A.P. White - front middle.

As my notes piled up, gradually a book of family history -- actually two of them -- one on the LeBlancs and the other on the Moore/Sanderson family took shape. And what I thought to be a problem, a lack of information, turned out to be a problem in the other dimension. There was entirely too much material to sort through unless one took it on as a full-time job.

I had other projects taking up space too, work at the University was pulling  me in two directions, the electronics support of the sciences and then a new audio visual component was growing into a department of its own.

So too I was learning how to paint with watercolors and in addition, from childhood, I had enjoyed short story writing and needed time to work on that too. There was lots of work to do then and, as I was beginning to realize, not much time, in this lifetime, in which to do them.

Picnic in the country -- location and identity of the picnickers unknown
Meanwhile during my Sunday visits to Harold's place the man continued to feed new pictures into my larder. I appreciated every picture and every album he put into my hands but how was it all going to come together? What were the common lines? Where did they go? What to do with these pictures? It was quite a responsibility.
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For me, eventually the threads came together as an understanding that the small stories of life, the common folks of the world were seldom being heard, their stories, joys and tragedies were lost beneath the huge mantle of power politics, wars, depressions and the likes -- the "big" stories.

Most of the stories of those "average" lives would be lost as the memories of those who remembered them faded, but some tales could be saved. And that was an interesting project. . .
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Acadians point of departure: The docks at LaRochelle, France

Once I thumbed through some old postcards that Harold had stacked by the side of his ancient cash register. I found some old French Postcards showing the port of LaRochelle where the immigrating Acadians set sail for New France. I wondered if the landscape and waterfront had changed much in those 300 years. Perhaps not too much up to the time of the postcard. But after the World Wars probably quite a bit.

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 LaRochelle, France

 Perhaps these boats at LaRochelle, were similar in style to the boats used by our Acadian ancestors as they fished the rivers and shores of France.


Wesleyan University during World War I

I found a Wesleyan Songbook in Harold's collection along with a photo of "Wesleyan In Wartime" showing student soldiers in formation on Andrus Field. Along with the picture were several other photographs of men off to war and then the glorious celebration at war's end. I wondered if the Wesleyan photos and the Wartime photos went together. Certainly they were different individuals, the student soldiers and middle aged men, conscripted into service.

 Lunchtime: Carpenters and Helpers -- identities and location unknown



As a new photograph or document came into my hands I began to look at them in a critical way, wondering how to learn something more from the images, trying to uncover their story by the visual clues that were given.


The A.P. Whites at Brookfield, Vermont
Betty, Oliver, Ruby, Bob, A.P., Irene

So too with my own family, I was getting to know them better. Through photos I could see my father, for instance, how he looked as a child, then a young man. I could see similarities in his features with that of my brother Art. In fact in some pictures, both as children, they looked quite alike. But as adults I could see a little similarity but not as much as when they were kids.

Bits and Pieces

Summer 1999: Mother's sudden rush to the hospital in a near state of collapse caused the family to come together in support of her and in need to provide supervision while she convalesced after release from the hospital. On a saturday, after visiting Mom at her at her "mother-in-law" apartment at sister Ann and brother in law Steve's house I headed back toward Middletown but noticed great billowing clouds on the horizon and so drove up to the All Saint's Cemetary where I could find a horizon line.

After a dozen or more photos of clouds I noticed numerous full-figure statues placed around the cemetary. Then, as I roamed, the green landscape shooting those patina-green sculptures of saints I thought, "I couldn't have taken pictures like this when I was younger. The symbols are different now -- and the icons of life mean different things."

The sculptures were arranged in a wide circle and I walked slowly from one to the next. Overhead the billowing storm clouds, remnants of a blown-out hurrican shifted, changing the lighting effects rapidly.

At first I tried to compensate for the differences but then gave up and shot without waiting for continuity in light.

Half an hour later I finished and drove across town to the old railroad yards, now only a vestage of the once powerful switchyard where my father once worked when he was an engineer. A green diesel, standing quietly, brought back the image of my father, sitting in the driver's seat, one arm resting on the windowframe as he waited for a signel from the yardman.

Scattered over much of the yard were bits and pieces of rusty metal, discards from the undersides of thousands of railroad cars which had been shuttled through the great yard on their way to "Everyplace USA." I picked up the smaller pieces and began to envision a sculpture which incorporated them.
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Sometimes you look at doors and wonder which one to take









"AND THE BAND PLAYED ON . . . "

"Afternoon Harold! . . .  Gettin a bit chilly, isn't it? Almost time to turn the heat on. Oh! It is ON. Well, I guess it takes time to heat things up in here. So, you've got a picture or twofor me. Where are they from, any idea? No -- huh! Just part of an estate somewhere. More orphan pictures. Do I want them? Sure! You bet I do. How much do I owe you for them? Buck and a half for one, 50 cents for the other.  Great! Thanks Harold. Fine pictures."

"Follow me boys and girls. We'll take our places for the photographer."

"Okay! Everybody take a pose. Hold it! Good! Now, on with the celebration. Let's get the band over here, at the lead. Everybody else in two lines -- tallest boys and girls in back.

"Not all boys together now. Each boy should have a girl to his right. That's it. Okay! Let's go."

Here they are, our grandfathers and grandmothers "to be," waiting to begin their celebration. Is it Memorial Day? 4th of July, Veterans or Flags Day? Perhaps Mayday or a religious festival?



One Rocket Morning


The scene shifts to another day -- an empty football field on a Saturday morning in 1979. As the boys prepare their rockets for launch into the crisp blue sky.


    "Okay guys! Who'se first to launch?," asks Joey. We're ready," answers Jeff."


 Jeff slides their rocket onto the launch stand.   "Countdown: 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1... Blastoff!"     John pushes the launch switch:

and we enter the age of space exploration . . .





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It's a cold, bleak sunday afternoon and friend Clementina and I drive out to East Hampton to visit Harold. He hands me a single photograph. "How much?" I ask. "There's a little rain damage on the corner. How about seventy-five cents?" he replies.

"So Harold -- where are these firemen from? Don't know, huh! I thought as much. Hmmm! Serious looking fellows, aren't they? Well, thank you anyways, it's a beautiful photograph."




Then one day a friend and I drove to visit Harold at his shop, which had once, long ago, been a synagogue and found it closed. That wasn't so unusual as Harold often went away to auctions and shows but he generally left a note on the door. So we drove into East Hampton and stopped at an antique store there. "Harold Bradford's shop was closed today and no note," I said to the man behind the counter.

"Didn't you hear," replied the shopkeeper? "Harold died last week."

"Oh!" I answered. I thanked the man for his insight and left the store, already missing my friend and photographic benefactor and thinking that I didn't remember ever taking a picture of Harold himself. . . "


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