Tuesday, August 23, 2011


At breakfast this morning in the book I was reading I came across a photograph of a entire box of Moo Cards laid out on a flat surface. They brought back a memory of a picture that Mother had hanging over the buffet at home. It got me to thinking about the things that influence our “vision,” what we see and how we see it.

For those that do not know what Moo Cards are they are a specialized type of business card and about half the height of a regular card. The unique thing about Moo Cards other than their size is that Moo will print a different photograph on each of the cards in the box—I think they come in 50’s and 100’s. A lot of photographers like Moo Cards for that reason—the opportunity to make each card unique. They generally have one entire side of the card with the photograph and have all the contact info on the other side.

The cards that were in the photographs were all photographs of a very graphic red, blue and yellow object that had been shot from many different angles and compositions. All butted up against each other, it was very reminiscent of the Art Deco period. It was because of this resemblance that it reminded me of Mother’s picture.

This probably needs some background. My family was extremely poor. But it was back when you really didn’t know you were poor because most everyone around you was also poor. We lived in what at one time had been an oil field shack during the oil boom in Burkburnett. The shacks were hastily thrown up to accommodate the hoards that rush into the oil field and were never intended as permanent homes. I do not know when my family purchased the house (actually I believe it was two shacks stuck together) but they moved to Burk in 1926, my brother was born there in 1927, probably in the “big room” as I was eleven years later, and Dad was living there well into the 1960’s. The shacks did not have stud construction. The load bearing walls were the one-by sheathing. Window and door frames stuck out into the rooms and the only thing between you and the great outdoors was a 1” thick board, actually 3/4” thick, and a few layers of tar paper on the outside and cheesecloth and a layer of wallpaper inside. It may not have been much of a structure but it was a home in the best sense of the term.

There was the “big room,” that’s what it was always called, which was 16’ square and two smaller rooms stuck on the front (I think this was originally a second shack that had been attached to the big room.) The kitchen was an 8’ or 9’ lean-to shed attached across the back of the big room.  Outside of a Ranch Oak couch that folded out into a bed that Dad and Mother bought when they first married, the closest thing we had to real furniture, store bought not hand me down, was a very inexpensive dining room suit, a table, maybe six chairs and a buffet. Along with the dining room suite in the big room was mother’s pump organ that she got for her tenth birthday and occasionally other furniture. Before the shed that contained the bathroom and an extra bedroom was built onto the side, the big room was where the No. 2 washtub served as the family bath on Saturday night so we would be ready for church the next morning.

My father never in his life had enough to sentimental over but my mother would have kept each and every thing that ever passed through her or her family’s hands. That is where the picture came in—it was a sheet of Christmas wrapping paper that she had framed in a half-round frame painted bright red. It was a metallic paper and was basically four colors, red, green, silver and black all put together in a very abstract Art Deco arrangement. The individual sections were maybe 1” or 1 1/4” at the largest. Over all it might have been 14” x 20”. It looked very much like a serving tray and actually it might have been at one time. My mother may have been poor but I think you would have called her a modernist. As much respect as she had for the past, she definitely was not stuck in the past.

The Christmas wrapping picture hung over the buffet as far back as I can remember. It was there when she passed away in 1955 so I lived with it through my formative years. Mother often called my attention to the picture because I think she knew that it might keep me from being stuck in the past—don’t know that worked exactly like she had intended but I do have a great respect for the abstract so maybe it did.

Strange the things you can think of at breakfast.

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