In June 1973, we had an unusually large number of relatives visit for an afternoon — 13 are in a picture I took, but I know that’s missing a few. I’m not sure how it was all arranged, only that hadn’t happened before, and it never did again. Mostly people came over in small groups.
One of the visitors was my uncle Kenneth Arnn, down from Oklahoma with my aunt Sue and cousin Ralph. I knew them better than any of the others, since we’d see them every year or every other year, and of course I still visit Sue and Ralph.
I took a picture of Ken standing near one of the kitchen doorways at my mother’s house.
He was impressed enough with the quality of the shot to ask for a copy sometime later. I look at it now and think, even my cheap Coolpix could take a better picture than that. But all I had then was a Kodak Instamatic 104, and I was 12, so I suppose that’s a pretty good image for all that. Also, if you took a shot from the same position now, most of the background would be the same, except for the arrangement of hats and the Magic 8 Ball.
Here’s the startling thing: in 1973, he was the same age as I am now. Chronologically, I understand. He was born in 1919. But it’s still hard to wrap my mind around that.
A few basic facts about Uncle Ken (unless I’m misremembering, which is entirely possible): he hailed from Childress, Texas; was a U.S. Army staff sergeant in the European theater in WWII — a cook in Patton’s army; did a stint as a teacher in Barrow, Alaska, in the 1950s with my aunt, whose older sister is my mother; and for most of his career he worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in South Dakota and later Oklahoma.
The last time I saw him was in Ardmore, Okla., in late 2001. He’d suffered a stroke by then, and so was frail, but still mentally lively, as always. We were on our way back home from Thanksgiving in Dallas, and I’m glad we stopped in (he got to meet Lilly, among other things). He died a few days before Christmas in 2002.
Here’s another picture I took during that visit in 1973: cousin Ralph, age 10, jumping off the swing set we had in the back yard at the time.
Ralph’s a sales executive these days, a resident of San Antonio with a wife, grown stepdaughter and two teenaged daughters. I’ve always liked this kinetic picture of him.