By: Rich Tarrant
Recently I wrote about developing glass negatives in what used to be my brother, Al’s, former conventional darkroom. But what I didn’t mention is that the same process can also be used to develop film negatives. While Roscoe (my grandfather) left a legacy of about five or six hundred photographs on glass there may be twice that many that are on film. It appears to me that he used glass into the late 1920s and then switched to film. The big problem with film is that unlike the glass it really doesn’t age well unless specifically protected somehow. Anyway, while working this week I began to look through the film and the photographs. Along with the column this week are some – just a very few – of those I came across. They’re not all great pictures (some are not even very good), but they are interesting, and as one can plainly see they are numbered.
Number one is a photograph that is, by and large, very familiar to most persons interested in local history. It’s a very nice shot of the Helfrich boat-drive-in Restaurant along the Vermilion River. It was probably taken in the mid to late 1930s. Some folks may recognize it as McGarvey’s Restaurant before, of course, McGarvey bought it. The Helfrich family from Lorain operated the place for years. But when Mr. Helfrich fell ill Jesse Hamman took over the bulk of the work. [F.Y.I. Mr. Hamman was a relative of the Hamman who currently runs that great bakery out on Route 60.] One of the things I really like about this old eatery is the screened in porch. I don’t know if there were tables there where patrons could partake, but I’d like to think that was the case.
The little fella in photograph 2 is not someone I recognize. What I do recognize is the site of the picture. It was taken on the south side of the News print shop. The house in the background is very recognizable – though an addition has been placed on the back. And the tree, of course, is no more. I’ve not a clue as to the reason it was taken. Perhaps Roscoe thought it would simply make a cute portrait. It is probably a late 1930s snapshot.
I would recognize the site of the third (3) photo with only one good eye (which is nearly the case). This photograph was taken in the back yard of what was then Charlie Trinter’s home on the west side of Perry Street. This slate-roofed home sits just behind the first house on the corner of Perry and Liberty streets. When I was a youngster the Oscar Farrell family lived there. And when I was a teenager the VHS science teacher “Doc” Howard Ream lived in the home. I spent a good deal of time at that house. First when a McGyver-type character named Bob Farrell lived there, and later when my good buddy Bill Ream lived there. We actually spent a good deal of time in this yard and the basement.
The reason I know that Charles W. Trinter owned this home when this photo was taken is because of the tulips. One of my old schoolmates, Kathy Dickason Kvach, was one of Charlie’s grandchildren. One time, in passing, she mentioned the big flower garden he kept in his back yard. Years later, when my friends and I frequented the area the flowers, like McGarvey’s Restaurant, were no more.
The fourth (4) picture was captured in what is currently my front yard of sorts. Years ago the guys at the Olympic Outing Club used to challenge the guys from Vermilion to a baseball game to be played in the field at the club. Just for fun the players always got dressed up in outlandish / clownish costumes to play. I don’t think it mattered who won. They just had fun. Currently (at least for the winter) the area where they once played is frequented by a large gaggle of geese that appear to be supervised by a murder of crows everyday – all day.
The last (5) photo is a family photograph. I am unable to say where, or even when, it was taken. It garnered my interest because when I saw it I noted that the fellow in the flat hat on the steps in front of a monument is my father. I’ve not been able to identify the monument. And I am equally baffled by my dad’s hat. I never saw him in a hat like the one he’s wearing. Most times he wore a fedora type chapeau. Evidently in his younger years he was a stylish chap.
Well, now that I’ve seen the glass and the film I can very truthfully say that I like both. But the bottom line for me (and I hope for everyone) is not the medium upon which they were captured but what was captured: Whether on glass or film we are provided with a palpable record that serves to enhance both our knowledge and understanding of our yesteryear and, perhaps, of our days to come.
Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org