By Rich Tarrant
The accompanying photograph of Vermilion’s harbor is hardly a good one, but it is unusual. Precisely how local newsman, photographer Pearl Roscoe acquired it is not known. It is doubtful that he had a wide-angle lens on his camera. It was, then, likely a darkroom technique where he was able to merge two photos to produce the one seen. Given current technology – in both hardware and software available to us – a similar photograph could be made without much or any thought by nearly anyone.
Unfortunately, the years have not been kind to the negative that produced the image. The smudges cracks and clouds made it nearly illegible. Nonetheless, it is just clear enough for us to recognize the image as the riverfront near the current waterworks taken during an early regatta celebration.
The background on the right side of the image shows the marsh that was then on the cusp of being transformed into what would someday become a very attractive and prestigious housing development called the Vermilion Lagoons. In this particular image it appears that the white spaces beneath the trees are homes. But they are actually open spaces beyond the trees. When this photo was taken one could see the lake and skies through the trees beyond the marsh.
To the north, a good-sized cabin cruiser is moored to block stop any boat traffic entering the harbor interfering with the activities along the riverfront. Nearer the foreground there is a small rowboat anchored near mid-stream with several persons onboard. The crowd on the riverbank (left) appears captivated by something taking place on the river. Were this photograph just a tad more legible one would see that everyone is watching several swimmers racing across the river. There is also a person in a canoe watching the proceedings.
It may be that that those in the rowboat are contest judges. They could also be stationed there to help if any of the swimmers developed a problem. That may also be the reason the person in the canoe was standing by. But whatever the case the crowd seems rapt in the goings-on.
While this particular event was well before my time I feel fortunate to have witnessed similar events back in the 1950s. If that was not the case I doubt that I’d be able to recognize, much less interpret, the activity captured in this photo. And though this is hardly what one might consider as being a “good photograph” I am glad that it exists. For as much as I, among some others, might tell folks about the crowds of cheering spectators that once crowded the banks of the river to watch the diving, swimming and canoe races during a summer regatta; a picture of such a yesteryear (however bad) is as is said “worth a thousand words.
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