It is a good thing I don’t wear socks while working

By Rich Tarrant

Though I’ve been retired for about a decade I think the only thing that has really changed is that I don’t receive a paycheck for my time. Now, that’s not really a complaint. It’s just an observation. The compensation for doing what I do (i.e. slogging through history) is very rewarding: The photographs that appear with these words are prime examples of the recompense I gladly receive for my labors.

Some time ago (VPJ 03/09/17) I wrote about the process I was using to develop glass and film negatives. To briefly reiterate: One of my brothers (some knew as “Al the Bugman”) had developed many of them using conventional photo processing methods. That process requires chemicals that, because of their very nature, are not easily or economically disposed. So, to make a long story short, I circumvented that process with a digital camera, a light table and a computer, putting together a “Digital Darkroom”. The photos that accompany the column this week were produced therein.

In June of 2017 I temporarily suspended my work in the digital darkroom while recuperating from hip replacement surgery. By that time I’d cleaned, developed, identified, printed and stored approximately 350 glass negatives. While I certainly intended to resume the work within a few months I was distracted by other matters and didn’t return to it until now (i.e. the very end of September 2018). Ergo:

Working in the digital darkroom is like riding a bike: You never forget. But the one thing you do forget is the overwhelming feeling of surprise as each image materializes on the computer screen. It’s a good thing I don’t wear any socks because they would’ve been knocked off when the accompanying shadows came to life on the monitor of my iMac. Even if I didn’t know who or what I was looking at I would have been impressed by the extraordinary detail of these images. [That’s not always the case.]

The portrait of the lady and gent with the children on their laps is that of my g-grandparents, Ernest “E.T.” and Clarissa Bottomley. The children are their granddaughters, Clara Houseman (right) and my mother baby Ella Roscoe (left). Mr. Bottomley was born in England in 1855 and migrated to the U.S. with his family when he was about seven years old. His mother died during the passage. As a youngster he had worked with his father in the paper mills on the East Coast until his marriage. G-grandmother Bottomley was born in Minnesota in 1858. Clara Houseman was born in Milan, Ohio in 1900 and her cousin, my mother Ella Roscoe, was born in Vermilion in 1906.

The five young people in the other photo are the Bottomley children. The girls (L-R) are Ella Bottomley-Houseman, Ethel Bottomley and Elizabeth “Bessie” Bottomley-Roscoe. The boys are (L-R): Tom and Ernest “Lee” Bottomley. Ella (b.1882) was little Clara’s mother – the little girl on her grandfather’s lap. Ella was married to a fella named Worlie Houseman (b.1874) who operated the grain mills in Birmingham and Vermilion. Ethel (b.1893) eventually married a well-known Vermilion farmer named Norris Welch. And Bessie (b. 1877) was, of course, married to Vermilion News editor Pearl Roscoe. Bessie named her first daughter after her little sister Ella.

Ernest (b.1884) went by his middle name “Lee”. He eventually made his home in Cleveland where he owned and operated several businesses. He was a machinist by trade and was also an inventor. His younger brother Tom (b.1887) graduated from Vermilion High School in 1907. It was, by the way, the first full 4-year term graduating class at Vermilion High. He became a Cleveland pharmacist and made his home in Shaker Heights.

As previously stated, “Even if I did not know who or what I was looking at I would have been impressed by the extraordinary detail of these images.” The wallpaper, curtains and images in picture frames, along with the clothing and jewelry [note the necklace on baby Ella] just knock my socks off. Or at least they would were I wearing any.

Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant is Curator of the Vermilion History Museum and a son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at:


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