Saturday, December 18, 2010

sepia saturday: rite of passage

today's sepia photos were taken in the 1930s. the top photo is of my mother and her communion cohort from st. michael's church in harwood mines, pennsylvania. harwood, one of the many little patch towns which surround hazleton, still exists as a place where people live, however, neither the mine nor st. michael's church are still in operation. an order was issued recently notifying people in the town to stop using "harwood" or "harwood mines" as the name of their town in their postal address and to adopt "hazle township" - I find this very strange. here's what the portal has to say about "hazle township" - no where in this entry is mention of harwood - it is as if someone wants to erase it from history. maybe I'm overreacting after all the portal does still have it on their list of places in pennsylvania!

history buffs with an interest in workers and unions may be familiar with the region because of events such as this, this and this.

my mom rita remembers that in her community it was customary that children receive their first communion when they were 6 or 7; this being the case the top photo was taken in 1931 or 1932. my mother was very tall for her age, she is the tallest girl on the second row. she remained being taller than her age mates until she was in high school, then she either quit growing or everyone caught up. at her maximum height my mother reached 5'4" - which is close to the average height for an american woman according to this. comparatively speaking both her sister rose and her brother george were quite tall - rose was at least 5'9" and george was probably a little over 6 feet.

the photo below is of rita's brother george at his first communion. george is younger and was born in 1927, hence, the photo was taken in 1933 or 1934. george's hands are probably clasped around the mass or prayer book that is customarily given to children. I have in my possession two first communion books: the white leather prayer book I was given when I received my first communion (on december 16, 1963 - at age 8) and a small black (faux leather) book my father received when he was a child (dad's book has a publication date of 1925, oddly it was printed in czechoslovakia and is written in latin and english - I know my family is from what was once czechoslovakia, but our prayer books too? how funny is that!) - aside from sentimental value, I expect neither book is worth anything monetarily as both are very tattered and torn. well used? who is to know? and who is to tell?

to visit other time travelers, visit the sepia saturday blog.

communion is christian sacrament but it is also a christian rite of passage. for today's song, I offer bob seger's song rite of passage, the song was released on seger's 1995 album it's a mystery.


Unknown said...

Lovely communion class, so much more angelic than my own that I shared weeks ago...I was interested in that township link..being from so.western PA and coming from coal miner families I felt linked. I have never heard of anything like that happeneing to change the name of the town and erase it...some of my family too was in Luzerne, on migration from NY where they came to the US. Wow the short pants on George are unusual for the time, I think. An enjoyable historic trip with these photos.... Merry Christmas

Betsy Brock said...

Oh, they all look like little angels, don't they? And how appropriate, given the occassion!
They all look so serious except for the little guy beside your mom. I think he's biting his lips to stop the giggles. :)

Bruno Laliberté said...

to be quite frank, i am relieved fashion evolved as i prefer what i was wearing at MY communion: a regular suit covered with a monacal robe. quite dramatic, to be honest.
but the first picture certainly is interesting.

Alan Burnett said...

Wonderful pictures. But the mischievous streak in me imagines the kids in that first one somehow being balanced on top of a motorbike - like the pyramid of riders that used to appear in display team performances.

tony said...

Ah Memory!It reminds me of my first Communion.[In retrospect, It felt like my first Job Interview!]
I still have my communion book too!
in 1950s UK, we didnt seem to have photos (individual or group)taken which is a shame & a loss for me.
They look good! So Pretty. I always thought hands-in-prayer feels so right.Pointing upwards to Heaven!
A Wonderful Photo.

Tattered and Lost said...

Stunning photo.