Life In Black and White

Life in Black and White

“Were you alive when everything was black and white?”

That’s the question I heard as we stood in the hall looking at framed pictures I had proudly hung. Some photos were in vibrant hues of colors, leaving nothing to the imagination as to the color of the hair, eyes, or to the clothes chosen to mark the occasion.

But the old, black and white treasures, from the one of my Grandparents and their children in front of a sod house in Indian Territory along the Colorado River, to the faded color, eight by ten of my husband and I, when we exchanged vows, were the ones that prompted the question.  

I gazed down at the sweet face, the big, questioning brown eyes of my youngest granddaughter, as a slight chuckle escaped my throat.

My answer was, of course, “Oh, sweetie, everything has always been in color, there just wasn’t color photos back a long time ago.”

So, we looked and talked about the pictures and after more laughs, hugs, and kisses, the six-year old twins, their older sister, and my son-in-law left.

But the question lingered. What I first thought to be sweet, but funny, began to poke at my thoughts and heart. Flashes of old pictures from my childhood, of my relatives as they grew and married, and those photos of my Uncles and cousins, straight and proud in their Service Uniforms, rushed through my mind. I could see them clearly. No tint or hues needed. 

 Funny, I never thought of what I couldn’t see. I never wondered what color the dresses or shirts or even the flowers in the background were.

I saw them—but I didn’t see them.                                                                                              

A simple question led me to speculate what had I missed? My curiosity had been satisfied because I was mostly interested in the faces. There were stories hidden in each photo concerning what had brought them to this moment. We were told of the background for some of the photos, but there are others that we will never learn any of the details.                                                          

Vera & Jesse W. Nelson
and Joan

Bert C. Nelson—26 Co 126 Depot Brigade

There were many questions. Maybe my age has something to do with it. I’ve lived through many changes. One evening, we drove to town to stand in front of an appliance store, to catch our first glimpse of the new fangled television sets—black and white, no less—displayed in their window. Some of our neighbors gathered to watch our first set with a ten-inch screen. I remember it signed off at ten-thirty after the news and the National Anthem was played, followed briefly with the Indian Head test pattern, and the loud buzzing tone.                                           

Thad & Rosa Lee Ellis with Louis, Lois, Gene & Louise


Today we have sets the size of a large dining table with 4K high definition color and stereo sound, that stream programs 24 hours a day.

 Being the modern, curious person needing an answer, I searched the Internet for the development of

the color film. (Notice how I used the key word ‘development’.)

It seems color photography came to life in the 1890’s to 1903. Kodak bought Kodachrome in 1936. Although color slides worked pretty well, the regular color pictures faded in time, and three rolls of black and white cost less than one roll of color. It wasn’t until 1970 that color films were perfected and became cheaper for the average folks to purchase.  

                                                                                           In searching for pictures, I marveled how in my 4-H record book of 1959, there were several examples of dresses I made.  

Along with each black and white photo was a small swatch of the fabric used for the outfits. Otherwise, the   colors were unknown. The lack of color film never occurred to me before—and I’m the one who added the swatches.

The curiosity of a child led me to acquire some knowledge in researching a simple question.

The curiosity of a child led me to take a closer look at those old black and white pictures.

So, that’s the answer. I was alive when everything was black and white…at least in photos.




2 Responses to Life In Black and White

  1. What a neat idea to focus on those old “black and whites.” I love your idea of attaching fabric swatches to pictures of outfits you made.

  2. Becky says:

    I’m thinking black and white is better, sometimes. Bert’s eyes literally glow in that black and white photo. I am blessed to know him, you, and all the folks. Maybe, I’ve reached an age where I yearn for life in black and white.

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