A Trip Back in Time

Take a trip back to 1905 with early film footage of New York City’s subway system. In this film clip linked below, the New York subway was only a few months old! I particularly enjoyed seeing the children in the early and the last part of the video (the family holding the hands of two children.) Their names are lost to the mists of time, but wouldn’t it be interesting to know who they were and their life stories?

The men and women looked so dignified in their dress. No tattoos, no flesh hanging out, and I do mean hanging out (even though it was late May when the film was taken), no people eating, shuffling along while slurping from giant 32 oz. cups, no coffee clutchers and no iPhone zombies staring at their magic rectangles. What a different world it was.

Here’s the link from the UK’s Daily Mail.

For History Buffs…

KingDavidMaking good on my promise to make the Hope Blog more interesting, here are a couple of stories, completely unrelated, that I found this week. History lovers should enjoy both. The first is the internationally reported find this week of what archaeologists believe is King David’s palace. Of course, no such find is without dispute, but the dig is an interesting one. Here is the story, and here is the statement from the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

The second story is of much more recent history. Stories of unusual, compassionate behavior during the nightmarish years of World War II are always heartening to read. A book came out here in the U.S. last December, titled, A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of WWII. (The paperback edition is reportedly going to be released in November this year, in time for Christmas.) The author is Adam Makos with Larry Alexander.

Four days before Christmas 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a 21-year-old pilot. Half his crew lay wounded or dead. It was their first mission. Suddenly, a sleek, dark shape pulled up on the bomber’s tail—a German Messerschmitt fighter. Worse, the German pilot was an ace, a man able to destroy the American bomber in the squeeze of a trigger. What happened next would defy imagination and later be called the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War II.


This is the true story of the two pilots whose lives collided in the skies that day—the American—2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown, a former farm boy from West Virginia who came to captain a B-17—and the German—2nd Lieutenant Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria who sought to avoid fighting in World War II.


A Higher Call follows both Charlie and Franz’s harrowing missions. Charlie would face takeoffs in English fog over the flaming wreckage of his buddies’ planes, flak bursts so close they would light his cockpit, and packs of enemy fighters that would circle his plane like sharks. Franz would face sandstorms in the desert, a crash alone at sea, and the spectacle of 1,000 bombers each with eleven guns, waiting for his attack.


Ultimately, Charlie and Franz would stare across the frozen skies at one another. What happened between them, the American 8th Air Force would later classify as “top secret.” It was an act that Franz could never mention or else face a firing squad. It was the encounter that would haunt both Charlie and Franz for forty years until, as old men, they would search for one another, a last mission that could change their lives forever.


Old Photos, Real Lives

My Great-great-great Grandmother, Greta from Sweden, born when Thomas Jefferson was in the White house, died in the 1880's.

Tom has a box of old photographs from the distant past.  After his father passed away he brought them home. We looked through the box for a long time and were able to trace back which relatives were which on most of them.

The photos contained scenes of old Milwaukee stores and homes and streets where his German relatives grew up. There was Tom’s great aunt as a little girl with a big bow on her head. A tall, handsome young man was in one photograph wearing his army uniform during World War I. Also in the box was a notebook from his great aunt’s school days in the early years of the 20th-century. Seeing the pencil doodles and little drawings from her girlhood made me wonder about her life and hopes and dreams.

I love antique photographs. Every life has a story, and old photos make you think about what those stories were. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, old photos enjoy new life as several websites feature these glimpses of the past.

I was surprised to see how far back photography really went. One website has posted many daguerreotypes, the earliest commercially successful form of photography which became popular in the late 1830’s.

This daguerreotype of a lovely young woman was startling in its quality. From the neck up, this young woman could have been photographed today. There is no record of this woman’s name or history, only that the photograph was from the 1840’s. Large earrings were clearly popular in that era. She seems to have been a fashionable young woman.

The website www.old-picture.com has a wealth of images of Americans from the 19th Century. I found that after looking at the pictures, some of which are startling in their clarity, that the past was humanized somehow. These aren’t drawings or paintings, these are pictures of real people–pictures so clear, you can see the softness or wrinkles in their skin and the glint in their eyes.

These Americans built our country at a time when life was so much harder than it is today. Boys had to be men early and girls, women . The little boys (playing men) who populate the celebrity headlines today would have been abhorrent to the “stubborn, old iconoclasts” (as Lowell put it) in these photos who helped forge America. The men in these photos have something in their faces that speaks of hard things faced and conquered. The same with the women. Life aged everyone quickly back then, and some of the women who look almost elderly in the photos were probably only in their 40’s.

I especially love the photos of children, like this little girl named Adeline. Here are little Elisa and John. Here is a formidable set of five sisters who sat down for a portrait. I wonder what their stories were? This beautiful little girl looks so sweet. The rule of no smiling was forgotten by this young woman.

What I can’t believe is the clarity of the photos. This one is amazingly beautiful. It’s difficult to believe that the department store photos from my own children from the late 1980’s and 90’s are already fading, while these darroguerreotypes as early as the 1840’s are so clear. I don’t think that’s progress.

Have fun at the Old-picture.com website. It’s an educational trip through our nation’s past. The curator of the site also has a blog with photo features and commentary. You can find that blog here!

P.S. Several weeks ago I discovered the photo of a baby sleeping, taken in the 1840’s. I was unable to find it today, but will keep looking as I wanted to share that one. When I find it, I will post it. *Update* Here is little William Mitchell McAllister dreaming baby dreams in a nap long ago in 1844. Babies never change and the sight of this cherub napping on the sofa on a blanket is timeless.

P.P.S. Don’t miss this photo on the site with a heart-warming story of triumph over tragedy that will take you to Jerusalem. What a deeply moving example of God’s love.

On the Wings of History

As a birthday present for Tom, he, his sister Kris, Jonathan and William got to ride on a B-17 last weekend at the EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It was the flight of a lifetime on a “Flying Fortress”, the primary American heavy bomber primarily used in Europe during World War II. 15,000 were made and about 7,000 were shot down. Despite these horrifying numbers, the B-17 was known for its durability, sometimes returning to base with only one engine working. Its crews loved it, and many consider it to be the best all around bomber of World War II.*

*Information provided by William Schlueter, resident World War II historian.

Here are some snapshots of that memorable flight. There were three crew members and ten passengers on board that day.

Tom, his sister Kris, William and Jonathan in the radio room. The open space is where a machine gun would have been.

Tom, his sister Kris, William and Jonathan in the radio room. The open space is where a machine gun would have been.

From the bomb bay, looking into the cockpit.

From the bomb bay, looking into the cockpit.

Looking through the plexiglass in the bombadier station.

Looking through the plexiglass in the bombadier station.

William in the radio room, thrilled to pieces to be onboard.

William in the radio room, thrilled to pieces to be on board.

Looking at the plane during the pre-flight briefing.

Looking at the plane during the pre-flight briefing.