This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

A Family Trio from Binghamton

22 February 2013

A small sketch
drawn from a cabinet card photograph

Setting the biscuits on the table, Mrs. Martell loosened her apron and hung it on the back of the kitchen door. It must be about time, she thought. She went into the parlor and squinted at the mantle clock. “My goodness,” she said. “It's later than I thought.” Returning to the kitchen she addressed the boy seated at the table. “Archibald, go tell Victoria that it is time to go. And stop poking that box. It's not for you.”

“VICKI, IT'S TIME,” the boy hollered, never raising his head from his plate.

“Archie, that's quite enough. Go upstairs, get your coat, and ask your sister to hurry. Albert should be here presently.”

Archie rose slowly from his chair and brushed the biscuit crumbs off his vest. “I don't know why we have to do this,” he grumbled.

“Because we promised Uncle Fred and Aunt Agatha that we would send them portraits for cousin Arabella's birthday. We haven't seen her for a while and it will be a thoughtful gift. Now upstairs with you.” She picked up the dishes and put them into the sink.

Just then the front door closed with a loud bang and Albert came into the kitchen. “I'm sorry Mother. Mr. Ferguson asked me to go through February's receipts again, so I missed the first trolley.” He stretched across the table for a biscuit. “Say Arch, where were you this morning? Mr. Ferguson said he saw you by the lake.” His brother shrugged and gave only a sly grin.

“That's all right, dear. Remember to always keep on the good side of your employer. There's fresh preserves in that ramekin.” She looked across the room. “Archie! Go get Victoria!” She watched him clump up the stairs. “Honestly, a cabbage is less stubborn than that boy, and listens better too. Albert dear, do you have your instrument?”

“Yes, my cornet is just there on top the piano,” he said pointing. “Why are we going now? Couldn't we go later on Saturday?”

“No, Mr. Murphy's new apprentice only works on Tuesday and Thursday, and we want him to meet your sister. Oh, and here she is,” Mrs. Martell said as she turned to the parlor doorway.

“Oh Mother, I could not decide what dress to wear, it's supposed to be spring and yet it is still so cold. Does this look alright?” The girl raised her arms and twirled.

“Yes, that's perfect. Attractive and yet professional,” said Mrs. Martell brushing the girl's shoulders.

“My students are impossible,” said Victoria. “Only four weeks to our concert and they can hardly play three notes in a row before making a mistake. And their rhythm is so bad, I'm afraid we shall have to play so slowly that no one will recognize the tunes.”

“I'm sure it is all very troubling. Now get your wrap dear. We don't want to be late,” said Mrs. Martell putting on her hat. “Archibald, carry your sister's instrument case. And Albert's too.”

“Why do I have to carry them? Why can't Vicki carry her own violin?” asked the boy. He glared at his sister.

“Because you are here and that's what a young gentleman does,” she said. “And get the box on the kitchen table. That's the pie that I … We,” giving a side glance to Victoria. “have baked for Mr. Clapper”

> <

A short time later they reached Murphy's photography studio at the corner of Court and Washington Streets, and Mrs. Martell held the door for her three children to enter. Archie quickly dropped the cases and box on the floor and collapsed onto a stool by the door. A young man with unnaturally shining hair and wearing a fancy brocade vest greeted them. “How are you this fine afternoon, Mrs. Martell?”

“We are very well, Mr. Clapper. I believe you know my son Albert, the assistant associate accounts clerk from Ferguson's mercantile.” The two men shook hands. “And this is my daughter Victoria, a music teacher and a most accomplished performer on the violin and piano.” Victoria stepped forward with a small tilt of her head and smiled. Mrs. Martell gestured to the stool. “Oh, and this is Archibald, her younger brother.”

Ignoring the boy, Mr. Clapper took Victoria's hand and raised it to his lips. “Indeed Miss Victoria and I are already acquainted from last Sunday's soiree at the Langerhans dinner. I am most delighted to meet you again.” He fingered the tight curl on his blond mustache. “I do so enjoy the musical arts. A song seems always to be in my heart.” Victoria giggled.

Archie rolled his eyes and groaned loudly. Albert gave him a kick. “Get up and get your trombone out. And hand me my cornet.”

The two began assembling their instruments. Pressing the little lever at the end of the slide, Archie blew a sizable puddle of water onto the floor. Mr. Clapper frowned. “I believe we are all ready for you., if you will step this way,” he flapped his hand excitedly towards the next room. 

Selecting some chairs stacked by the side of some painted canvas flats, he arranged them in front of a large wall. “I must say that you and your mother are the most elegantly dressed ladies I can recall. Your ensemble will be most attractive in this afternoon light,” he said as he unrolled an ornate lino floor cloth and positioned it in front of a camera. “If Mr. Martell will sit here and the young man there, we shall have Miss Victoria stand center behind. This will make the classic Greek triangle.”

Mrs. Martell watched with approval. “Oh that shall be wonderful. Such artistic flair. Don't you think so Victoria?” The girl adjusted her dress and the small brooch on her collar.

The wicker seat creaked as Archie sat down. Albert took his place and played a quick fanfare. Archie made a move for his spit valve again, but Victoria touched him with her bow. “Watch it, Buster!” she whispered. Mr. Clapper directed them to look up. No, more right. Now down. A little to the left. Back. Hold still. Careful. Archie groaned. “Hush!” she hissed as the flash pan went off.

When the session was over, Victoria placed her violin into its case. “Oh, Mr. Clapper, I have a small surprise for you.” She went back to the stool and picked up the box. “This is for you, made fresh this morning.”

Placing the box on the counter, Mr. Clapper began to untie the string. “Why thank you. How did you know I have a bit of a sweet tooth?” He pulled the lid off and jumped back with a start. “MY LORD! What is that!” he exclaimed. “I … I … I really should see to these negatives. Good day to you” With eyes wide and a quick step,  he rushed off to a back room.

Mrs. Martell came over to the counter. “What on earth? It's just a peach pie,” she said. “Oh my land!” Her hand went to her mouth.

“What is it, Mother?” cried Vicki.

Staring up from a nest of dandelions and cress was a large green turtle. On the back of its shell, scrawled in white paint, was I LOVE U.

Albert doubled over in laughter. “I never knew turtles had such a taste for peaches, Vicki.”

“Archibald Blaine!”
shrieked Mrs. Martell. But it was too late. The door crashed sending Archie's case careening across the floor. The boy was gone.

>>  <<

The preceding novelty is entirely fiction. This anonymous trio are unidentified and may or may not be brothers and sister. The age of the boy seemed too old in contrast to the youth of the other two to make the trio a father, mother, and son.

The names are all invented except for that of Ezra Murphy (born 1835, New York). Mr. Murphy was a photographer in Binghamton, New York who operated a studio there from 1860 through at least 1892.  However in 1900 he was listed in the city directory as an elevator conductor in a Binghamton municipal building. By 1910, his name disappears.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
Click the link for more photos
of anonymous family trios.


Peter said...

You may be a professional musician, you could have been a professional writer as well! I admire your creativeness.

Wendy said...

A turtle in the story - hmm, must be for Ticklebear's benefit since he expressed disappointment that last week's band was not sporting turtleneck shirts.

barbara and nancy said...

I was transfixed by the story. Did Victoria and Mr. Clapper get together? Did Albert ever get promoted from Assistant to Associate? How was Archibald reprimanded? One can only imagine.
Great post. So much fun.

Boobook said...

You are obviously creative in more than one field of the arts. It's a lovely story.

Jackie van Bergen said...

A wonderful story. I think you could well be correct in thinking they are brothers and sister.
The annoying little brother ending reminded me of how annoying my little brothers could be.

Bob Scotney said...

A well written story that grabs your attention from the start. It's apparent from the photo that Archie is too fond of biscuits and pies.
You have found a novel way to address the theme.

Sharon said...

Well done and very creative. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I have letters from relatives in the 1800s where photos were referred to as a "likeness"

tony said...

The Chap On The Right Looks Ready To Jump Out Of His Chair And Hit The Photographer!

Postcardy said...

Amusing story. I liked the way you included a lot of details. The ending was a surprise. The turtle seems to have come from last week's prompt.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

What a wonderful story! I loved it!

Kathy M.

Kathy Hart said...

What a wonderful story - I love it! Thank you for the idea as I had been wondering what to do with one of my interesting photos. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Karen S. said...

Ah yes, music to my eyes as well as a great story! Music may be one of my favorite things but turtles are too!

viridian said...

What a fun story, ending with a turtle no less! Thanks!

Little Nell said...

Another of your entertaining tales and I think you had Archie to a T!

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

What fun and great imagination! I must say my family portraits, known and unknown, don't inspire me so much.

Mike Burnett said...

Great yarn, I knew the fat boy was not to be trusted.

Alan Burnett said...

I love the way you describe it as a "novelty". It is a perfect description - it is amusing, interesting and quite memorable. Like all good writing, it is entirely believable and the story becomes as much a part of the accepted reality as the instruments and the stern poses.

Brett Payne said...

I don't think the rotund fellow on the right is a sibling of the other two - his facial features are quite different.


This is a great short story. And a nice wink to last week's post, with the turtle. Do it again, soon!?!

Kathy Morales said...

Always a delight!

Tattered and Lost said...

This was so much fun! I felt like I stepped back in time for a few minutes. Loved it.


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP