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 }

Silver and Gold

08 March 2014

A short fiction
improvised from faces in a postcard

He wasn't sure where he was. The lanes twisted around so much that the old man wondered if this was the right direction. At his age there was little reason to come out to this side of the mills but today he needed the money. Years ago when he was a kid this was just woods. Now all these shacks were new to him.

He set down his camera case and paused to catch his breath. The haze from the coal smoke didn't help much. This was a longer hike than he expected. Maybe he should have insisted they come to his shop. But no, they wanted a group photo. Presently he heard people coming up behind him.

"Hello," he said. "Can you tell me if this is the way toward the ..." He pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket and read slowly, ", Kostelecky wedding?"

The man in front nodded. He wore an odd assembly of metal plumbing around his shoulder. It must be some foreign kind of musical instrument. "Ja, we are coming from there now," said the man. "Was a good time." He gestured to his companion. "Davee and me, we play ompahs in the band."

The old man blinked. "You mean's over?" he stammered. "Finished?"

"Nein, nein," said the man, shaking his head. "We soon must start the next shift at the mill. Sunday is still a day of work for some. But the wedding party, that goes on still. The priest will be there at least as long as there is beer and wine." He turned to the young woman next to him. "My sister Margit, she will show you the way." 

The old man's face turned ashen. "Oh my, I'm very late. I must have put down the wrong time. Sometimes I don't hear so well with these strange accents." He picked up the case and tripod.

The girl smiled shyly. "You must not worry. There are still many people there and it is not far. Come, this way," she said, pointing down the gravel road.

Her brother gave a twist to his mustache and laughed. "Ja, Margit is eager to go back and have fun at the dancing. The fiddles and trumpets take over now. No need for bass instruments like me and Davee." 

He poked the other man in the shoulder. "Anyway, maybe soon she and Davee will have their own party, when we unite the great German and Englisher empires."

"Welsh, if you please, Gus," said the short man with the tuba. "Pay no attention to him. He is has more hot air than his helicon. And more noise too. Just like the Kaiser"

Gus scowled. "What it this? The Kaiser does not play a tuba!" Clicking his heels together Gus waved an arm. "He commands it to play for him!" 

They all laughed.

 "August, we must hurry. The whistle will sound," said the young man standing at the back.

"Little brother, there is always time to help a stranger." He turned to the old man. "Would you like Klaus to carry your bags?"

"No, they are not heavy," said the old man. "I'm a photographer and Mr. Kostelecky engaged me for his daughter's wedding. I'm supposed to take a picture of the happy couple with the family group."

He looked down and saw a small  child peeking from behind Klaus. "Who are you? Do you have to go to work at the mill too?" The tiny face frowned and disappeared behind a trouser leg.

"That is Frida," said Gus. "She is my daughter, the first to be born an American." He patted her on the head. "Today she goes to hear the music, but she can not choose which tuba is best. The gold one or the silver one. Silver or gold?" 

Davee blew a quick toot on his tuba. "Why the handsome silver one of course. Not some brassy old steam boiler."

They laughed again and started to continue on their way, but the photographer  held up his hand.  "Wait, let me take your picture."  He set his camera onto the tripod, adjusting the lens as he squinted through the view finder. 

"Perfect. Frida can now have both. Silver and gold it is."


>>>>> <<<<<

The preceding is pure invention based on a vintage postcard of three men, a woman, and a child that gives no date, or place, or names. A good guess says they are probably somewhere in America during the first decade of the 20th century. They appear to be outside some working class homes that doubtless were built near some industry or factory. 

The helicon is a brass instrument with rotary valves that was the common bass voice of bands in central Europe. The medallion on the bell is typical of those instruments made in Germany and Bohemia. The wrap allowed the musician to easily march or even ride a horse while playing it. It resembles the American sousaphone but is in fact an older European design. The other instrument is a tuba with piston valves and it is plated in silver. It was the style of bass instrument used by British and American brass bands.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link for other views from across the fence.


La Nightingail said...

A fun & entertaining story for an engaging photo. I often buy old photographs in antique shops (we have scores of shops in this area!) and make up stories about the unknown people in them because I find it just too sad the subjects have no names or any sort of identification.

Karen S. said...

Oh my, you out did that first photo, with such and engaging and interesting story. What fun, I felt as though I was right there with them. The additional photos are perfect as well.

Bel said...

Cool post! Love that photo!

Anna said...

I really thought you were telling a story that had been passed down to you, very fun.

Little Nell said...

I enjoy your story posts just as much as your as much as your others, perhaps even more. It’s a wonderful photograph.

Kristin said...

I like making up stories about photographs and even real people. Enjoyed this one.

Brett Payne said...

That's a wonderful story, Mike, and it's not really made up - it's as real as you want it to be. The photo speaks volumes and I like the way you've tackled the lack of any identifying information or marks.

I've missed your posts in my several months away, and look forward to my weekly installment.

Joan said...

Hard to tell which I liked more, the story or the post card -- so glad I dinna have to choose.

Jackie van Bergen said...

Gosh, if he blows that horn, he'll blow her ribbons off!

Doug Peabody said...

What an interesting take on an old postcard. I imagine the noise those old instruments could make would make the little girl cover her ears! :)

Tattered and Lost said...

This is really wonderful! I so enjoyed having the photo deconstructed like this. So much joy brought to this photo. Great great job.

Anonymous said...

Such a plausible story to fit the photo. It is beautiful.

Wendy said...

As usual, your fiction makes me want the story to be true. I can imagine no other scenario for this proud group.

Postcardy said...

The man on the left is the only happy looking one in the group.


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