Kent, CT High School’s First Baseball Team – A Waterbury, VT Flea Market Find


I apologize to Portrait of War’s dedicated followers for this brief divergence from the military-related post norm.  A recent flea market find has been screaming to me from my pile of “to research” photos and I can’t resist any longer; this photo has a lot going for it.  Crisp details, a fully identified roster, and a historically significant moment in Kent, CT’s town history have been captured in this 1931 photograph of the seminal baseball team of Kent High School.

ScreenCap

1931 Kent High School Baseball Team

Being a CT prep school alumni myself, I instantly recalled battles on the pitch against Kent School, the private college prep school located in Kent, Litchfield County, CT.  Although I don’t have access to the school records, I’m guessing their baseball team started significantly earlier than the 1931 date inscribed on the photo.  With that in mind, I came to the conclusion that the image likely depicts the public Kent High School.   This makes the research process much easier.  Prep schools of the time were typically filled with students from around the country, often from larger American cities and/or England/Canada.  In summary, my next avenue of research involves searching keying in every name inscribed on the reverse using on ancestry.com.  Doing some quick math (not my strong suit) I searched in the 1910-1920 range based on average high school ages from the time period. It turns out that most of the boys in the photo were born between 1915 and 1918.

Baseball063cropped

Cropped Version

Baseball064

“First Baseball Team in Kent High”

With all the information listed above, I took some time after work this week to research each and every one of the legible names in hopes of finding a living ’31 Kent player…. to no avail.  Below are my results.  This post was made in order to link future family researchers with crisp photos of their “starting nine” relations.

Baseball063captain

John E. Austin – Captain

JohnAustinCaptain

1920 Kent Census Listing

Second

Charles F. Taylor

CharlesTaylor

Charles F. Taylor’s 1940 Census Record

Baseball063first

George C. Page in 1931

GeorgePage

George Charles Page’s 1920 Census Record

GeorgePageDeath

George Charles Page’s 1998 Death Record

Baseball063fourth

Charles W. Stone in 1931

CharlesStone

Charles Stone’s 1940 Census Record

CharlesStoneDeath

Charles W. Stone’s 1997 Death Record

CharlesStoneWWII

Charles W. Stones WWII Record Information

last

Paul M. Richards in 1931

PaulRichards

Paul M. Richards’ Census Record

PaulRichardsdeath

Paul M. Richard’s 1998 Death Record

last

Walter Pacocha in 1931

WalterPacocha

Walter Pacocha 1930 Census Record

WalterPacochaDeath

Walter Pacocha’s 1981 Death Record

jennings

Carlos Jennings in 1931

CarlosJennings

Carlos Jennings’ 1930 Census Record

CarlosJenningsDeath

Carlos Jennings’ 2000 Death Record

 

WWII Original Combat Snapshot – 99th Division Soldiers Fight in Neustadt, Germany


 

Snapshots taken during combat situations are the Holy Grail for WWII photo collectors.  In this case, a soldier in the 395th Infantry Regiment of the 99th Division snapped a photo during a firefight with Germans near a dike in Neustadt, Germany.  A great action shot! To make this shot even more amazing, I found an original film shot shortly after the same episode in the exact same postion.  This time the dike has been fortified with sandbags and pontoon boats.  Look for the 0:39 second mark.

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675049536_United-States-99th-Infantry-Division_crossing-Danube_soldiers-rest_behind-dikes

 

Source: CriticalPast.com

Context and Historic Photography: A WWII Case Study


Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an old photo and an historic photo?  Context.

Photograph collections are often unknowingly hidden away or discarded by people in the modern day due to the influx and influence of modern digital camera technology.  Family photo albums are stored in attic crawlspaces by distant relatives with no sense of stewardship or preservation.  The stories of thousands of American families are discarded at the local dump each year, losing context and supporting documentation that could help historians piece together stories of the distant (or not so distant) past.

A good example of the value of context when interpreting vintage photography comes from a collection of WWII photographs and negatives a colleague of mine and I purchased from an online auction house (ok, it was eBay) back in 2010.  This case study lead me across the globe, a generation gap, and  even landed me a few friends along the way.

For this story, we need to travel back to January of 2010.  The dark winters of Vermont are a good time to surf the web and make online purchases.  For someone who generally dislikes the cold, I tend to spend the majority of the winter season indoors.  One night I found a spectacular grouping of WWII photography online, placed a bid, and soon awaited the arrival of a new group of 200+ B/W photos from a seller in Pennsylvania.

The photos contained some interesting content; typical European Theater post-combat photography complete with knocked out German armor, captured enemy weapons, snapshots of friends and family as well as the occasional scenery photo.  Judging by the rainbow shaped shoulder insignia worn in many of the photos, I soon came to realize that the photos were from a member of the 42nd Rainbow Division.  Shots of trucks and jeeps provided the regimental and company designation.  The 222nd Anti-Tank Company of the 42nd Division.

It’s uncommon to narrow down a photo grouping to a specific regiment, let alone a company.  I quickly emailed the online dealer who sold the photos and asked for more information regarding the collection.  He provided me with the name of the veteran who took the photos as well as an offer to purchase all of the original negatives from the collection.  One week and $125 later I had the negatives and a copy of the veteran’s obituary.

Edward “Eddie” Majchrowicz of West Hazleton, PA served with the 222nd Anti-Tank Company of the 42nd “Rainbow Division” during WWII.  He was a professional football player, police chief, and private detective who was an active member of his local VFW.  His collection of WWII memorabilia was broken up when he passed away and I was the lucky recipient of his photography collection.

Armed with his name and unit designation (222nd/42nd Division) I tracked down the membership coordinator of the 42nd Division Association who provided me with a list of living members of the 222nd Anti-Tank Company.  On a whim, I wrote six letters to six members of the company in hopes of learning more about Eddie and his wartime exploits.  After a few weeks of hopeful waiting, a letter arrived in my mailbox penned by one of the 222nd Anti-Tank veterans.  Success!

That initial letter opened a floodgate of information and context to help me decipher the photograph collection.  My new veteran friend provided me with personal identifications of the men pictured in the collection, as well as stories and anecdotes to go along with the photos.  The personal stories he shared with me range from the comical to the tragic, but each was even more “real” with a photograph for reference.

This case study is a perfect example of how context and background can add important texture to a collection.  Finding a living link to a historic photo is the goal of every historian.  Dig out those old photos and start doing some research!

Photos in Context

Without any background knowledge, the above photo would appear to be a mundane image of a snow-covered field with a distant tree line.  After tracking down a living veteran from the 222nd Anti-Tank Company, I was able to add some human interest to the image.  On his first night of front-line combat duty, Bud Gahs tried chewing tobacco for the fist time.  His foxhole comrade, Hickey, convinced Bud that the tobacco would take the edge off.  With the German lines only a thousand yard away, Bud spent the entire night nauseated and vomiting in his foxhole.  It was his first and only time trying tobacco.  This photo was taken only yards from his post that fateful night.

Late April 1945, Near Munich

The low drone of an approaching German Me-109 fighter plane could just barely be heard above the snoring coming from the back of the Dodge WC-54 truck at the camp of the 222nd Anti-Tank Company.  As the fighter plane swooped in on a strafing run, the men of the 222nd AT jumped out of their sleeping bags and dove for cover.  Everybody except for Swanson, who arose only after the wing of the Me-109 swept the protective canvas off the back of his truck.  He had been only ten feet from the plane as it swept over the camp.  Coming in for another strafing run, the inexperienced pilot clipped his wing on a tree and crash landed only yards from the camp.  The smell of vaporized airplane fuel hung over the camp for hours.  The plane was smashed to bits, and the pilot was killed instantly.  In this above photo, the lifeless body of the pilot can be seen resting on the ground, with plane wreckage strewn about.

The kicker?  When visiting with my 222nd veteran friend, I was handed a piece of the wreckage.  Bud has kept it with him for the past 65+ years as a reminder of that memorable morning.

Eddie can be seen proudly sitting in the back of one of the Dodge trucks used to tow the 57mm guns of the 222nd Anti-Tank Company.  The best part is that the truck was driven by none other than Bud Gahs, my new found WWII buddy.  The photo sat in my collection with no story behind it until Bud came along and enlightened me.  The name of the truck was the Coughin’ Coffin – a name derived from the tendency of the truck to sputter and almost die out while towing a huge arsenal of shells.  One hit from a German 88 would put Bud and his crew in the ground, hence the Coffin moniker.  Here, Bud drives the truck across a nondescript German field.  Note the small German eagle proudly displayed as a war trophy on the camo netting of the gun.

At a recent get together of the 42nd Division, I presented Bud with a poster sized mounted photo of his truck.  He had a great time showing it off to his Rainbow buddies.

Without a knowledge of the background of the soldier who took the photo, the armchair historian only have a vague idea that the men in the above photograph were possibly concentration camp prisoners.  Since I know that the 42nd Division liberated the Dachau concentration camp in 1945, I know that these three men were from Dachau.  Also, I know that Eddie spoke Polish, and that he was able to converse with many of the liberated Poles on that fateful day in April of 1945.

Stay tuned for more photos and stories from this collection……………