Fieldale Virginia near our home was once a vibrant, prosperous community, and today it still is, but in a far different way. In 1916 Marshall Field who started the famous department store in Chicago purchased the site which was previously Waller’s Ford and built Fieldcrest Mills which became one of the largest textile companies in the region. The intent was to have a direct, quality supply of textiles for the department store. Over the years the Fieldcrest brand become one of the most respected in the United States, however economics and other factors eventually led to the decline of the textile industry in the south. There is today a large amount of pride in the accomplishments of those who worked for decades in Fieldale; and to celebrate that history, residents annually conduct a weekend long festival. For me, it’s a treasure trove of photographic images, several of which I have included here.
Category Archives: America’s Past
How many remember gasoline filling stations when regular gas was 18 cents per gallon? Thanks to an antique dealer near where we live, an original Shell Oil station has been renovated, with lots of red and yellow colors all over. Original pumps and other items are set up as they once were, and the only thing missing is people driving through filling up, while having their oil checked, windshields cleaned, and tires filled with air all at no charge except for that related to the amount of gas used. This all made for some interesting photo opportunities for me recently. Enjoy what I saw that day.
Making photographs of old but still operating farms located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia has been and remains one of my favorite activities. One challenge I face when doing this is to try to find interesting compositions that tell a story, and in that regard it’s often difficult to do so with only one photograph. The first thing that caught my eye when I approached this white farm house nestled in a grove of trees at the top of a slight hill was the bright green tree standing out in contrast with the rest of the vegetation. But when I looked away from the house to the left, to the valley just below the hill from where it sat, I began to think about what living in that house was like today, but more about it would have been like living there years ago.
At the bottom of the hill was a small pond, with three farm out-buildings located nearby. And jutting out on that small pond was a wooden dock, where I am sure many people young and old once sat seeking to catch that elusive big fish that always found a way to remain free. I could visualize sitting on that dock as the setting sun went behind mountain ridges off in the distance, hearing my mother shout from the back door of our home on the hill, to come for supper … NOW! But before leaving the fun I was having trying to catch that fish, I would have pulled my hook in, re-baited it with a fresh worm, tossed my line into the pond just one more time, praying for success. Coming home late to supper, but with a freshly caught fish in hand, might forestall any scolding I might have otherwise received. Even today, the pond looked so inviting to me that I had to walk around seeking different photographic perspectives. As I drove away, I kept thinking that living in this old farm would have been a joyful experience for me while growing up. And, I was thankful for finding the place, and for my camera for recording the scenes that made me feel that way.
This is the last of three posts made in order, that summarize some of the aspects of three World War Two war planes I recently photographed while attending an exhibition at the Blue Ridge Airport near our home. A P-51 Mustang fighter, B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and a B-24 Liberator bomber are traveling around the United States together to provide opportunities for visitors to pay respects to all those who fought, were wounded or died in planes like these during the campaigns in Europe and the Pacific. What follows are several close-up images I made of each of these planes, composed and developed in a way to provide visual interest, as well as to show their size and power.
Per my last post, I wrote about recently spending time in the midst of several World War II veterans, and photographing three of the vintage but still flying planes in which they fought and risked their lives for the defense of our country. Heroes all. Three WWII vintage war planes flew into the Blue Ridge Airport near our home last week, and I visited on two days to make photos and to learn more about this period of our history.
While I was looking into the plexiglass windshield on the nose of a B-24 Liberator bomber, a man standing behind me asked if I knew what it was I was seeing inside. I said I thought it was the once very highly classified Norden Bombsight, and he told me I was correct, but would I like to learn more. For the next few minutes he told me he had been the pilot on a B-24 like this one, flying in the Pacific Theater of the war, and later spent time in the Army of Occupation in Japan after the fighting was over. He told me he was later that day going to fly the B-24 we were standing next to, during its trip from the Blue Ridge Airport to South Carolina for the next planned exhibition location. He also told me he had built his own helicopter from scratch recently, and showed me some photos of his work which he carried in his wallet. He said he had wanted to fly from when he was a young boy, and had never lost that passion. I asked him what it was going to be like when he sat in the pilot’s seat again, and he replied that it would be as if he had never left it. Such was the impact the war had on him.
The B-24 on display has the names painted on its side of hundreds of veterans who had flown in or were related in some way to the plane. Also, the same “fighting logo drawing” as used during the war had been repainted in bright colors on the side of the plane’s nose. In sum, the bomber looked powerful not only in its size and the number of machine guns all around, but what it carried inside.
The plane’s significance really hit me when I crawled under to look inside the bombay doors, where I saw three (dummy) 500-pound bombs which signified the main purpose of the bomber; one with the words, “To Hitler from the Mighty 8th Air Force” painted on its side. I felt as if I had been transplanted back in time.
I thanked the veteran I had met, and told him I very much appreciated his service to our country. With that, he was met by others like me who wanted to talk with him. In closing, I note that the 8th Air Force suffered half of the Army Air Force casualties during the Second World War in all theaters of operation, with 26,000 airman alone killed in the battle for Europe. To them, this photo series is dedicated.
If orange is your favorite color then the month of October in the U.S. is a great time for you. The pumpkin crop around where we live in SW Virginia looks pretty good so far. When those selling these add some other object such as this old wagon, the scene resulting is a perfect one for some photography.
Before the Second World War, by far the largest percentage of Americans lived either in rural settings or small towns. Large metropolitan developments as we know them today with suburban sprawl and transportation networks extending outward from city centers did not exist back then. I am fortunate to now live in an area where I can experience both the “old” and the “new” … when I want. When I find country markets that are still open for business, I smile and thank those willing to take steps to preserve our small town, rural past.