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Wire Service: London Hospital 1928

September 8, 1928 – ABOVE LONDON’S CHIMNEY POTS – On the roof of the West London Hospital, situated in the busy Hammersmith quarter of the great Metropolis, has just been constructed a sand pit. This enables the child-patients to enjoy the delights of the sea-side which would otherwise be impossible. Our picture shows some of the children in the sand-pit.

The Horizon Hotel, 1950s/1960s

Is There a Proper Way to Appreciate Nostalgia?

“‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.” — Tony Soprano

Anyone reading this site or my various social media outlets — Like my Facebook page today! — could figure out in three seconds that I trade largely in the past. And often, a past that occurred many years before I was born. In other words, my internet calling card is nostalgia. And I’m far from alone.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe, just because I feel like it.

If the multitude of websites, books, TV shows, and movies that are either informed or dominated by our shared pop culture heritage are any indication, people love thinking about and looking at things that happened a long time ago. If nostalgia were an actual industry — and time spent wading in it were measurable in dollars — it would probably rank somewhere just behind pharmaceuticals or tourism in America.

There are, of course, a host of options for how that nostalgia is packaged and consumed. To my mind there are two extremes on the internet, with varying shades in between. On the one hand you have sites that dive deep into the past and explore historical events and pop culture phenomena of the past within a rather broad context. They offer fresh perspective on things and people we venerate, take for granted, or have completely forgotten.

Then there are whole websites or sections of websites that exist solely to say, in effect, “Hey, remember this thing? It existed!” Think of things like the much-derided Buzzfeed listicles, or websites like Retronaut, much of Tumblr (or at least the blogs I follow), and even this site and its associated offshoots. The point is usually not to examine and frame any discussion or provide insight, but rather to simply catalog things from the past in an easy, quickly digestible form.

Now here’s where things get a little contentious. Neither of these paths of exploration is more valid than the other. I love to read 1,000-word critiques of old television shows just as much as I like looking at pictures of old cars or street scenes with absolutely no context provided. But to listen to many, the latter is somehow cheaper than the former. This sort of opinion is usually spewed forth from the self-righteous, self-appointed Guardians of Worthy Internet Remembrance, and it’s a load of shit.

1957 Oldsmobile

Sometimes a picture is enough.

Now when it comes to the way I do things on the internet, I follow but one ironclad rule: I only share things that I find interesting or appealing in some way. Maybe there’s an interesting history behind an old retail chain like Crazy Eddie, maybe I want to share a great old jazz tune that deserves more recognition, or maybe it’s just a bunch of funny old album covers featuring dorky white people. Either way, I was moved enough to take the time and prepare a post for the world to see. If I have the time and resources to write 500 words to accompany some cool pictures, great, but sometimes looking at a picture of Marilyn Monroe or a ’57 Chevy is enough — know what I mean?

Several years ago I commented on the ridiculous term “guilty pleasure,” and how there should really should be no such thing. Well there’s a corollary for nostalgia as well, and it basically goes like this — however you want to think about or enjoy the past, as least as it pertains to pop culture, is up to you and anyone that says otherwise is a snob. If you want to obsess over old cars, actresses, or songs, then go for it. If you love reading deep examinations of days gone by, great. If you prefer reading bite-size lists — and lots of people do — or just taking five seconds out of your day to remember something trivial, that’s great too.

And hey, even if you want to spend all your free time living in the past at the total exclusion of present pop culture, that’s fine too. I don’t personally do that, despite what you may see here, but to each their own. Life is way too short to worry about whether or not other people find any of it acceptable.

Life in Cuba (Kodachrome, 1955)

Tumblr Highlights, Week Ended 9/6/13

Here are some highlights from the last week on my very own Tumblr feed. Included here are some tourist shots from Cuba in 1955, some great scenes from the American retail scene of the 1950s, and an ad for The Chevy Chase Show.

Click any picture to be taken to the original post, and by all means follow me there if you’re a user.

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Vintage 1930s wire photo service transmission machine

And Through the Wire — A Single-Topic Tumblr

Vintage 1930s wire photo service transmission machine

I’ve been collecting wire photo images from the internet for several months, and I’ve been struggling with just how to best share my favorites with all of you out there. I thought about creating a new section in the Ephemera section of this site, and I may still do that, but not now. I also thought about putting them on my Flickr feed, and I’ll still do that for some — but that’s more of a personal storehouse than anything else.

What I’ve settled on for now is a brand new, single-topic Tumblr feed. It’s called And Through the Wire, and yes that’s a reference to the Peter Gabriel song. It’s a separate endeavor from my regular Tumblr feed, which is more of a free-for-all thing. This feed will be wire photos and only wire photos, and it’ll cover just about any subject area you can think of. Sports, celebrities, cars, you name it. If that sounds as fun to you as it does to me, head over and follow it now!

The very best wire photos I find will still be shared here, so think of And Through the Wire as the unfiltered version. And by all means, let me know if you’d like to see a photo on a particular subject.