Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Dezemo Family of Walden, New York

By: Christina Ely, Registrar for Plowline: Images of Rural New York

One of the remarkable things about working with the Plowline: Images of Rural New York Collection are the stories that you see through the images from small family “snapshot” collections. Plowline has two such groups of negatives and photographs, both acquired in 2010. The Dezemo Family Snapshots Collection were the first that The Farmers’ Museum attained. The Dezemo’s were a farm family from Walden, New York located in Orange County. The photographs and negatives show the children of George and Myrtle Dezemo from infancy in the 1930s through their late teenage years in the early 1950s. In the photos you can see them grow from the days they were photographed on Dad’s lap until they themselves were helping to run their small family farm.
Man with a baby and toddler, ca. 1933-1934, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(136). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
George, Anna, Myrtle and Don Dezemo, 1947, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(047). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
George, Myrtle and Anna Dezemo on a tractor, 1947, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(049). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
Images in this collection not only show the children posing with the prized families Farmall H, but also with rabbits, calves, dairy cows, horses, chickens and ducks, large mounds and heaps of hay, in the apple orchard, shoveling snow, and with a recent catch (a woodchuck).
Two children in an apple orchard, ca. 1939, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(009). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
Since the negatives were not in chronological order, it took me some time to piece together who was who at various ages (especially the children), and thankfully there were a handful of photos with names, ages and/or dates on the back which helped even more. My favorite notation was in a child’s early elementary handwriting stating "$200 cow. George Dezemo and Myrtle. Name daisy."

Another fascinating aspect of the images in this collection is “Grandma.” Grandma appears often throughout the collection. We see her with the children, posing with them in front of a car, presumably the family’s prized car. And she appears incrementally throughout the years. In the images, she is rarely dressed up, only once is she in her “Sunday Best”, usually she is posed in stained work clothes and apron, which tell us she was a hard worker. I think Grandma was the cornerstone of the family, taking care of the household while Myrtle (mom) helped out on the farm. Given that Grandma seems to always be around for the family photos, in all seasons, it is my thought that she might have lived with George, Myrtle and the children. Here we see Grandma in a typical photo with the grandchildren and the other without her hair covered and in her best clothing – making it almost hard to recognize her!
Grandma Dezemo with children, ca. 1939, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(152). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.

Two women, a young boy and young girl posing outdoors, ca. 1935-1940, unidentified photographer. F0006.2010(121). Plowline: Images of Rural New York.
These are the types of collections that are really enjoyable as you can follow a family’s history, triumphs, defeats and see the very fine aspects of a country life, which is what this collections initiative is all about.

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