Monday, April 14, 2008

My Uncle's Gift




The envelopes were unmistakable.
They'd arrive in no particular order, at no particular time. Brown manilla envelopes, usually scarred from rips, tears, creases, despite the printed words "photos, handle with care."  Most were addressed directly to me. They were from my Uncle Murray, a reporter for the King Features Syndicate.
A lifetime New Yorker, I met him only once when he appeared one night in a taxi and whisked my folks off for a dinner in Long Beach. He wore a hat. Men in the 1950s always wore hats. Uncle Murray was the source of those wonderful envelopes. He'd walk through the news service dark room and pick up what would have been tossed. Photos, mostly from baseball games, usually with wire service captions were jammed into the envelopes and sent to me. Maybe it was because he had a daughter and a wife who were not interested in baseball? Probably it was because like his wife and daughter, he was a generous, warm, caring soul. He wanted his California nephew to have something other kids didn't, and he took the time to deliver the goods.
Uncle Murray knew my dad and I were Giants fans. He knew, too, that after 1958, it was increasingly difficult to be a Giants fan growing up in Los Angeles. Many of the photos of Giants players my father culled for safekeeping. I had plenty of others, however, including many featuring Dodgers and Yankees. New York had three teams in those days. Lots of action shots of Mantle, Berra, Maris, and Whitey Ford. Many of Jackie Robinson, Duke, Pee Wee, Gil Hodges, and Jr. Gilliam.  Many from a World Series.
If the address scrawled on the envelop was almost illegible, Uncle Murray's notes on newsprint inside the packages of photos were completely indecipherable. But I knew the drill. They simply said, Bruce, these are for you. Please do not sell, give away, or trade them with your friends. I knew that there were copyright laws; I understood photo credit. After my father died, I assembled all the photos we had and realized that to preserve some, they needed to be scanned or otherwise duplicated now. Some were turning deep sepia, others soon would. After about a year, I tracked down the organization that seems to retain copyright. While some photos have captions that give photo credit, many others do not. Since the photos were taken between 45 and 60 years ago, most, if not all of the photographers are gone. The company said that I could scan them for my own use only. They didn't exactly say I couldn't sell them. It's a murky area. A few I have given copies of to friends. I suspect some of these little treasures will make my blog from time to time. If anyone needs to own one, they know how to reach me. Uncle Murray gave me quite a gift.

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