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Carnett: Jim's life captured in a photo book

June 03, 2013|By Jim Carnett

For my birthday this year my daughter Jenn gave me one of those photo books you create online.

I'm guessing she thought me old enough to qualify for a "This Is Your Life" memory album.

I was surprised by how moved I was when I opened the book for the first time. Many photos came from old family archives originally managed by my grandmother and, later, my mom.

In recent decades, Jenn has assumed custodianship of the treasured collection.

She titled the coffee table picture book "My Family History." Its cover features a colorized portrait of my mom and dad taken during the first year of their marriage, in 1944. Dad is wearing his U.S. Army Air Corps class A uniform, and Mom dons a cute maternity blouse that hides a modest baby bump — me. She's 20, he's 22.

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On the title page is a large portrait of Mom and Dad taken in their Balboa Island apartment with grumpy 6-month-old Jimmy sitting on Mom's lap. Dad's in uniform again, and Mom is a glowing, freckle-faced miss with curly locks. At that point, we'd lived through VE Day and were now anticipating VJ Day.

Jimmy, decked out in a knitted frock and booties, is clearly unhappy. He exhibits clinched fists and a frown.

Page three reveals my great grandparents, Bert and Fanny Ragsdale, standing in front of their clapboard Coffeyville, Kan., home in the 1930s, looking like Grant Wood's "American Gothic." Bert is bald. Fanny is granite-faced and severe.

Then there's a photo of my grandfather, Bill Thomlinson, with his David Niven mustache and pompadour, standing next to a slick black sedan on Santa Monica Boulevard, circa 1939. A couple of pages later is a photo of Mom on her 16th birthday, in 1940, standing next to my sun-bronzed grandfather on the Santa Barbara pier.

Another picture reveals my pretty grandmother, a young widow in 1945, hair nicely quaffed with earrings and full makeup, holding a spatula and can of Crisco at the stove in her Balboa Island kitchen. Go figure?

There's Dad in another snap, a buff 22-year-old in trunks and T-shirt, off-duty from Santa Ana Army Air Base and sitting astride a bicycle on Balboa Island in the summer of '44.

Check my tan and svelte Mom posing in mid-war and mid-pirouette in front of an umbrella on a Balboa Island beach. And there she is a couple of years later with me — 18 months or so — sitting atop an Island seawall, dressed in shorts and sandals.

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