Saturday, August 11, 2018
Back to the Hills
It's been high time we headed to the hills again in search of abandoned family photographs to rescue. My intrepid travel partner, Sheri Fenley, and I had planned to hit the road in the middle of July—a plan that would have at least allowed us to avoid the August smoke of numerous California forest fires—but unpreventable circumstances demanded a rescheduling of our trip.
At long last, this week was the right time to head to Sonora, up in the foothills of northern California once known as Gold Rush country. Learning from past experience, I contacted the most promising antique shops ahead of time to insure they would be open and have old photographs in stock. There is something so laid back about people living in those foothill towns that one can never be sure a business establishment will actually be open during business hours. At least, that was our experience during our last expedition, when we drove up to Sutter Creek and Jackson.
This time, we were headed south—to a place known as the "Queen of the Southern Mines." Sonora, county seat of a jurisdiction whose name is nearly unpronounceable to non-Californians—Tuolumne—is a city of barely five thousand people. Its main street, South Washington Street, is predictably filled with the type of shops tourists find delightful. It's a snap antique stores would thrive there.
It comes as no surprise, then, to see I had my choice of shopping targets. With several stores to choose from, I still couldn't let that sway my intention to only go to those places which would be open when we got there. After all, it's a ninety minute drive, one way, from my home to Sonora.
I did my homework and contacted the antique shops in the area that I found through online searches. Two stores promised me they had antique photographs for sale. One, temptingly, had not only antiques—including photos—but an old fashioned ice cream parlor. Ice cream being my non-genealogical weakness, I decided to make that my first stop for lunch and first pick on shopping.
The store was scheduled to open at eleven. We arrived about ten minutes after that, managed to find parking close by so we wouldn't have to walk far in the all-pervasive smoke and haze, and marched right up to the front door.
It was closed.
Yes, it was after eleven o'clock, but this is the northern California foothills. But this was also us, two hungry travelers looking for a place to eat. We crossed the street and wandered in the direction of the second antique shop on our itinerary.
Good thing we did. That shop—Antiques Et Cetera—proved to be just the place for my project. I was delighted to discover proprietor Sheryl Breaux and her assistant Terri had numerous specimens of old photographs on hand. Seeing the beautifully framed wedding photos from bygone eras, mounted on the walls of the shop, nearly made me cry over the thought that where they really belonged was on a wall in a descendant's home.
But that's why we were there, isn't it? Not that I could afford to spring for those elaborately framed pictures, but the cabinet cards and post cards certainly filled the bill. (I didn't see any carte de visite specimens on this trip.)
What was key to the purchase was whether the photo included any details about the subject of the picture. I need enough clues to return a photo to the family of its now-departed subject. And in the case of this Sonora antique shop, there were several such photographs to be had.
Looking ahead at A Family Tapestry, I'll wrap up the story of my McClellan clan during the next week. And then, we'll start unfolding the stories hidden within the photographs I've found in Sonora. Hopefully, we'll run across a few interesting stories along the way.