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Friday, 22 October 2010

Popularity


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Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Washington, D.C. Sweaters and long ropes of beads are popular with the girls at Woodrow Wilson High School: photo by Esther Bubley, October 1943



Popular was originally a legal and political term, from popularis, L-belonging to the people. An action popular, from C15, was a legal suit which it was open to anyone to begin. Popular estate and popular government, from C16, referred to a political system constituted or carried on by the whole people, but there was also the sense (cf. COMMON) of 'low' or 'base'. The transition to the predominant modern meaning of 'widely favored' or 'well-liked' is interesting in that it contains a strong element of setting out to gain favor, with a sense of calculation that has not quite disappeared but that is evident in a reinforced phrase like deliberately popular.

-- Raymond Williams, Keywords (revised edition, 1983)




Jayne Ann Monaco was one of the popular girls. One extremely cold night, early in the Eisenhower Administration, while ice skating upon the large circular frozen-over puddle in the midst of Fox Park, she said it was so cold that her pants were frozen stiff. Disbelief was expressed. Just feel, she said. Obediently one did as bidden. The pants, not the leg! she said.





Image, Source: digital file from original

Washington, D.C. Saddle shoes are still popular at Woodrow Wilson High School: photo by Esther Bubley, October 1943

Photos from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

6 comments:

Ed Baker said...

was in Sigma Phi in my YUTE
a high school fraternity many members went to Wilson
High
like 1955-59
AND I dated a girl from Wilson many times...
MY ERA was about 10 years after these in these photos ...The Fuzzy Sweater Era!

moved out to the BURBS in 1957 and went to Northwood High where Anita Pacentrelli and I

...did The Fish!

I in my Dirty Bucks and she in those Pat Boone shoes as in the picture

It was a Pink Fuzzy Sweater and Stripped Peddle Pushers that "got me"!

TC said...

Ah, where are they now... who knows... but wherever it is, they're probably glad to see the back of us.

curtisroberts said...

I love this story and the Bubley photos. I was reading about her life and work and am sure that I've seen a lot of other examples of it over the years; it really has that look of memory life itself (my memory at least). The story fits in there too. It reminds me a little bit of the practice exam questions I've just been reviewing, which are all written in an anecdotal style. Those are cutesy and irritating, though. This is entertaining, funny and reminds me of a Henry Aldrich movie or a Firesign Theater record.

TC said...

Curtis,

Like so many of the photographers who learned under Roy Stryker, Esther Bubley went on to have a tremendous career. Forty photo-stories for Life, to start with. She's the all time bus photographer. When I was studying up on the history of greyhound imagery lately, there were several interesting (side) bus trips with Esther, Russ Lee and John Vachon.

I understand she walked her dog in Central Park every day, so maybe some time the two of you could have bumped into each other, with your various animals.

curtisroberts said...

I looked at this again last night with pleasure after watching Stanley Kubrick's film of "Lolita". The greyhound images are still very much in the front of my mind.

TC said...

Curtis,

OMG, as we say when our voices are on Mute... that lower photo of Esther's is SOOOO Lolita... it's almost... dare one say it... random.

(But I suppose the young woman in the photo would be a bit too old for Humbert Humbert, come to think of it?)