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There’s an old greeting card box, probably older than me, which is filled with family photographs; it may be in the roll-top desk. I know they are family because I recognize two or three people. But certainly not because there are any names pencilled on the backs. Why would anyone do so foolish a thing? “Everyone knows that’s Aunt Toodie” — until everyone who knew Aunt Toodie is dead.

I suppose that explains the number of unidentified “real photo” postcards on the auction site that dare not speak its name. Nameless faces, faces that at one time had meant so much to others or they’d never have been photographed, are a waste of perfectly good visage. So I buy them — often at $3–$5 each — and sketch the lives they might have lived in a small Iowa community a hundred years ago. Some are fleshed out more than others; many are just a name — so far.

And don’t claim better things to do with my time. This is a far higher calling than some I could mention.


It came to me this morning that this young man is Hobart; no surname or family yet. But there is a disconcertedness on Hobie’s face that belies his young age. Clearly this photo op was an interruption in his otherwise purposeful day.

Addendum [05 July 2021]: A hasty scan of the Who’s Who will tell you a lot about the curator here: that he is a well-past-middle-age White guy doomed to populate Agincourt with persons not unlike himself. Mea culpa. So, yes, I was drawn to this disconsolate little fellow, perhaps because he reminds me of myself. It then remains for me to fabricate a family for little Hobart.

“Hobart” as a given name is German, related to “Hubert”. Identifying its central European origin, a searched a list of surnames and their meaning — pretty subjective stuff, I realize. I tried several of them just for the sound and settled on a few with one or two syllables, ultimately choosing Koch (“cook”) for two reasons: 1) there was a well-known architect from Milwaukee named Koch, and 2) it is pronounced at least three ways: cook, coke, cotch. I’m going with “coke”. Now to generate some parents, siblings, and a plausible emigration story.

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