Webb Moses Alred was a barber and he was my grandfather.
I don’t remember “WM” as he was called and seldom heard my mother speak of him. He died on March 12th, 1954 of a heart attack. I was 4 years old then. He and my grandmother, who we called “Big Mama”, had divorced by that time. He had three children, my mother being the eldest, followed by WM Jr., and Betty. I always had the impression that he was a stern man with a temper, but that was just my impression. I never had the chance to really ask my mother what he was like.
My mother kept scrapbooks. Large scrapbooks as I recall. I believe my oldest sister ended up with them since she has sent me a few old photos from time to time. Oddly, the only family scrapbook I came to possess was my grandfather’s. It was somewhat sparse in what he had collected, with a number of empty pages at the end, but I recently took it out and removed all the photographs in order to restore them digitally and preserve them, since the old acidic paper they were pasted to was taking its toll on them. In taking them out I began to realize what a treasure I held.
There were the photos of WM himself. Portraits he had posed for at various times in his younger years. I was struck by the incredible beauty of these images. He was a handsome man with a stern face. In two of the pictures his hair was noticeably neat. To be expected of a barber. The earliest image was in his military uniform. World War I vintage. The other two in suits. I couldn’t help but stare at these images, their richness, their classic poses, the character in his face. They were mesmerizing.
There was also a picture of very old vintage of a woman and child. I can only imagine who this might be since there is no note on the back, but I assume it was his mother. Maybe a sister and niece. I just don’t know. Then there was the photo of the old man standing by a grave, piled with large rough stones and adorned with a simple basket of flowers. Again my guess is that it was his father at his mother’s grave.
There was only a handful of pictures representative of his family, my grandmother at various ages, my mother, my aunt and uncle, some of babies, mostly me and my brother and two sisters. A picture of my mom when she was probably 19 or so, and one of her with him where she appears to be pregnant.
But the majority were of his son, Webb Moses Jr. who we called Uncle Jim. There are several pictures of him as a boy and in his Navy uniform. There are letters home from the Korean War and a map of the war zones cut from a Life Magazine. There are his selective service registrations and draft cards. It’s obvious that he had a special relationship with his son. There are also several pictures of my Aunt Betty, his youngest, who he seems to show great affection as well.
The big surprise for me as I looked at these images more closely was what I discovered among the pictures of my mother and father. One of the first images in the book was a picture of my mom and dad, neatly dressed, standing in an office with another couple. The ladies are wearing corsages. After removing the photo from the page in the scrapbook, I read the back. There’s a note there from my mother. The man on the left was my father’s best friend and best man, and the woman on the right, my mother’s maid of honor. The photo was taken in the judge’s chambers on the day they were married.
There was also a postcard next to the wedding photo showing a car driving through the opening under a giant redwood tree. I removed the postcard to find it was from my mother. She always had the most beautiful handwriting. It was dated July 16th, 1944. My father was in the Army Air Corps as a quartermaster at the time. They were living in California. Her reference to feeling fine was because she was pregnant with her first child, my oldest sister, who would be born prematurely in September of that year.
There were other pictures of my mother and father. A great one of my Dad leaning against a post in what appears to be Santa Fe or some other similar location. There are Native American paintings behind him on the wall. I love this photo for its casual feel and his long legs. He was well over six feet tall.
There was a wonderful picture of my brother and sisters in a tiny wading pool in a back yard. Most likely our house in Cedartown, Georgia. And a couple of images of an infant that I believe is me. Probably the oldest pictures of me that are still around. The one I found most touching is of a black woman, most likely our maid, holding me. I know from the stories my brother and sisters have related that we had a few black maids when I was little. I remember one or two.
I treasure these pictures. They have been sitting in my closet in this old album for years, and I have not, until recently, realized how important and rare and beautiful they are. I have few pictures of my father. He died on April 30th, 1952, when I was only two and a half years old. So the images of him, and my mother, and our family together are my only record of his place in my life, however brief. I have no actual memory of him.
So I take this opportunity to thank Webb Moses Alred for saving these moments, for placing these ragged photos in that old worn album, and for whatever course of events happened to place these things in my care. Thanks, Grandad.
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