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Old Folks at Home: 1940

Old Folks at Home: 1940

September 1940. "St. Mary's County, Maryland. Negro Farm Security Administration clients and their homes -- Mr. and Mrs. Dyson [John and Louise], aged rehabilitation borrowers. Mr. Dyson was born into slavery over eighty years ago." Photo by John Vachon. View full size.


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Thanks to the poster for the oral histories

Reading of their displacement is one of the saddest things I've ever read. Their lives in St Marys sounded wonderful and well deserved considering what they survived. Such a tragic and horrible thing to imagine Mr. Dyson so stressed and full of grief. Shame on the US government for not providing for them better.

Oral Histories about the Dysons

Thankfully, several oral histories have been given by the grandchildren of this couple. You can view the complete oral history by their grandson Ernest Webster Dyson here.

"[Explains what the Farm Security Administration photo of his grandfather calls up.] Well, it's my grandfather and my grandmother ... show that he got his work clothes on ... for fishing. [He'd] go practically every morning. [Explains that he'd wear the same clothes all week and change on the weekend.] He would fish for the hotel down there [on Cedar Point]. There was a Fishing Point Hotel [inaudible], only hotel on that area. He would fish with a hand line and then he would take the fish-- I think they were paying about four cent-- either four or five cent a pound for em. He didn't work nowhere; he didn't work no job-- just would stay around the water."

This photo was taken in 1940, only a year or two before the US Navy took the land they lived on to create Patuxent River Naval Air Station. You can read about that event and how the the Dyson's were displaced to New Jersey, as told by their granddaughter Edith. There are also more photos from this set as well as a full photo of their house.

We've seen them before!

If I'm not mistaken, this is the same beautiful couple seen sitting in their home, Mr. Dyson playing an accordian while Mrs. Dyson sits beside him enjoying the music. They seem to be truly happy people despite the adversity and obvious poverty they had to endure.


So near the end of their journey and silently extolling what they have made of it. My vote for the outstandingly best photograph I've seen among many all these years that I've awakened to breakfast with 'SHORPY'. It's evening now and I return to cast my vote from among some of the most effective of all these wonderful "Socialistic" photographers of the thirties and forties. Thank you John Vachon for sharing this glorious moment with John and Louise.

A lifetime of laughs

Mr. Dyson strikes me as a man who made the Missus laugh every day.


What a handsome couple. What dignity.

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