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Starry Starry Night: 1940

December 1940. "Trailer parked near service station. Bath, Maine." Medium format acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

December 1940. "Trailer parked near service station. Bath, Maine." Medium format acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Hello darkness

As a kid, I marveled at the brilliance of stars in the pitch black night sky. When the mercury vapor lights started showing up on the occasional farm, they were almost like earthbound stars.

These days the sky stays a dim gray all night long from all the city lights.

I envy those folks who live out west where they can still enjoy the night.

Grinding moan

I learned to drive in the seventies on an automatic, in a very cold place (Winnipeg), and my dad always warned me that on the coldest days you had only one crack. Press the gas pedal to the floor and, as you ever-so-slowly eased up on it, turn the key and don’t let up till the motor catches. If it didn’t turn over, you’d get that depressing, fading, dying sound (Phare Pleigh’s grinding moan), which meant you had to give it a few minutes rest so as not to flood it, and even then, good luck with that second try.

A cold winter night in Maine

I can just hear those 6 volt batteries groaning in the morning trying to turn those engines over.

Ever Slower Grinding Moan

This frigid scene reminds me of the pleasures of starting an icy cold carbureted engine with a 6-volt electrical system. Pull out the choke, press the accelerator deeply two or three times, turn on the ignition switch, press the starter peddle with your toe, position your left foot on the accelerator peddle and hope.

Lights, camera ...

There is something about incandescent lights that make a scene feel so warm. We have three 1950s-era radial-wave streetlights on our long-ish driveway and I just love the light they cast off.

The Real Skinny

Heretical though the idea may seem today, those skinny tires were quite capable in winter traction conditions. Instead of maximizing flotation, as do modern wider tires, they tended to cut through snow and ice and get to the bottom of things. However, that is not a desirable characteristic in deep mud, where it is obviously best to stay on top.


My hat is off to anyone who could drive those tall, ungainly, skinny-tired, rear-wheel-drive cars on ice like that!

War of the Worlds?

Either this photo was a long exposure or there was an alien attack.

The sky is falling

Look at the stars. It must have been a long exposure time and I imagine the photographer would have to be patient in that cold. But the exposure time and the cold air made the image really sharp and bright.

Heat it to beat it.

I wonder if they move out of the house in the background and into the smaller trailer in the foreground because it's easier and cheaper to heat in the winter?

Looks like an "addition" has been added to the trailer to lower the chance of winter claustrophobia. That light in the window sure looks warm and homey.

[The trailers in these photos were housing for war workers at the Bath shipyard and iron works. - Dave]

On Route 1, I would guess

I lived in Maine for 25 years, and this feels like home to me.

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