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Fairly Fun: 1942

Fairly Fun: 1942

March 1942. "Boys. Imperial County Fair, El Centro, California." Medium format acetate negative by Russell Lee for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Aftermarket body?

I see a door outline on the drivers side, but it doesn't seem to have a handle or hinges. Did Ford make them that way?

[Yes. - Dave]

Re: Half-blurred

But, a focal plane shutter in a 1942 medium format camera? I would expect an iris shutter. And I really don't see an motion blur.

[Look harder. The Speed Graphics that made these photos used a focal-plane shutter. - Dave]

The crank

Having recently owned a model T Ford, I can tell you that the crank stays in place when not in use. Note the coil spring on it. The crank must be pressed in to engage the crankshaft, then with the spark fully retarded, quickly cranked over. If done wrong, it can kick back possibly causing a broken arm. When done correctly, it usually fires right up and the spring retracts the crank out of the way. It actually works very well.


How would the front halves be still while the backs blur?

>> the trailing halves of the wheels are indeed blurred

[This has been the subject of considerable discussion here and elsewhere. It has to do with the direction the camera shutter is traveling (top-to-bottom, left-to-right, etc.) relative to the motion of what you're photographing. An effect especially pronounced in photos of cars and carriages made with the slower exposures and focal-plane shutters the glass-plate era, where we see only half of each wheel. - Dave]

Old Glory

Did anyone notice the American flag decal proudly displayed on the Model T's windshield? I think these Imperial Valley teens were likely not shy about their patriotism, at an especially high-level during WW2.

The Asian driver

This photo is dated one month after President Roosevelt's notorious Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the internment of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, mostly from California.

Not well known today is Life Magazine's December 22, 1941 article, "How to Tell Japs from the Chinese," which had the subtitle "Angry Citizens Victimize Allies with Emotional Outburst at Enemy."

I don't know what this young man's ancestry was, but I expect that, despite this joyride, he was having some tense times in March 1942.


I wonder what happened to the young man driving? He looks as if he could be of Japanese descent, and to our shame, many families were placed in Internment camps across America from 1942 to 1945. That day, however, he was happy with his buds. Perfect moment in time captured for all time.

It's all fun and games for the moment ...

I can't help but think about the fate of these young men, especially the driver, after seeing the date of this photo and wondering their fate. Pearl Harbor had just been attacked in Dec 1941, and on Feb 19, 1942 FDR signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the Secretary of War to establish Military Areas in which persons of Japanese heritage began being evacuated to on April 11, 1942.

Not serious

While not saying that this lot would never try such a stunt, the photo is pretty clearly staged: There is no motion blur (especially in the wheel spokes), no dust being kicked up, and isn't the starter crank normally removed once the engine is running?

[Look closely and you will see the trailing halves of the wheels are indeed blurred. - Dave]

What could go wrong?

Just as so many YouTube videos show now, guys and gals in this age group run around, absolutely convinced that nothing bad can happen to them; and never thinking five seconds into the future.

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