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Homeward Bound: 1941

Homeward Bound: 1941

January 1941. Lowell, Mass. "Commuters who have just come off the train, waiting for the bus to go home." 35mm Kodachrome by Jack Delano. View full size.


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Hawaiian Room

Excellent ad placement. Who wouldn't rather be sipping tiki drinks and listening to Ray Kinney in the Hawaiian Room compared to standing in the damp January cold waiting for a bus! Other than the 220-mile trip to the Hotel Lexington in New York.

I wonder

if Kerouac was back in Lowell at this time. I'm pretty sure this was a year or two before he was hanging out with Cassady and Ginsberg. Strange to see the actual town and people in it during such an historic period. Little did they know that they were in the same town as a future literary giant.

Answering my own question . . .

As I feared, the depot in the background of this photograph was a victim of urban renewal in late 1959, nearly eighty years after it opened. With state transportation funds, the state and city flattened the "depot area" of Lowell (at the intersection of Middlesex, Thorndike, and Chelmsford streets) in 1958 and 1959. It did so ostensibly because the street pattern and at-grade rail intersections sometimes stalled traffic. In their place, an interchange emerged, with two overpasses and entrance ramps to a more "modern" route out of town. The precise site of the old station is now a grassy right-of-way. Sadly, the Lowell Sun editorialized not in favor of preserving the depot, but actually complained that too much time passed between the acquisition of the depot site and the depot's demolition. If only "progress" had been slower, or the historic preservation movement quicker, the project might have been designed in a way that would have allowed preservation of this gem.

The beholder's eye has a beam....

My grandmother could be one of those women, though she lived outside Chicago during WWII. She dated my grandfather through most of the war while he was in the Pacific and she was working as a computer (aka human calculator) building ... something. She never knew.

And her father would have called that same scene you call wholesome just as vulgar as what you believe is now vulgar. My great-grandfather never accepted visible sheer stockings -- or worse, no stockings and eyeliner pencil seams; shoulder pads, rolled and ratted hair, red lipstick, bobs, and knee-length skirts. He hated the baggy suits men wore, hated the fitted ones worse because the vest went away... need I go on?

Standards change. Time moves on. What you hate as garish, your grandchildren will consider quaint.

Carrie Nation on Liquor Advertising

The large advertising poster on the right in the background is for Wilson Whiskey. Basically a cheap blended product that I believe is still made. I remember it sitting on the back bar of lesser drinking establishments & being amused by the simple slogan on it's label, "That's All"

Carrie Nation, (1846-1911) the hatchet wielding prohibitionist writing in her 1905 autobiography, "The Use and Need of the Life of Carrie A. Nation" targets this lowly spiritous drink & fulminates against it's slogan & liquor advertising in general in Chapter XVI of her book.

"There is no business in America so much advertised as the whiskey and tobacco business. Both are destructive in their influence on the morals and the health of the people. We would be better off without these articles. The interest of these manufactories are built up in proportion as they can catch the unwary who see these signs that are suggestive. One of the most notorious signs is "Wilson's Whiskey That's All". Yes that is ALL it takes to ruin your homes. That is all it takes to break a mother's heart. That is all that is needed to build houses of prostitution and that is ALL that it requires to break up every impulse of justice and love and happiness. That is ALL that it takes to fill hell. How my heart is stirred when I see this: "Remember me, Oh, my God!"

What a testimonial. "That's All".

As the not-so-long day wanes

The photo is a work of art, in small part because of the way in which it uses natural light. It's taken when the horizontal sun of midwinter directly lights up the faces at the same time that shadows have begun to descend. But in January, Delano couldn't do that when most commuters were returning to Lowell, because by then the sun would have disappeared. Judging by the sunlight, the gender balance and range of ages, and the train schedule for the Boston and Maine railroad (from the 1/15/41 Lowell Sun), I'd say this shot was taken soon after the 3:05-3:41 train from Boston arrived in Lowell. (The next train wouldn't arrive until 5:26, well after sunset).

Does anyone know if this station survived urban renewal and the decline of the passenger train?

What's the plural, you ask?

As Dan Quail could tell you, it's photoes.

[And what is the correct spelling of Dan's last name? - Dave]

The Scene

Nothing vulgar or garish here, not like today. Love these photo's, real reminders of a lot of "lost" standards.

[Speaking of lost standards, what is the plural of "photo"? - Dave]

Trouser break

Look at the break on the three gentlemen's trousers. Extra fabric at the trouser leg hem leaves a small fold or 'break'. The younger the man in the photo the larger the break... just like today!

Shoulder Pads

Thank God for Dior, those poor women have bigger shoulders than me.

The Forties

I like how elegant the 40's always looks. Everyone has a sameness in their garments - but there are little touches here and there that set one apart from the crowd.

Isolation x8

I like the way each figure seems isolated from the other members of the group...the image could be read as critical of urban life in general.


I love the women's overshoes. The way they all have packages, I'll bet they did some shopping on the way home.


This looks like an Edward Hopper painting.

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