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Personality Mapping: 1954

It's November in 1954 and you're an 8 year-old boy; given the following options, what do you do?
a) Watch TV;
b) Play with cool toy MG sports car;
c) Unroll giant set of maps and trace the borders of Czechoslovakia.
Made sense to me then. Actually, I still understand it. View full size.

It's November in 1954 and you're an 8 year-old boy; given the following options, what do you do?

a) Watch TV;
b) Play with cool toy MG sports car;
c) Unroll giant set of maps and trace the borders of Czechoslovakia.

Made sense to me then. Actually, I still understand it. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Fond memories

This picture takes me back to my grandmother's living room. I was not tracing maps, I was planning trips. I'd get out a map and piece of paper and I was off to wherever, in detail. But the chair, the TV, the rug, even the curtain on the door -- sigh. Thank you.

Birds of a feather

As a kid I was enamored of maps. I had an old milk crate full of ones I got at thrift store and the like. I would write to the California State Park system and request maps and spend my spare time copying them on tracing paper. I remember getting a "tracing" machine (a weird scissor arm contraption) from Thrifty Drugs that I thought was the greatest invention known to man, or a 9 year old boy.

Thanks for the memories!


Another tterrace fan here...

I love everything you've contributed to Shorpy. Someday I'll get my childhood photos back from the clutches of my mother, but until then I vicariously revisit the past through yours!

Maps in the 21st century

It must be a guy thing. I've collected free maps from every trip I've taken. The more local and detailed the better. I especially liked the kind you got as greasy diner placemats.

Interestingly my 8 year old son discovered Google Earth and Bing Maps this weekend. He was fascinated at the aerial views of our house and proceeded to navigate to all his friends' houses and then moved on to Fenway Park and then the relatives. He then discovered the railroad tracks next to his grandmother's and decided to follow them to see where they led. He spent nearly two hours on them until his college age sister called home while he was navigating and called him a geek. That put an end to that for the day.

On the (Bedroom) Wall

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the practice of hanging up a world and a U.S. map in the bedroom so it can be frequently consulted. This, along with owning a globe and having a stamp collection when I was a kid, makes me shudder when somebody today has no idea where a state or a country is located.

A shirttail relation?

Are you SURE we aren't related? My older son was just like you at this age. He could read a map before he could read the printed word at five years old. Even now, as he approaches high school graduation, he still is fascinated by maps. I think ALL bright kids love maps and everything about them. It shows they aren't hemmed in by old fuddy-duddy thinking and ideas such as international borders and such.


You proved prudent. Old TV shows can still be found. Classic toy cars fetch a fortune. But Czechoslovakia? Is gone.

Wild child

I should first point out that this shot was taken by my brother with my sister's Kodak Duaflex, a few months before getting his 35mm Lordox.

I don't think those are pajamas, but a long-sleeve flannel shirt; you can see a bit of a pair of jeans over my little butt.

The carpet, though sculpted, was very low-pile, so didn't hinder pencil-tracing that much.

I'm pretty sure I got the toy MG because I thought Uncle Albert's real one was so cool.

I had pretty much full TV-watching freedom. You'll note the depression in the fabric over the TV speaker, a result of my favorite viewing position, flat on my back with my sock-encased feet pressed against it. That got me yelled at a lot. But the only really traumatic TV-related incident I can recall is when some infraction of mine was punished by my being prohibited from watching that week's Disneyland broadcast, the fact of it being a Davy Crockett episode making it all the more tragic.

Of the three principalities Dave mentioned, Andorra was the one that intrigued me the most, for some reason; this little blob, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, was an actual country! It was the shapes of the countries that fascinated me, and in particular the difference between pre-war Germany, with its two thick eastern arms seeming to squeeze Poland, and its trimmed-down post-war borders. How could something like that happen? Countries, like so many other things in my worldview, were supposed to be immutable, and change in anything familiar to me seemed momentous. I also found interest in certain statistics, like heights of mountains, distances between cities and particularly population. Using several old copies of the World Almanac we had on the shelves, I devised some formula for projecting population growth. I wanted to see when San Francisco reached a million (it never has) and attempted to predict when our home town of Larkspur would break 10,000, thereby achieving a more prestigious population symbol on oil company road maps. Which I collected obsessively, I might add, and which I still possess.

No wonder my sister liked to take notes about my activities for her junior college child psychology course.

Let's Face It tterrace...

Your penchant for learning about a very broad range of subjects has enriched your entire life greatly, much more than watching an inane TV sitcom or cartoon could possibly have done. Even in ancient times when I was young, we were all encouraged to get ourselves educated about things we found interesting. So we know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot of things about some things, but we are so much smarter than the certifiable MORONS we see on shows such as the Jay Leno street interviews and even the celebs on talk shows. Every little factoid our sponge-like brains soak up enlighten us further. Truth be known, the nerds and scholarly brainiacs secretly live a much fuller and richer existence through their knowledge and understanding, even if they are not glamorous and sexy. One misses out on so much when one remains how many hot babes have you met who can name the border towns of Czechoslovakia?

Me too

Holy crap, I was doing the same map tracing thing when I was a little kid in the late 1990s! That, and drawing flags...

Nice Jammies!

That pattern is the bomb. We had that same TV, with the tweedy fabric covered speaker. I used to trace over the clothing ads in the paper and then color them in with my watercolor set. I'm not a photographer, but what Shelley said. Your site gives us all so much pleasure.

More little principalities

I was doing the exact same thing at that age. And let's not forget Mount Athos, Gibraltar, Porkkala, Ifni, and the four occupation zones of Austria.

Maps were much more interesting back then, gave more scope for imagination.

Technical Question

How were you able to use a pencil to trace on that sculpted carpet? Was there a hard surface underneath the map that can't be seen? Another great photo, by the way.

The Little Principalities

If you were like me, you knew all about Andorra, Liechtenstein and San Marino by the time you were 10.


This made my Saturday morning. Tterrace, all the pics you submit make me wish I'd grown up next door to you.

To a Shorpian

tterrace, you are a wild man.
Isn't that your Uncle's car?

"The Idiot Box"

If your parents were like mine, access to the TV was tightly controlled. As kids in the late 50s and early 60s, my brother and I were allowed to watch only one hour of TV on weeknights, and only then after we had completed our homework. The TV was not a babysitter in our house.

In retrospect, I think we are better off for having been raised in this cruel, harsh and draconian regime!

Prague Winter

You saw Czechoslovakia on the TV, got out the maps to plan your European road trip in your sporty little MG. Makes sense.

Love your photos.

Hey kid

Get your homework done before you watch TV or play with the car.

As always


I just love you. Every time I see your contributions on shorpy, I'm made happier.

I am endlessly fascinated and encouraged by your life-long love of photography. I developed my own photos in high school and college (even majored in photography for a couple years) and now as the mother of a kindergartener, I have supplied her with a digital camera and a Polaroid camera. (Nothing like a Polaroid to give a child -- or adult! -- instant feedback AND gratification. That said, I do digitally document her Polaroids, because they degrade so quickly.)

I still have my enlarger, timer, trays and other darkroom equipment, and even though it's a utilitarian set which is now 25+ years old, I'm holding onto it, because when she's older I know they will give her the same results and utter satisfaction as they gave me.

Thank you for continually reminding me that childhood and everyday life is SO WORTH documenting.

Yours sincerely and with much admiration,

Shelley Combs
Long Beach, CA

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