Sepia Saturday: Strolling in the City


Sepia Sat 338

This week’s Sepia Saturday theme was a “gimme”. I’ve had this photo strip for ages but have never used it because I felt it made my grandfather look a little gormless.

However it’s a perfect match this week, so here is Dinny strolling through Brisbane city probably in the 1920s or 1930s (the car would be a clue for some, but not me). I can’t even pick which street he’s in, but there’s a barber pole in the background, so perhaps it was George St. Perhaps he’d even been to have a haircut himself and was feeling pretty spiffy.

Denis Kunkel walking in town

He’s got one thumb tucked into his waistcoast pocket and his hat angled so he keeps the sun off his face, but then he has to tip his head to see….not so wise Grandad. I don’t think he’s coming from work as he looks dressed for the day out, not in railway attire, though as a guard he would have been more smartly dressed than in some other roles.

Looking at his shadows he’s got it falling straight behind him, so I’m thinking he’s walking on an north-south street, so perhaps it is George St down near Roma Street station. (What do you think of my directional theory?) With this in mind, I went searching our good friend Trove for images of George Street, Brisbane circa 1920 and, by jove, I do believe she’s got it!

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Harvey, J. H. (John Henry) 1921, George Street, Brisbane looking south, June 1921 [picture] Out of copyright.

Can you see the barber’s poles and the verandah on the building opposite? Thanks to the magnificent old sandstone buildings, which remarkably for Brisbane, still stand, I know exactly where this is. The lady in the image is crossing the street to the lane which runs behind where Alan & Stark’s shop was, between Albert and George Streets (patriotic lot, with our CBD streets named for royalty!)

View of Trittons furniture shop on George Street Brisbane ca. 1935

Unidentified 1935, View of Tritton’s furniture shop on George Street, Brisbane, ca. 1935, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Out of copyright.

Grandad would have been walking out of the frame on the bottom right of this image heading towards Roma Street Station. If my memory serves me correctly, the old Trittons furniture store was on the right hand side before the barber’s. And above I’ve found an image from Trove which confirms my theory, and we now know the barber/hairdresser was a T McMahon.

Brisbane map 1878 extract

Unidentified 1878, Street map of the city of Brisbane, Queensland, 1878, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. (extract). The red dot is my estimate of the location of the photo.

He had a kind heart, my granddad, so perhaps he bought the photo just to help the street photographer out, perhaps he was a fellow Digger trying to make ends meet. I know my grandparents had a camera at home, or among the extended family, because I’ve got quite a lot of photos from the 1920s/30s among their collection.

Why not stroll over to see where other Sepians are off to this week? I wonder if they got caught up in the search like I did when I found myself taking several detours into Trove…I left my mental wanderings as a breadcrumb trail.

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24 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday: Strolling in the City

  1. I have a few street photographer photos in my collection. Mostly from the mid 1940s including one of my parents on the beach at Manly during their honeymoon. I am so grateful for those street photographers – what we would do without them!

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  2. Good detective work! I had to check up on the meaning of ‘gormless’ to be sure, as it’s one of those words where the word without the less part doesn’t exis, and I found the preferred spelling is apparently gaumless, which was rather surprising. Your grandfather does look like he’s strugglng to see out from under his hat.

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    • Thanks Jo. You’ve learned a new word and I’ve learned an alternate spelling 🙂 It’s one of those words we use a lot, but sure why. I suspect it’s the influence of the Irish.

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  3. I was not aware of photograph strips before, and yours is such a great match for this week ‘s theme. Congratulations too on your detective work in identifying the actual street and place where your grandfather was walking.

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    • I’ve been astonished by the fact that “gormless” is unusual….we seem to use it all the time. I’m wondering if it’s more an Irish expression. And no, he wasn’t gormless, he went through a lot of sadness as a young man.

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  4. Never did I dream that a “gomless” picture of Grandad would turn into such a great tour of Brisbane. A fun trip. And I thought Grandad looked quite spiffy too, not at all “gormless”. BTW, what is “gormless?”

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    • Gormless is a bit”dozy”, lacking in vitality or intelligence/behave in a stupid or awkward manner. Those kinds of days when you feel your wits aren’t about it, you could be described as being gormless perhaps.

      It was because this was an aberration for my grandfather that I didn’t really like the photo.

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  5. How lucky to be able to locate the spot the photo was taken! I didn’t even consider that because so much is gone in Detroit, plus I’m not there. Great match.

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    • We are so lucky that Trove let’s us see old photos. And of course I grew up in Brisbane and despite the habit of knocking down buildings I had a clue where it was.

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