Posted: September 19, 2011 in Photography
Tags: ,

I came across this photo in a box filled with old prints and negatives. I completely forgot it existed until I stumbled upon it. I don’t know the circumstances around it. I don’t know where or when it was shot, although I’m pretty confident it was sometime in the 1960’s. I don’t know who the man sitting in the chair is, but I do know the man leaning into the room. He was my dad’s friend, John. He had a long surname with lots of consonants. I only knew him as Big Bad John.

Big Bad John was a song released in 1961 by Jimmy Dean and I imagine that’s where the nickname originated. I don’t know how John and my father met. Maybe they were childhood buddies. Maybe they met on the job. I believe John worked with my dad as a Corrections Officer for a time, but I could be mistaken. Given my grandfather’s level of local political influence it wouldn’t have been an unusual coincidence for both of them to end up working for the county, especially if they were pals. Whatever the case the origin of their relationship remains a mystery.

What I do know is that he and my dad were very good friends. I also know John was an alcoholic and, looking back, probably a non-functioning alcoholic at that. I remember he lived with us for a time. It may have been a month; it may have been six months, maybe even a year. I don’t recall. I was around 10 and had much weightier concerns, like the fate of the New York Mets. It didn’t seem at all strange Big Bad John lived with us.

I remember John dated a nurse who I always called “Miss Baker.” She lived in a cute dollhouse in my hometown tucked away on one of those streets you’d never know existed unless you had a reason to go there. She always gave me a piece of candy. In my memories she is excessively tanned holding a cigarette in one hand and a glass with an amber colored liquid in the other. She was vivacious with a broad smile and apparently thought the world of Big Bad John. Whenever my parents would socialize with them there would be lots of laughter. Maybe the amber colored liquid played a part in that.

I also know Big Bad John died young. I’m guessing he was around my dad’s age, so he couldn’t have been more than 45 when he passed away, if that. For some reason 42 pops to mind. If I was told the cause of his death I’ve long forgotten it. I suspect I wasn’t told. All I know is that he died. I don’t recall seeing Miss Baker much after that.

Without this photo these remembrances would’ve remained locked away wherever it is they get stored in that dazzling computer we call our brain. Without this photo it’s possible I may never have chanced upon my memories of Big Bad John and Miss Baker. I find it remarkable that one long forgotten photograph has that kind of power, the power to reawaken the past and keep it alive, if only in fragments.

  1. Bonnie says:

    I love these blogs John, your writing talent has truly found an outlet


  2. Mark says:

    Shows the power of photography….


  3. Lovely, and so true. I especially like your last sentence. It makes me want to rummage through old photographs.


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