Saturday, October 31, 2015

Carnival Ride

Welcome to Carnival and Midway Week here at OPOD. We will be looking at the time honored tradition of inviting a group of con artists with unhealthy food and dangerous rides into our communities. I hope as the week goes on you will share some of your favorite memories of Carnivals and Midways with us.

We start with this picture from 1942 of a carnival ride in Brownsville Texas. Note that this is not a normal ferris wheel. The rides have "wings" that control the orientation of the seats. Riders had a control stick inside that would allow them to position the riding seat with their heads towards the inside of the wheel, outside of the wheel or in between. As you can imagine, as you went around, this could create a challenge to keep your orientation straight. While it looks like a simple ride, this is one of those that would very easily make you very sick as you lose track of which way is up.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Starting Line

Today's picture shows the starting line for a soap box derby. The picture is from 1940, but it looks just like a scene from my childhood, which was in the 1960's.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Soapbox Derby

Today's picture shows a line up of soapbox derby racers. They are lined up in a column, so I wonder if they coast down the hill one at a time, and compete on time. The other possibility would be several racing side by side at a time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Midget Car

Today's picture was taken in Washington DC in  1935. This is a much more sophisticated midget car than we have seen so far, and even looks like it was professionally built. I am not sure the occasion or why the car is on stage.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Soap Box Derby

This is a picture of a Soapbox Derby in 1940. You can see that it looks like one contestant is beginning his coast down the hill. I think it is sad that there is not much of this type of thing any more. Everyone is too busy, and parents just buy kids a new video game instead of really spending time on things like building a soapbox racer.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Soapbox Racer

Today's picture shows a young man who has built, and is about to race a Soapbox Racing car. The picture was taken on July 4, 1940 in Salisbury, Maryland. From what I remember about these cars, the main objective was to get the car down the hill without a wheel falling off or other technical breakdown. There was not a lot of work on aerodynamics.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Go Cart

Today's picture shows a scene in Washington DC in 1937. A 16 year old boy has build a small car from a lawn mower engine and scrap metal. A pretty clever little guy.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Midget Car

Welcome to Midget Car Week here at OPOD. When I was growing up, midget cars, also known as go-carts were extremely popular. Some were purchased ready to run, some came as kits, and other home brew cars were built from the ground up by kids with more mechanical expertise. The cars with motors were typically called go carts, and then cars that had no motor, but were used to coast down hills were usually called Soap Box cars. In any event, many kids of my generation had a passion for these cars. I don't see much of this type of thing any more. There is a lot of interest in ATV's but while these might be fun to ride, they are missing a critical aspect. The go carts of my generation were exciting because of the effort put forth in building them. The experience is just not the same to simply buy something and ride it.

Today's picture is from 1939 and it shows a midget car built by a High School senior. Cost of the parts for the car was about $30. It looks like a pretty impressive car, and am sure he took great pride in his creation.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Small Officer

Today's picture showing a small person working as a traffic police officer. No doubt, this is some sort of publicity stunt, probably associated with a circus coming to town.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Small Couple

Today's picture shows a small couple in Washington DC. The picture was taken in 1924. The steps and porch look like it could be the door to the White House, but I can not be for sure. I am impressed by how well tailored the clothes are. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Today's picture shows a brother and sister who were among the smallest people ever documented. The man is right at 24 inches, and the sister slightly smaller. They were from the Philippines, and were normal in every way except their height.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Small Persons week continues here at OPOD with this picture from 1880. The picture shows a set of triplets, known as the Murays. They were from the Philippines. At the time of the picture they were 19 years old.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Speaker of the House

Today's picture is from 1937, and it shows a group of small people visiting the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington DC. The group was from Alabama, the speaker's home state. This no doubt was part of another circus publicity stunt, but none the less, it is an interesting picture.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Publicity Stunt

Today's picture shows a circus publicity stunt from the 1920's. A small statured person takes a small circus elephant into the bank. The elephant was carrying a satchel of money containing the gate receipts. The elephant handed the teller the money bag to make the deposit. Overall, a pretty clever stunt.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Small People

Welcome to Small People Week. We will be looking at unique persons who are small in stature. In days past, people like this often ended up working in circuses or in carnival side shows. Now, that practice is pretty much a thing of the past. Today's picture shows three small women enjoying lunch in Central Park in New York. It was a special day when such people gathered for a picnic in the park.


As many of you know I teach High School, and one of the favorite parts of my job is the group I lead call the Extraordinary League of Space Cowboys. This group each year designs, builds, and then launches an instrument package into space. Our record altitude to date has been 120,000 feet. If you are interested in following Incredible Students doing Incredible things, you can follow their Space Program HERE.

Just got our class picture made, and wanted to share it with you. I love working at a school where we can pose with a collection of guns used in the Civil War.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Rebel Soldier

We wrap up the week with this picture of another veteran. Interestingly he has his knife and pistol still on his hip, and he is holding what looks like a large double barrel shotgun. I did not think they used shotguns in the war, so maybe I am not seeing things right and it is a different type of gun.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

1st Texas Cavalry

This is a picture of Benjamin Varnell of Company B, 1st Texas Cavalry. While is is not showing his weapons, he is sporting a very fine plumed Cavalry hat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

14th Texas Cavalry

We continue looking at Texas Civil War Veterans today with this picture of John Alphonso Beall of the 14th Texas Cavalry. I am a little surprised by his weapon which is a Sharp's Rifle. Most of the pictures of Cavalry soldiers show them with smaller arms like revolvers, swords, and knives. In any way a fairly impressive photo of a veteran.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cavalry Soldier

Today's picture features a Civil War soldier with Bowie Knife and Colt Revolver. In this case the Bowie Knife has no hand guard, which is different that the ones we saw the last few days. Second he is carrying the larger Colt Army 1860 model. The earlier pictures appeared to show the smaller Colt Pocket revolver.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Texas Cavalry

Today's picture shows Simeon J. Crews of the 7th Texas Cavalry Regiment. He is sporting an impressive Bowie Knife, and also a Colt Pocket revolver.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Texas Infantry

Today's picture is of Charles Ruff, a member of the 2nd Texas Infantry Regiment. We can see he is proudly displaying his sidearm, and you can see that he also has a big Bowie Knife in the scabbard on his belt.

I found the comment on yesterday's picture interesting . . . one commenter was intimidated by the man in the picture and indicated he would not want to meet the man in a dark ally. I had exactly the opposite response to that picture . . . If I were going to be in a dark ally, I can not imagine anyone I would more want to be with me than that guy with the big knife. So, it is interesting that one person looks at the picture and sees something sinister, and I look at it and relate to the guy as a protector or good guy.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Texas Veteran

Welcome to Texas Confederate Week here at OPOD. We will be looking at individual portraits of Texans who decided to take up arms and fight for Independence. Earlier Texas had successfully fought for its independence from Mexico, and Texans, well, are always up for a good scrap. By 1860 Texans were having grave concerns about their decision to join the Union some 15 years earlier and most were eager to break away.

Today's picture shows a portrait of Texan in the Confederate Army. He is sporting not only a colt revolver, he is carrying a Bowie Knife, which had been popular in Texas since the early 1800's. You have probably heard of the famous Bowie Knife, but when you see a picture of one you might just as well call it a short sword than a long knife. This picture captures the fierce independence which is so much a part of Texas Culture.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sir Ernest Shackleton

We wrap the week up with this picture of Sir Ernest Shackleton. He was the leader of the expedition we looked at this week to Antarctica, and it was his skill and courage that was able to lead the expedition back to safety even after disaster struck.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Rescue

The Shackleton Expedition that we have been looking at this week was eventually rescued. This picture shows the point of rescue when boats were seen that would pick up the survivors and take them back to safety. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ice Caves

Today's picture shows members of the Shackleton Expedition after they made it to Elephant Island, some 700 miles from Antarctica. This must have been some journey, as they made it by row boat. In this picture you can see that they are trying to survive now by making shelter by digging snow or ice caves. Again, this is an amazing story of survival.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Escape

This picture shows members of the Shackleton Expedition trying to escape Antarctica in a life boat. Believe it or not, they did make it. They did eventually reach Elephant Island, and then an inhabited island over 700 miles away. That is pretty miraculous that they did not just die on the ice in Antarctica.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Shackleton Camp on the Ice

After the Shackleton Expedition lost its ship, the Endurance, to the crushing ice flows, they abandoned ship, salvaged everything from the ship, and then camped on an ice flow. Luckily, the goal of the expedition had been to traverse Antarctica by dog sled, so they were well equipped and well supplied, so could survive an extended period camped on the ice. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Endurance

This is another picture from the 1915 Shackleton Expedition to Antarctica. The picture shows the endurance getting crushed by the ice. This stranded the expedition on an ice flow. Miraculously they survived. It is an amazing story of human endurance and survival. You can read the entire story in Shackleton's book which is available online at Project Gutenberg:

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Welcome to Explorer Week here at OPOD. We will be looking at the brave men and their expeditions to the arctic and antarctic realms. I can not promise you that all these stories are going to end well.

We start today with this picture from 1916 of the ill fated Shackleton Expedition to Antarctica in 1916. His objective was to cross Antarctica by dog sled, over the south pole. Things went badly when his ship, the Endurance became trapped in an ice pack. It was slowly crushed to pieces as the crew and dogs looked on. The team camped on the ice until it began to melt, and then escaped on the life boats. It was over a 700 mile journey, and it is amazing that many of them actually survived to make it back home.

Friday, October 2, 2015

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Today's picture shows a quaint scene in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It is a rural Country Store. You can see a horse drawn buggy out front. The picture was taken about 1908. Really love this peaceful scene, and makes me dream of the days that life had a slower pace.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Virginia General Store

Today's picture shows a rural General Merchandise store. The picture was taken around 1920. The store was near Centreville, Virginia. The owner/proprietor is posed on the front porch.