Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Scans of Odd Things, Part 2


Some time in the early-mid 1930s, my father’s family went on a trip to California. While they were there, they went on a tour of the MGM Studios, and while on that tour had a chance to get autographs from a number of MGM stars. My aunt and godmother Kathleen Duntemann was perhaps 13 or 14 at that time, and we have a photo of her with her arm around Mickey Rooney, who (I see, thanks to Wikipedia) was three weeks younger than she.

Of course, from my father’s perspective (being an 11-year-old boy at that time) the really big draw would be Frankenstein, hence the above photo of Boris Karlov signing Aunt Kathleen’s autograph book. (My father is the boy to the left of Karlov, in a maternal hammerlock well suited to his unruly ways.)

The autograph itself did not surface when Gretchen and I were sorting Aunt Kathleen’s effects after her death, more’s the pity, but the shot you see here has always taken the cake as the oddest family photo in the three boxes full that have survived.

And while we’re talking family photos, I have some advice: Write the names of the people shown in the photos on the backs while you’re still alive and remember who’s who, what was going on, and when. You won’t be the last person to look at those photos, especially if you have children or grandchildren. I have huge numbers of very old photos of people lined up somewhere, and have no clue who they are nor where they were taken. I have a photo of my father in uniform with his arm around a girl in August 1942, which would be just before he left for Italy. No idea who the girl is. My father took photos of steam locomotives, and never failed to carefully write on the back what model, and what railroad. Girls? How could a girl stack up to a C&NW 4-6-0?

Tomorrow: Duntemadmann!


  1. Bob Fegert says:

    I am nearly certain the head sticking up above your Aunt’s head in that photo with Karloff is David O. Selznick ..see photo of him here

    What with it being early 30’s and Selznick and Rooney being on the lot, I’d be inclined to think that is the MGM studio.

    Whenever I see old family images such as these I reflect on how precious such photos are. Old photos are the first thing most people try to save if the house catches fire.

    I always try to carry a camera with me so as not to miss an opportunity, but some places they are just too intrusive. I just ordered 3 tiny cameras off ebay that go on a keychain and look like a car alarm controller. Got em for about 25.00 ea. These things are amazing and so tiny that no one will notice. They take respectable 640x480x30fps video and hold several hrs worth on the 8gb of flash, the flash can also be used like a thumb drive with a cable. Has a LiOn batt inside that charges via USB. Takes respectable stills also at 1.3mp..not super hi-res but far better than not getting a photo. Here is a sample where a guy taped one to the handlebars of a bike

    I mention this because you seem to be the sort of guy that might like to tinker with a cheap cam like this.
    Ebay search terms spy camera keychain 8gb will turn them up…the good ones all look like this

  2. I agree with your suggestion to write on the back of the photo WHO IT IS, where it was taken, etc.

    My mom had boxes upon boxes of photos, which my father had always promised to sort and organize after he retired. I think one reason he died (20+ years ago, now) was because he was intimidated by the task. Unfortunately it was Pop who knew everyone in the photos, and my mom couldn’t even tell which of her children was in a picture. After getting us kids to go through the pictures, they’ve all now been distributed, but I hate to tell you how many boxes were dumped because nobody knows who they were.

  3. […] Devon Avenue. She’d been to California with her family when she was a 13-year-old girl. (Boris Karloff is signing her autograph book in this photo.) She took another trip with her parents in 1953, when she was 33, this time to…Hawaii. The […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *