Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Birmingham Photo of the Day (57): East Lake Bathers

Seeing old photographs I always wonder "Where are they now?", or, in examples this old, "Whatever happened to them all?"

The photograph below was taken by Oscar V. Hunt [1882-1964] sometime in the early 1900's. The shot is one of hundreds he took in the Birmingham area over the years; you can see many of them here.

East Lake Park, originally developed as a private facility in 1886 by the East Lake Land Company, became a city park in 1917. The one hundred acres have featured many attractions over the years, including a hotel, golf course, dance pavilion and theater. The lake was created when Roebuck Creek and Village Springs were dammed.

In December 1888 the body of eight year-old May Hawes was found floating in the lake. Her father Richard was tried, convicted and executed for the notorious crimes that also included the murder of her younger sister Irene and his wife Emma. May's spirit is said to haunt the lake

Although taken less than 20 years after that event, these people seem to have no worries about crime. They have probably gathered at the request of the photographer; based on squinting and eye shading, they are looking into the sun. One young man on the lower right is looking down at the water. And what's up with that kid in the front row center? Is he crying or yelling or just making a funny face for the photograph?

In the background a man is heading away from the group, perhaps not wanting to be photographed. Just to the right of the Bath House is a man with his arms outstretched, perhaps seeking attention. Who is the figure in white between him and the Bath House? Two or three other people can be seen in the upper right on the shore also behind the fence. 

There don't seem to be many women in this photo....

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