Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ott Helm

When we were cleaning out my dad's office after he died, I found a envelope marked Family Photos that I haven't looked at since. Now I'm scanning them and looking for a place to post to share with family. I am hoping that my Uncle Dick can help me with some identification.

There aren't a lot of photos, but they go way back. I am fascinated with the small handful of photos of Henry Arthur Helm, b. 1881, my father's father, nicknamed Otto, or Ott. He's the guy on the left side of the boxcar up top, in the dark overalls leaning against the train, and in the group shot the crack in the photo runs right through him.

I didn't know my grandfather, I was born too late, but I know he was a powerful presence in my father's life. Ott was born in New Albany, Indiana, but crossed the Ohio River to drive a streetcar in Louisville. I see my father's face and hands in his. I wonder how else they were the same, or different. I wonder how who he was has shaped who I am.

Ott taught himself to read and write a little by looking at the newspaper. He eventually became a Sergeant in the Louisville Police Dept. The story goes that one day Ott was walking his beat and found a dead horse in the street, and he had to drag it a block over to Oak Street to write his report because he couldn't spell Dumesnil Street.

The last photo shows Ott with my grandmother, Blanche Bullock Helm, not too long before she died, in 1955. They were celebrating their 50th anniversary. That's one of my brothers he's bending to pick up. Ted I think.

Looking at these photos closely for the first time, looking into the faces of people long gone whose existence I depend on, then scanning them and sharing them around the world, instantly, it's hard to process. It reminds me of something neighbor Bill and I were talking about this morning - that to live in this emerging world, we have to be deeply rooted but connected to the entire world, all at once.


I'm Jelly said...

The caption in the newspaper clipping mentioned a "National Safety Cong." After a little digging, I sent an email to the National Safety Council librarian and got this reply.

What a wonderful picture! Suspect it was taken on September 29, 1924 at the time of the National Safety Council’s Thirteenth Annual Safety Congress, which was held at the Brown and Seelbach Hotels in Louisville, Kentucky, September 29 – October 3, 1924.

Hope this helps. Stay safe.

Maureen Ahrens
National Safety Council Library

Anonymous said...

David, about the picture of Grandma and Grandpa -She died in Sept of 1955 and he in May of 1967. I'm a year, maybe 2,older than Ted, so that could be him I guess.

Tom Helm

Anonymous said...

the pic with the policemen in front of the archway is the present day 1st district substation for the LPD, my brother-in-law happens to work there as a detective.