On Scene with Bill Wilson: Old Friends


My new “old” friends.

A couple of weeks ago I found a wonderful photo album on sale at an estate sale. The first page had only a single photo labeled “First Exposition Building completed 1913. ‘Service Building”. The exposition referred to is the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 and while there are two pages of photos labeled from the PPIE of 1914, I think it meant that the photos were taken during construction. But on the ensuing pages of the album I found myself being introduced to the Melovrdoff family of Petaluma and friends from all over Bay area. The album is full of photos taken in various places such as Petaluma, Russian River, Larkspur and Golden Gate Park.  There also photos of events like a Washington’s Birthday picnic at Land’s End, the Portola Parade 1913 and two different Halloween parties.



A picnic at Land’s End on George Washington’s Birthday. – he was 100 years younger then.

There was one group of photos, 41 in all, that just took my breath away – none of the photos are dated but they all are of a trip to Yosemite. I assume that they were taken about the same time as the photos in the rest of the album which are dated 1913 and 1914, which means that the trip would have taken place about a hundred years ago.


Members of the California Camera Club on a visit to Yosemite around 1913 or so.

 There are photos of familiar Yosemite sights such as Half Dome and Vernal Falls, but I was amused by noticing that the women are wearing long skirts and in one of the photos the boys are in ties.



Climbing among the rocks of Yosemite and posing for the camera.

When I said that some of the photos took my breath away I mean that literally. The photos posed while people stood on narrow paths along the sides of shear cliffs and stood on top of rocks balanced far above the valley below, make me nervous, just looking at them.



I can’t believe people standing on the top of the rock with no railing or anything to grab if you happened to slip.


Having visited Yosemite when I was twelve years old I know what it is like to lug around a camera all day.  I wonder what kind of camera would have been used in 1913. Each pose must have been carefully planned because of the distances involved. The fact that these photos even exist is tribute to people’s desire to have a record of the awesome (as in worthy of awe)  sights they were seeing.


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