Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Beach Scenes: Pictures and Words

Lucky me, I’m related to talented people. Today we’re focusing on my cousin Renee Elkin a gifted photographer and teacher who also served as photo editor for THE DIVISION STREET PRINCESS. In the post that follows, Renee generously shares four photos from her upcoming artist-made book, “Beach Photography: A Retrospective by Renee S. Elkin.”

Her black-and-white photos are titled: Montrose Beach Showers, Push-Pull, Supergirl, and Fist; and all are ©Renee S. Elkin. I think you’ll agree the images are beautiful, evocative, and intriguing.

I’ve also included some text from my memoir – just a few paragraphs lifted here and there from a chapter called “Mum’s The Word” -- which describes an adventure at Chicago’s North Avenue Beach in the 1940s.

“With one hand on the banister and the other carrying a straw bag that held my magazines and eyeglasses, and with my feet in barely-buckled sandals, I raced two-at-a-time down the stairs and out the door to meet Mrs. Levinson. She was clutching a brown paper shopping bag filled with supplies for our outing: suntan lotion, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, and comic books. Ben was carrying several scratchy, mustard-colored woolen blankets from the Army-Navy surplus store. Sam, the middle Levinson son, held two thermos jugs of purple Kool-Aid. Allan, the youngest, swung plastic pails and shovels…

“As the streetcar reached the end of the line, about three miles from home, we still had a six-block steamy trudge to the lakefront. I almost regretted arriving at our destination because it meant the finale of my daydreams. But as soon as I saw the pretend smokestacks of North Avenue Beach’s boathouse, I was eager for the mecheich (pleasure) the cool lake would offer…

“At the gangplank, we all removed our shoes, then skipped barefooted across frying sand until we found spots for our blankets. After unloading her shopping bag, Mrs. Levinson settled on one blanket, Allan claimed a place in the sand for digging, and Sam and Ben raced into the lake, shouting as the chilly water knifed their bare skin...

“After shedding my playclothes and before tiptoeing in, I put my eyeglasses on to see where the lifeguard was stationed. A suntanned adolescent in red Park District bathing trunks (‘visible for miles’ according to a story in the newspaper announcing the start of beach season) stood at the foot of his wooden perch. He was chatting with a teenage girl in a two-piece bathing suit, but kept one hand on the whistle around his neck. Although the lifeguard was at his post, I was troubled he wasn’t scanning the lake. I didn’t know how to swim and was afraid of deep water, but I quashed my anxiety, placed my glasses inside my bag; and tiptoed over sand, stones, shells, and dead fish.”

Postscript: We made the cover page of the June 16-22 issue of The Chicago Jewish News. Check out Pauline Dubkin Yearwood's terrific review of "Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sears, Roebuck and Advanced the Cause of Black Education in the American South" by Peter Ascoli, "The First and Final Nightmare of Sonia Reich" by Howard Reich, and "The Division Street Princess," by you know who. Here's the cover:

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