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If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family (or they way we live today) would this person find the most shocking/incredible? I changed the question a little to suit my post.

I’d like to meet my mother’s father. He was a Canadian from Ontario, and met my grandmother in Akron, Ohio, when he was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio outside Dayton. I don’t know what his job was exactly, but one part of it was to take aerial photos of aircraft and their various maneuvers. I remember that we had at least a hundred of these photos when I was a child, but in one of my mother’s moves, the bulk of them got lost, much to my regret. The few I have are wonderful mementos of a time long past.

WWI aircraft

A plane similar to ones in my grandfather’s collection.

I have no idea how they met, but unfortunately, he died in a flu epidemic in 1919. More sadly, he died shortly before my mother was born in March 1920. My grandmother’s parents had passed away when she was young, and by her teens she was being raised by an older brother. He was a good guardian, and to ensure her future, sent her to secretarial school at a time when women were not necessarily educated for a career. It turned out well, for when she was left a young widow, she got a job in Akron at a stock brokers as a secretary, and worked there until retirement. At some point she remarried my dear grandfather and they had another child, a boy. My step-grandfather was devoted to my grandmother, and I think he was quite ahead of his time in “allowing” his wife to continue with her career. I suspect, but don’t know, that she took time off to raise the young children, but was back at work when my mother was still in school — very unusual for the 1920-1930’s. Throughout my mother’s life, she had frequent visits with her fraternal grandmother through her teens.

Since my blood grandfather, Thomas Dryden, had an obvious interest in aircraft and took such splendid pictures of them, I think he would appreciate how far those simple airplanes he photographed have come. The world has changed so much since the 1920’s and technology has come so far, I think he would be astounded at what has grown out of what was at first a curiosity. The planes in his photos look so fragile that not only is it remarkable they flew but that they were actually used in battle in the First World War. The pilots must have had guts of steel to go up in one amidst flying bullets over enemy territory.

He would also probably be amazed at how far photography has come since he took photos of flying aircraft. I can’t even imagine how he did it because it appears he must have been in another plane to take the kind of black and white pictures he did. My daughter is a photographer, now 30, and when she first took photography in tenth grade, it was with a manual 35 mm camera, developing the photos in a darkroom. It was just about that time (or just after) that the first digital cameras came into existence, and of course they’ve changed our whole concept and use of photography.

My step-grandfather marveled at the advancement during his life which began on a farm. He saw the advent of electricity, cars, (probably indoor bathrooms), tractors, airplanes, radio, TV, but didn’t live quite long enough to see computers come into use. He, too, enlisted in the war, but never served overseas. When he was an old guy and was asked to show his ID for some reason, he was always amused by young people noting that he was born in 1896. To me, he was truly my grandfather, but there is one up there who I never saw, except through his photos, and random reminiscences.

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