Friday, December 15, 2006

My Grandfather the Bricklayer

... and his dress code


My Grandfather the Bricklayer

After talking about dress codes a bit recently, I was reminded of this old photo. These are bricklayers on a construction site in Montreal in the 1920s, I guess. Look at the hats: they all have them, and they're almost all of the same type — the baseball caps of the day but so much classier. Look at the guy in row 3 with his cap turned backwards — a rapper before his time. I guess it's true that there's nothing new under the sun. Did you happen to notice the ties? It's a construction site and they're wearing ties! Was it just because it was picture day, I wonder?

My grandfather is on the extreme left of the second row. He was a genuine Christmas baby, born in Barking, England on December 25, 1879. The story goes that his father taught him the bricklaying trade in the family backyard. Arthur was the only tall person in the immediate family. My parents, uncle, and three other grandparents were all of diminutive stature. Height, however, seems to be the only visible thing that I inherited from grampa, for I sure didn't inherit any of his mechanical aptitude or his ability to work at heights. Put me one rung up on a ladder and I get queasy. He, on the other hand, worked on skyscrapers.

Yes, this picture was taken at a construction site: the Sunlife building in Montreal. I think it was close to thirty stories high. Later, he worked in New York on either the Empire State building or the Woolworth building or both. I never did get the story straight. Why the family returned to Montreal, I'm not sure. Perhaps because it was closer to eastern Ontario where my grandmother's family lived.

Back to the hats. I don't mind hats either but not the ubiquitous baseball caps of the present era. They don't do much for most guys in my paltry and unworthy opinion. But I have had caps that were more or less of the style shown in the photo, even though they have never been trendy in my era. Maybe I'm an old soul. Eh?

17 comments:

Bonita said...

I remember my grandfather and my father wearing a business hat to work everyday. Now, you never see those brimmed hats. In fact, you just don't see hats on men much anymore, other than a baseball cap with a visor.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the baseball caps these days: ugly and they make guys look pointy-headed.

I'm intrigued by the ties as well. Notice that they all have coats or vests over them to keep the ties from getting in their way. Smart.

Heather said...

I love that pic! And I'm with you - much prefer those hats to baseball caps. Maybe I'm an old soul too. :-)

Anonymous said...

I prefer the older hats to baseball caps, too. The old ones had a special character to them... and a history.


Peace,

~chani

oshee said...

I don't like wearing baseball caps. I feel like I have a huge duckbill hanging over my forehead. I used to wear all sorts of other hats though.

I love the holiday look of your blog. I have enjoyed catching up with you. I like wandering down the paths of your memory lane.

Cathy said...

Well, an old soul or maybe someone who always marched to his own tune - against the pressure to conform.

That is a great picture. Must be my mood, though, as like the others - it makes me a little melancholy. The passage of time and all that. Handsome young men in their prime . . . I'll be glad when the sun turns aroung here on the 21st :0)

Life's Laundry said...

Just wanted to share how fascinated I am with these old pictures and the stories that go with them. Thanks for sharing.

Ginnie said...

It's amazing how clear the picture is, a fascinating photo. I would bet that they came to work with ties knowing that a picture was going to be taken. In that day & age a photo shoot was set up...no candids like today.

Anonymous said...

Love that picture!

Anonymous said...

That is an excellent picture, the quality is outstanding.

I remember my grampa Nels wearing a cap just like that. He was a carpenter from the old country (Norway).

Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories.

Anonymous said...

My husband has 4 of those caps and wears them often. I think his favorite make is the Kangol. (I think I have that right)

Coll said...

I guess I also may be a tad old fashioned but I love these caps. When I first met my hubby, he often wore one of a similar style. I think they can look quite dapper. :-)

Kila said...

I love these hats. My grandpa always wore one like that.

Anonymous said...

My husband wears a baseball cap every day. He is bald and says it keeps his head warm in the winter and keeps the sun off it in the summer. A sunburnt head is no fun.\\

I remember going to school and girls had to wear dresses. No jeans at all. And our gym shorts looked more like bloomers. My kids would die laughing if they saw those things.

mreddie said...

Old photos are fascinating to me, especially if I know somewhat of the story behind them. I can't figure the ties either, seems that would be very restrictive while working. ec

Norma said...

These are wonderful old photos. These guys are better dressed than a lot of men I see at church.

Norma said...

Speaking of hats, stop by an see my Monday Memory.