Friday, June 1, 2012

An American Summer in the 1930's
My father, Fulton Peay, painted this picture from a photograph he had taken as a teenager.  He didn't need color photography to remember what kind of day it had been, or how the sky and water looked.  It was perfectly clear in his outraged memory.

My father lived near the banks of the Cumberland River in an area that was then populated with summer holiday camps.  There was a pebble beach near his home, and here he spent much of his time hanging out with his camera.  There was only one public swimming pool in the area (Shelby Park), and most folks couldn't afford the entry fees.  So everybody in East Nashville and Madison came to the river to cool off.

Here he shows three bathers trying to keep cool when it's so hot the sky itself and the river look yellow.  At the moment, they're having to retreat and tread water; some rich guys are speeding past in their motorboat.  None of the three in the water could hope to own a motorboat.  They were lucky to have an old car and enough gas to get to the river - or to have friends who possessed these things.  Air conditioning was unknown then even to the rich; they had electric fans and could go somewhere cooler on vacation.

From the Reagan years onward, Daddy often talked to me about the critical importance of government regulation to the economy.  He raged at the idea that 'the government is the problem'.  The only hope for the ordinary person, he declared, was for a strong government to stand against Big Business.  He'd lived through the Depression and didn't want me to have to.

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