PHOTO IS A PICTURE OF ENDURING FRIENDSHIP
The most ordinary camera is an instrument with uncommon capac- ities. In the hands of an artist, it can capture mood, cause beauty to remain virtually immortal, arrest a bird in midflight. When employed by a criminal investigator, it can preserve evidence beyond any possibility of dispute. And even a camera of the simplest kind, used by the most untrained amateur, has the almost magical ability to stop time. An example is a photograph that came to me one recent day by electronic mail. The image was black and white, a trifle grainy. My guess is that it was taken with one of those Kodak box cameras that were so popular in the early half of the last century. “Cubs” was the only identifier on the subject line of the email to which the snapshot was attached. There are four youngsters in the photo — lads maybe 9 or 10 years old, fourth-or fifthgraders — just past the age of short pants, but not by much. It’s an outdoor photo, surely taken in the yard of one or another of the four. There’s a fruit tree, possibly a cherry or crab apple, in the right-hand background. And on the left what might be a blanket on a clothesline. The boys, looking pleased and a bit self-conscious, stand in a line for the picture. Evidently they are about to embark on some sort of outing, for their packs are at their feet. I know them. We were members of a Cub Scout den together, elementary schoolmates and then chums all the way through high school. And I know their later histories. To see that picture was to experience something like time travel. It took me back more than six decades, and for just an instant I was that age again. The one on the right is Kelly. He had a wonderfully wry and creative nature. After college he went into advertising, joined an important agency with offices in St. Louis and New York, and ultimately served as its president until retiring to live in Hawaii. It was Kelly who sent the photo, though heaven knows where he found it. Next to him is Reid, who experienced a spurt of growth in college, became a tennis champion there and in the military, and made a career in the auto industry, rising to the rank of vice president of General Motors. Beside him is Ron, always a
thoughtful and studious sort. Very early he took an interest in horticulture, became a world authority on the breeding of tulips and has several varieties that bear his name. We have spent the greater part of our lives in cities far from one another. But friendships made in those early years — a time of rich and formative experience — do tend to endure. As I look at the photograph, I seem to think I can hear those voices again. Oh, yes, the one on the far left came to adulthood with no readily marketable skill. But he had the luck to find a company that would take a chance on him, and finally keep him. He’s made a life in newspapering.
Seeing this old photograph of the “Cubs,” including a future newspaper columnist in his youth (far left), offered an experience something like time travel.