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Babies, a photo found in my late great aunt’s albums.

We haven’t been able to identify the individual babies but they were members of my Dad’s grandmother’s family. Kathryn Ford Mackey had several sisters and brothers and they were very close-knit. Presumably, these children grew up in Bentonville in Northwest Arkansas during the turn of the century. If they lived to be adults, World War l, the Great Depression, Prohibition and World War ll would occur during their life spans.

These infants were born before abortion became legal. They were members of a family that believed in God and attended the Methodist Episcopal Church. From the appearance of the photo their mothers and fathers most likely doted on them.

This generation of babies were born before the media age. They very likely lived and died within the region where they were born. It’s possible that a few of these babies (when they grew up) were able to take a flight in an airplane. I know my great grandmother had that opportunity. Kathryn Ford Mackey saw the inventions of the automobile, the telephone, the radio and television, and the atomic bomb.

Since most children, male and female, until the age of three, were dressed alike during the early nineteen hundreds there is a possibility that one or more of the children in the photo were male. There is a possibility that one of the babies suffered from Downs Syndrome.

Unlike life today, these children were born at home. Back then there were no maternity wards. Females were skilled at that sort of thing. There was little understanding of mental and physical disabilities. But still, there were Annie Sullivans.

The parents of these children didn’t have a Toys R Us in their town to shop for toys. The mothers sewed their childrens’ clothing by hand, and made bed linens with the help of a spinning wheel and loom. I do know my great great grandfather, Thomas Weir Ford was a whittler and I suspect he may have been the grandfather of the babies in the photo. Most likely they were given handmade toys he made for them.

By 1889 Bentonville, Arkansas (hometown of the late Sam Walton of Walmart fame) was a well established small town. There was a candy store, a bank, a tobacco shop, a bakery, and grist and saw mills.

These children were sent to school but the school year only lasted three or four months my grandmother has told me. They had great literature to read, Dickens, Twain, Shakespeare and Swift. The city of Bentonville invested in a library early on.

Most of life revolved around the family, the church and the farm. Fruit farms were plentiful in Northwest, Arkansas. It was once called the “The apple orchard of America.” My great uncle Eddie recalled going to his grandparents’ apple cider farm and company and being given an apple by his grandfather.

Although Northwest Arkansas was and still is the strongest region in Arkansas for Republican politics it would be mere speculation to surmise that the offspring of the Ford family were indeed Republicans. Considering my great great grandfather, Thomas Weir Ford’s pride in going to Confederate Reunions it is doubtful that he would have voted the “Yankee way.” The family was known to be conservative in their views however.

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A happy family in Northwest Arkansas

The Americans who lived during the turn of the century did not have the advantages that their modern day counterparts do. The great advances in medicine comes to mind. Many children today have never heard of polio or diptheria but it was an ever present worry during the turn of the century.

We book a flight and fly across the globe at a moments notice. We have so much wealth that we outsource tedious and menial jobs. Our great grandparents weren’t able to use a cellphone to call for help if their buggy lost a wheel or their model T Ford ran out of gas. Life may have been simpler one hundred years ago but much more physical labor was required from both males and females.

The sweet babies in the top photo lived in a different America; there were less opportunities perhaps, but there was also much more gumption.

Some Americans in this generation grew up and stayed on the family farm, some left it to go to WWl, others simply raised up a new faithful generation which defended our country in WW ll.

One mighty generation beget another. The Greatest Generation didn’t grow on a tree of course. Little children like the ones in the photo became the parents of the GIs who stormed the beaches at Normandy on D-Day.

Perhaps in my speculation I’ve gone too far in imagining what the individual babys in the photo may have grown up and accomplished in their lives. For me it’s hard to look at a baby’s face without getting maternal in my emotions. Maybe Grandpa Ford looked at them and prayed they would never have to face war or battles like Shiloh.

One thing we do know for sure is that these children were Americans on the brink of life and would pass through amazing and perilous times.

When I look at my own grandchildren’s faces I wonder what they will see in their own lifetimes. Will they will continue to grow up in freedom?

I pray they will.