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Dotty hosts mom's 21st birthday party | by Joey Harrison
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Dotty hosts mom's 21st birthday party

[Photo and comments by my mother]

We met at Miss DeBlonde's, up the Fulton Street hill from downtown. She said her name was Dotty Hagerstrand, and had just arrived by bus from Pittsburgh. She had a fresh Grand Rapids Press, and was circling the top-paying job possibilities. She had received two years on a full-ride college scholarship and now her older sister Gladys said it was her turn to support their mom.


"I was on a trip with friends," she told me. "We were driving from Pittsburgh to Ludington, Michigan a couple of years ago, and as we drove through Grand Rapids I thought it would be a nice place to live. So here I am, making a new start!"


She was pretty and warm and likable and we became friends immediately.


I too was making a new start, having just graduated from the village high school near my parents' farm. Mother had deposited me with both dresses and $10.00 at the YWCA, which referred me to Miss DeBlonde, who rented me a room with a twin bed, one window, a towel, and a washcloth. Bath down the hall. $4.00 per week. This was bliss; I was on my own, with a place to live and I already had a nice friend. I wanted to find a job "working in an office." Dotty took a daytime job doing architectural drafting. It was 1946. By the following summer we were both married.


On my 21st birthday, March 26, 1949, my husband, Jerry, with a special smile told me we were going out. "Wear your dancing shoes!" We headed out, ending up at my brother Chet's. His wife Dotty, shown here in their 1940s kitchen, had cooked up a storm for my entire family plus friends: a birthday to remember.


Joey: I asked my mom what she remembers about taking this shot. I was especially curious to know how she illuminated it. She emailed me and said this: I'm drawing a complete blank on the mechanics of the photo. This was very early in my interest in photography and the strobe wouldn't come for nearly 5 more years! Looks like I MIGHT have used a flood, but I wouldn't have toted one along, thinking we were going dancing. Maybe I took Dr. Pott's (her employer) camera with flash, and used up one bulb on Dotty. They were expensive; I didn't use many.

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Taken in March 1949