Calendars with historic black and white photographs

In our kitchen, we keep a colorful scenic calendar, sometimes featuring wildlife and sometimes featuring scenes from national parks and other inspiring landscapes. In my den, I always have a calendar of historic black and white photographs. It comes with my membership in the Montana Historical Society (MHS). These old photographs tell many stories and I never tire of looking at them throughout the year. As more and more archives are digitized, pictures such as those in the calendar are often available for research online. Here’s the cover of my MHS calendar for 2019:

Hmm, we seem to have a problem here. When I worked as a volunteer at a railway museum, our library included a lot of photographs of wrecked locomotives. One of our members had once worked on steam locomotives for the railroads. When I asked him what happened to the locomotives in the pictures, he said they hauled them into the shop, fixed them, and put them back on the line. Today, I suppose the insurance company would come out and mark the equipment as totaled.

These old pictures are better than rare treasure for history enthusiasts; fans of (for example) trains, old cars, historic buildings; teachers who are working on lesson plans for K-12 classes that focus on state history, authors, and others. The national park services has an archive of old photographs.

You can find other photographs online at the Library of Congress and in the archives of many states under such names as Florida Memory and Georgia Encyclopedia. (Some of these sites include teacher lesson plans.) This access has improved from the old days when one had to travel to a museum on the far side of the country to see roughly classified boxes of papers and photographs in a storage area. Likewise, the historical societies in many states also support the digitization of old newspapers, many of which are appearing in databases sophisticated enough to allow for searches on words in the news stories and photograph cutlines.

Here’s a sample from Florida Memory of the kind of resources available for teachers.

It bothers me when I hear that many state school systems no longer teach state history lessons. I know it’s often hard to squeeze in local history when courses must include all of world history or all of U.S. history into an hour a day for one or two semesters. Historic old pictures, when available in a print format, give school systems the opportunity of placing a few of them in frames (with captions) in hallways and classrooms. They might just attract student attention. My wife once curated and mounted an exhibit of old photographs in a high school where we used to live. Opening day attracted a lot of attention, including a news story in several papers.

I’ve been happy to see many of these old pictures showing up on Facebook, sometimes from sources such as “Smithsonian Magazine” that remind people of lesser-known events and people. Many of them get a lot of LIKES and comments, including “Why wasn’t this information in my school history books?” (I often wonder why as well.)

If you know about your state’s history, I think you have a better shot at understanding why things there are as they are. You can also help combat misinformation in hastily researched news stories and online essays in which the writer clearly doesn’t know what happened in his or her state prior to last week. Growing up in Florida, I constantly saw (and still see) mistaken pronouncements about the reasons for the Seminole Wars or about the conflicts between Spain and France to control the region. You can probably cite similar examples from the state where you live.

Old photographs won’t fix the gaps in our educational systems, but they might attract some attention to the many things we don’t know about the places where we live.


Sometimes I think historical research for my novels set in Montana (“The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande”) and Florida (“Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena”) took more hours than writing the novels. I didn’t mind because the old photographs and newspapers were very addictive.










Exhibit: Joe Scheuerle and His Remarkable Indian Gallery

Joseph G. Scheuerle (1873-1948) visited reservations in Montana and painted over 200 prortraits “all finished and done honestly and carefully and on the spot.”

If you live in or near Helena, Montana, you’ll have a chance to see many of these paintings on exhibit at the Montana historical Society Museum at 225 North Roberts Street on September 6th.


As a long-time member of the society, I wish I lived closer and could attend exhibits such as this one.


Shameful: ‘USS Ranger, aircraft carrier once sought as Fairview tourist destination, heading to scrap heap’

“BREMERTON, Wash. — Naval Sea Systems Command says the mothballed aircraft carrier USS Ranger, once sought as a Columbia River tourist destination in Fairview, will be towed out of Puget Sound on Thursday on its way to be scrapped in Texas.

“The Ranger was commissioned in 1957 and was active during the Vietnam War and also deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm, the first Persian Gulf War. The carrier was decommissioned in 1993 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.” – The Oregonian


Yes, I know, Naval Sea Systems Command (NSSC) has no reason to expect anyone to save the old treasure now as last-ditch efforts to bring the ship to San Diego as a museum apparently went nowhere.

The ship is in relatively good shape, as pictures showed last fall when the State of Oregon named the Ranger as a Heritage Site. That action had no apparent impact on NSSC or on other cities who could have brought together movers and shakers to secure the ship as a lucrative tourist attraction and educational destination.

I was a member of the USS Ranger Foundation, though from the other side of the country, I never could get enough feedback from them to find out why they were moving so slowly, why they couldn’t work with BNSF to work out the problem of a low railway bridge blocking the ship’s passage to the proposed site in Fairview, Oregon, or why they couldn’t attract the interest of more heavy hitters to get the job done.

I was a museum consultant at the time and offered to help, but never got a response. Sometimes, membership doesn’t have its privileges.

So now the Navy has sold the ship for a penny. Perhaps the Navy can spend that penny on a stick of gum or as a down payment on a sheet of stamps. We are not well served by this action. It is short sighted.

A carrier museum could serve a municipality well, for cultural tourist destinations typically bring in visitors who stay longer and who spend more in the community (hotels, gas stations, restaurants) than the average tourist. Some of the ship’s compartments could be devoted to exhibits, while others could have been used for classes, presentations or even as spaces for rental to groups wanting unique places to meet.

Short of a miracle–(Dear Mr. President: How about an executive action on this project?)–the ship will be turned into scrap metal, thrown out with the trash, so to speak, in a way that benefits nobody and does not preserve our history.


I served on board the Ranger in 1968 and 1969 in the Gulf of Tonkin and used my experiences as inspiration for my novel “The Sailor.”




Crawford W. Long Museum Opens Wall of Fame Exhibit

Wall of Fame - Dave Rosselle photo
Jefferson, GA, January 8, 2011 — The Crawford W. Long Museum unveiled its new Wall of Fame exhibit honoring the museum’s founding contributors at a dedication ceremony here this afternoon. Known as the Birthplace of Anesthesia, the museum—in its three historic buildings on the town square—celebrates the work of Dr. Crawford W. Long’s first use of ether for surgical anesthesia on March 30, 1842.

Plaques on the Wall of Fame celebrate the names of almost 600 individuals, families and businesses who donated time and money to create and develop the museum which opened in 1957.

Speaking to the one hundred guests—including relatives of the museum’s founders—Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner said the exhibit honors “those whose vision led them to create an educational memorial to Dr. Crawford Long on the site of the first use of anesthesia for surgery, a discovery now considered America’s greatest contribution to modern medicine.”

In 1951, Jackson Herald publisher T.P. Williams and Crawford Long biographer Dr. Frank Kells Boland met with the Georgia Historical Commission in to discuss the creation of the museum. The commission said it would provide half of the funding for the purchase of a building if the citizens of Jefferson could raise the money. The local fund-raising drive was successful in less than a year.

The Crawford W. Long Memorial Museum Association was incorporated in 1955. Officers included those who had led the fund-raising drive: Frary Elrod, Storey Ellington, Robert Bailey, Edmond Garrison, Morris Bryan Jr., Thomas Bryan, Jack Davidson, and T.P. Williams. The museum is now owned by the City of Jefferson with the ongoing support of the Crawford W. Long Association.

Association board president Roxane Rose presented museum projects manager Lesa Campbell with a bench in honor of her late mother Sallie Holsonback who died last September. The bench was placed in the museum’s 1850s Pendergrass Store building.

Today’s dedication ceremony coincided with the first anniversary of the museum’s re-opening after a two-year restoration project that included exhibit upgrades and structural renovations to the facility’s historic buildings. During the past year, over 2,000 visitors and 43 groups have toured the museum.

Last year, visitors attending the museum’s re-opening came out in force on a bitterly cold day. Today’s guests attended the Wall of Fame dedication while weathermen were broadcasting winter storm warnings. (The six-inch snowfall held off until everyone got home.) With luck, Mother Nature will be more accommodating for upcoming events, including a March 30th Doctors Day celebration and the opening of a Civil War medicine exhibit on April 15th.

Eagle Scout Goes to Hell

Olongapo as it was then

Everyone aboard every Navy ship that cruised between California and Vietnam in the late 1960s knew about liberty in Olongapo, Republic of the Philippines. The city stood just outside the main gate of the U. S. Naval base at Subic Bay, a regular port of call for Western Pacific (WESTPAC) ships.

Old salts called the town “hell” and promised Seaman Recruits coming on board the carrier USS Ranger out of bootcamp that anyone leaving the main gate of the base on liberty would be corrupted immediately by booze, drugs, girls, gambling and crime. They called the drainage ditch separating the base’s main gate from the town “the shit river,” though I saw it as the River Styx.

I crossed the shit river multiple times and found the world there to be everything the old salts described. As a former Eagle Scout, it crossed my mind on more than one occasion, “if only my Scout master could see me now.” Our Scout troop was sponsored by a church, so the Scout master was the least of my worries when I thought of how the deacons, elders and Sunday school teachers should they ever see a photo taken on Magsaysay Drive.

As a writer in training, I saw Magsaysay Drive and the Galaxy Bar and the touts and the constant ruckus in the streets as “research.” But I doubt my Scout master would have understood, or anybody else I knew, for that matter. Luckily, webcams and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet. There was no Facebook either in 1968. This meant that no pictures of me crossing the shit river appeared anywhere–and since a lot of time has gone by since then, I doubt they ever will.

Everyone who might know the Eagle Scout and paperboy who went to hell and then put his research into a novel called Garden of Heaven is long gone by now. So, I think I can safely post this excerpt without word getting back to the old neighborhood.

Excerpt from Garden of Heaven:

Standing on the bridge over the Shit River listening to the half-naked children in flimsy boats below shouting for a handful of centavos, the city in his face was—with more pride than apology—very much a city with its tattered underwear showing. If Magellan only knew what was here now. If Dad only knew David was here now.

Night was settling down over the hazy first lights of the bars and hourly rate hotels along Magsaysay Drive and the razor-sharp edges of Kalaklan Ridge like an old whore.

David dropped several 25-centavo coins over the railing, heard an explosion of whitewater, heard the laughter and the shouting, ‘Salamat, Joe, Salamat.’

He crossed Perimeter Road, ignored the hopeful greetings of the money changers behind their well-caged windows, then dodged a badly mixed throng of sailors, girls and honking multi-coloured jeepneys that swelled out into the Gordon Avenue intersection. He cut across the street, smiling, waiving at imagined friends in the distance, and moved with the deliberate intent of a man who had crossed this street hundreds of times.

‘Casual alertness, that’s the key to surviving Olongapo’s jungle of thieves, gangs, girls, high-strung Marines, bored Shore Patrol and Hard Hats, and drunk boatswain’s mates and snipes,’ Lowell had said.

“Hey Joe, cold beer cold beer cold beer, nice girls.”

Touts were everywhere below the slapdash smorgasbord of disheveled signs and awnings, leaning telephone polls, and the rag-tag assortment of buildings with upper floors stacked up in odd strata.

Assorted conversations flew past, barely audible in the close heat… ‘Hintayin mo aki,’ …‘Magandang amaga, Carlo, kumusta ang bagong sanggol?’… ‘Hey Joe’… ‘Tao po! Tao po!’… ‘Hoy, tulungan mo akong magdiskarga sa trak na ito, pwede ba?’… ‘Good food here, Joe!’…Galing akong Maynila. Nasaan ang Zambales Bank?’… ‘Balut, Balut!’… ‘Tayo na’t kumuha ng makakain’ ‘Magandang ideya, handa na ako sa napunan’… ‘Nagustuhan mo ba ang bago kong kamera?’

The sign for the Galaxy Bar was plainer than most. An unadorned interior stairway led to the second-floor club, a large room strewn with tables occupied by sailors, many with girls whose eyes caught the low light like predators or gods. David didn’t see anyone he knew. He had a small envelope in his back pocket for Maria.

Two girls who had bathed in perfume and spackled their faces with makeup were leaning against the bar watching a waitress organise a tray full of San Miguel beer bottles.

“Maria, tingnan mo itong malambing na lalaki.”

“Lamayo ka sa kanya, Adelaide.”

Assuming he’d actually heard her name in those quick Tagalog comments, Maria was the one wearing a red dress, thrusting herself forward to him as he approached, posing her sweet curves, allowing her long hair to seductively frame her face, smiling as though they were friends with a history. He could almost see himself in the high gloss of her lipstick.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Malcolm R. Campbell

USS Ranger (CVA-61)

Ranger - Wikipedia Photo

The USS Ranger has been decommissioned. The USS Ranger Foundation is working diligently to convert the aircraft carrier into a museum on the Columbia Driver near Portland, Oregon.  The effort requires multiple phases, the next being a comprehensive environmental site analysis of the propose mooring location.

The Foundation is seeking donations to help pay for its on-going work. If you would like to contribute to the $15 million dollar fund raising project to bring a historic ship to Oregon as a museum, please click on the link above. Once you’re there, you’ll find some handy PayPal buttons.

Vistors Brave Cold, Attend Museum Opening

The discovery of the use of ether as the first viable anesthesia for use during surgery by Dr. Crawford W. Long in Jefferson, Georgia on March 20, 1842 looms very large as a medical milestone. It’s on a par with–and predates by over 20 years–Joseph Lister’s discovery of antiseptics for sterile surgery and Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease. That the discovery happened in a rough and tumble frontier town makes it all the more remarkable.

CWL Ribbon Cutting- Dave Rosselle Photo.
The museum, billed as “the Birthplace of Anesthesia,” reopened Saturday morning, January 9th, on one of Georgia’s coldest days of the winter after a two-year restoration and exhibits update project lead by consultant and acting museum director Lesa H. Campbell (front row, in black). In spite of the weather, the Crawford W. Long Museum at 28 College Street in Jefferson was packed.

Mayor Jim Joiner (standing, brown jacket) said at a Chamber of Commerce preview party the day before that some said that Crawford W. Long’s discovery in 1842 successfully put the town of Jefferson asleep. But then he indicated that the work done revamping the museum on a $200,000 USDA Rural Development Grant was another example of the reality that the town is very wide awake.

Historic District Surrey Ride - Dave Rosselle photo.
Over 100 of the visitors surged through the front doors within the first 90 minutes. They flowed through the museum’s three, interconnected historic buildings seeing updated and enhanced displays with new information, and artifacts that had never been shown before. Outside, visitors were treated to a surrey ride through Jefferson’s historic district followed up by free coffee and hot chocolate across the street at Fusion Restaurant.

A visitor from Massachusetts said, “I think what they’ve done is absolutely excellent. I received a degree in museum studies from Harvard and this is even better than the Warren Anatomical Museum at the University.”

After the long hours put in by Campbell, by Vicki (to Campbell’s right) and Karen (far right) (museum staff), by Frank and Terry (contract craftsmen), Beth (Mainstreet Manager) and by Barbara, Jackie, Jim, Gerry, Reggie and other volunteers, such compliments are a tonic. So too, the wide eyes, smiles and kind words of the visitors upstairs in the new Anesthesia History Exhibit, on the main flow in the completely redone Crawford W. Long gallery illustrating the ether discovery and Long’s family and education, and down in the 1858 General Store.

The day ended with a fund-raising dinner, conducted in two seatings at Fusion, that featured guided tours conducted by Campbell. At the end of the last tour of the evening, she said that it was a little daunting explaining the import of Long’s work and the features of the anesthesia machines to an audience that included practicing anesthesiologists, one of who is a Crawford W. Long expert.

Everyone who shares the long-term vision for a museum hopes, on any given day, to treat visitors to an interesting and educational world of wonders. But in spite of the aching backs and tired feet that result from putting on a great show, there’s the inevitable pull by the work yet to be done. There are always new displays to construct and more research waiting to be done. The world inside the museum is infinite and both the staff and the volunteers are wide awake with the possibilities.