Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Cliff-at least that's what the back of this old photo is labeled. Unfortunately, that name scrawled in pencil is all that is written on it. I found Cliff in a pile of old photos at an automotive swap meet recently. What got my attention more than anything was the young girl on the left-she bears a shocking resemblence to photos of my own mother at a similar age, though Mom assured me it is not her. I have no Uncle Cliff, you see, and what would she be doing with a guy so much older than her unless she was his sister?
But lets do some visual archaeology and forensics here. I would put this photo somewhere in the 1950s, by the fact that the vintage stock car appears to be late 30's or early 40's vintage-I know there are guys that could identify the roofline, but I ain't one of them-still, a twenty year-old car on a stocker track sounds about right to me. The paint scheme on the car is typical of vintage racers I have seen photos of from that era. The Girls dungarees, hat and glasses all appear to be Fifties vintage, as is the clothing of Cliff, the woman on the right (probably Mom) and the crowd in the background. Nothing special about the track-it does not appear to be clay, which could give it away as being in the South. It does not appear to be excessively oiled down, which may suggest it is good, moist soil, possible here in the Northeast, or maybe the Northwest.
Cliff seems pretty happy-one can assume by his toothy grin and trophy he has won SOMETHING. My experience at races on the backwoods tracks here in Pennsyvania teaches me that generally only first-place winners pose for photos. The size of Cliff's trophy, based on the same experience, tells me he has probably won a heat, although he may have possibly won his main for the evening.
Still, there's questions-where's Dad? Did he disapprove of Cliff's racing career, wanting him to work in the family hardware store or insurance business instead? Is Dad at the office right as this picture is being taken, mumbling to himself and harrumphing the loss of Cliff and his own insurance legacy to the God of Speed? Has Dad passed away? Was it while racing? No sponsorship is shown to suggest any support other than what Cliff has flocking him on either side. And yet, Cliff's hands are also clean-suggesting that either he has a mechanic, or on this night he had to do none of his own work on the car.
Cliff will have a place made for him in my bathroom with some other photos like his-Photos like this, unlabeled, always set my mind to work, thinking about just what happened on this warm (most likely)Saturday Night Somewhere in Time, Somewhere in America.