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Playing Queens and Indians

My father served in the US Army in the 1950′s. He was stationed in Germany, and he visited London in 1957. His departure for his tour leads a series in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, a post you can read here. His photographs of London in 1957 are juxtaposed with my own modern images to try to tell a story each day. 

By Roy Watkins. June 1957.

The Queen is going to Virginia. She’s going to Virginia, and here I am in London. I wonder. What would it be like to see America through the Queen’s eyes? Especially given her reason for going.

Jamestown, Virginia. 1607. King James I gave a bunch of good ole boys the go ahead to start a colony in the New World. Those people sailed across the ocean, landed on an empty island, and tried to build a colony. Nothing grew in that sandy soil that was so different from their rainy English home. At least, nothing familiar. There wasn’t much material to build a proper English house, either. By the time they erected shelter, many of the English ladies and gentlemen were happy with their crude wooden fort made with pointed sticks, given that the natives attacked them unpredictably and often.

I wonder if those people felt like me? Marooned far from home. Alone. Surrounded by people I don’t understand half the time.

Anyway.

The Queen is going to Virginia to commemorate the 350 anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown Colony. They say she’s going to meet President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon. Fitting that they’d bring out the big guns, given that it’s her first state visit to America and all that.

I wonder if she’d take a homesick American boy in her entourage, let me watch her when she gives her speech in Williamsburg at the College of William and Mary, maybe let me march behind her car in the trip to Yorktown. London sure is pretty, but Virginia sounds like paradise to me right about now. So close to Tennessee.

I wonder if I will ever see home again.

By Andra Watkins. March 2009.

27 Comments Post a comment
  1. I absolutely love the photos. And seeing the then and know is cool. Really would love to know if your father is reading your posts. Maybe your mother is reading them to him! ;)

    May 29, 2012
    • Mom usually cues them up for him when he is in them.

      May 29, 2012
      • That’s cool. But I more enjoyed the mental image of her reading them to him. Maybe she needs an iPad. Then she could read to him every evening before they get jiggy with it.

        May 30, 2012
      • I’m sure she would love having an iPad.

        May 30, 2012
  2. The father/ daughter photos are too cool.

    May 29, 2012
    • It took three separate trips to find most of the places. Going to London three times was such a drag…….NOT.

      May 29, 2012
  3. Oh how awesome! It’s the same shot at a different time. That’s like amazingly awesome. And I love the contrasts that you use for your Dad as a character to become comfortable with the idea of the queen. Juxtaposition is so much fun.

    May 29, 2012
    • I did all these shots from memory, so the pictures that really stood out to me as a child are the ones I replicated. It was a really emotional thing for me.

      May 29, 2012
  4. Wow! That is so very, very cool. There are a few photos that my dad brought back from the Korean War and Vietnam, but none of them inspired me to travel.

    I say again – I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your photos and your words.

    May 29, 2012
    • It has to be such a gift to have pictures he took from that time, though. To wonder what he was thinking when he took them and what he did before and after. Really cool.

      May 29, 2012
  5. I love the photography thing — so cool to see them side by side! And I think you may have inspired a post on Virginia for me.

    May 29, 2012
    • I can’t wait to see it, Annabelle. I never knew the Queen’s first state visit included those activities.

      May 29, 2012
  6. I love that bridge. And the idea of an American soldier joining a Queen’s entourage just to get within a few hundred miles of home has something of the classic chivalrous knight about it, doesn’t it?

    May 29, 2012
    • Ha. I’m trying and failing to imagine my father as a classic knight………

      May 29, 2012
  7. The black and white photo, indicative of the era in which it was taken, with the cars and pedestrians, then the color, more than 50 years later, same scene, much different era, father and daughter book ending their experiences. These are absolutely priceless, Andra. I can only imagine how you felt taking the picture, knowing you were walking the same path as your father so many years before.

    Your words are so poignant. A young man away from home, yearning to be back to the familiar. Wonderful, wonderful post.

    May 29, 2012
    • This project took me several years to complete, and I didn’t find several of the sites, but it was so worth the effort, Penny. Very emotional for me. You’re absolutely right. I’m glad you are enjoying the comparisons and the words.

      May 29, 2012
  8. Lovely look back. The queen repeated her visit to the College of W&M in 2007 for the 400th anniversary celebration. She wore purple or pink, I think.

    May 29, 2012
    • I found articles and pictures about that visit as well, Nancy. I loved the older ones, though, because it was the same year as my Dad’s old photos.

      There’s a great photo gallery of her 2007 visit on the W & M site here:

      http://web.wm.edu/hermajesty/?svr=www

      May 29, 2012
  9. It really is incredible to see these photos nearly side-by-side. Has your dad actually said anything specific about these past 2 posts? I notice above you say, your mom pulls them up for him.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    May 29, 2012
    • My Dad doesn’t know how to turn on a computer. :) My Mom will pull them up for him on the computer, and he generally reads them when she does.

      May 29, 2012
  10. London and Virginia: polar opposites in so many ways. It’s hard getting by in a place where everything is so overwhelmingly different.

    May 29, 2012
    • I love the story of the Jamestown Colony, so finding the Queen’s visit there in 1957 was a happy surprise.

      May 29, 2012
  11. Charles and Diana came to the opening of a local grocery store…REALLY! But no Queen sightings. And I really am such an admirer. Isn’t Jamestown just a fascinating story! I love that part of our American history. You’ve stirred up my imagination tonight, Andra. It’s such fun to think about the juxtaposition of your father in England and the Queen in Virginia. And that was before the world seemed so small!! Debra

    May 30, 2012
    • Has the Queen ever been to LA? That will send me Googling. :)

      I love Jamestown as well.

      May 30, 2012
  12. My breath was taken away with Roy’s photo… seriously. I liked your monologue. Clever way to tell a story, and celebrate the Queen.

    May 31, 2012
    • I love all of these old pictures of Dad’s. I wish I could come up with a story for every one of them.

      May 31, 2012

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