Auntie Chris at Jones Beach, 1955

AuntieChrisMy husband comes from a small family, so he doesn’t have a vast supply of stories about whacky relatives to enliven dinner parties. One exception is his great aunt, Edith Christine Smith (1888-1968), known to the family as Auntie Chris. She would visit every Christmas bringing a big plum pudding, which no one liked. According to him and his sister, her dinner conversation consisted mainly of sharing her methods to remain regular. She never married and for them embodied stereotypical qualities of a maiden aunt, with old fashioned clothes and cantankerous ways.

My niece Jessie, the family genealogist, knew more about Auntie Chris. Born and raised in Brooklyn, she was in charge of book binding at the Brooklyn Public Library.

This photo, taken by my sister-in-law when she was nine (!), shows Auntie Chris at Jones Beach. She would have been around sixty-seven here. Her sunglasses and short sleeves appear to be her only concessions to the sunny beach environment. The dress, or skirt and top combination, is a coordinated outfit which she has dressed up with a pin. No one remembers her without her sensible shoes, and this beach snap shot is no exception. But of course, the tam-o-shanter on her head takes the cake.

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5 Responses to Auntie Chris at Jones Beach, 1955

  1. Carol in Denver says:

    Ms. Smith looks like a person who would serve capably as the head of bookbinding. Her facial expression leads me to think her efforts at being regular may not have been as successful.

  2. Patsy Steimer says:

    She was an intelligent, curious and active lady right up until she died. She exercised regularly, swallowed some kind of fish oil every morning, and set an example for us all. Although we thought she was odd, she was also very kind and generous. Her gifts to us were books–Caldecott winners and other stellar works for children and young adults. She adored my mother, and vigilantly observed my father to be sure he was treating my mom properly. She was her own person. It took me a while to see that, but I’m glad I did.
    I took the photo above on a trip to New York. Auntie Chris squired me around the marvels of the city including the automat(!) and The Music Man, starring Robert Preston. I will admit to disliking the plum pudding she made every year (soaked in brandy and so rich I couldn’t choke it down), but when she died, we couldn’t figure out what to have for Christmas dessert.

  3. Sandra says:

    Thanks for sharing that bit of family history. Enjoyed it.

  4. My grandmother used to make that Plum Pudding, too. The recipe included suet! We couldn’t eat it, either. I remember my parents complaining about it.
    She sounds like a gal after my own heart, though. I think back then once a women realized that marriage wasn’t happening for her (or she chose not to pursue it), she was free to be a little eccentric.

  5. It is amazing how much is added to a photograph when a bit is known about the subject! I’m so glad this is not just one more anonymous photo.

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