Monday, February 27, 2017

Gifted photographer a mystery man

photo of Richard Aloysius Twine
Photographer Richard A. Twine self-portrait
(Photo credit: State Archives of Florida/Twine)

July 2019 update:
Mystery photographer revealed

Original 2017 post:

First of two parts

Funny how threads of interest travel online. Last week, I saw a Facebook post by Florida's Bureau of Library Development. It linked to a page on the State Archives of Florida's Florida Memory website. A mouthful of titles, I know. 
The trail was worth following. It led to an African-American photographer named Richard Aloysius Twine.

I can't link to a Wikipedia page about Twine, because one doesn't exist. I hope to rectify that by creating a page for him as part of a retirement project. He deserves wider recognition for the visual record he made of the African-American community of Lincolnville in St. Augustine. Between 1922 and 1927 he created more than 100 images of Lincolnville people, places and events.

Twine's images are preserved at the St. Augustine Historical Society and showcased online at Florida Memory. That website provides the only biographical detail I could find about Twine. He was born in 1896 and was a professional photographer, at least during the 1920s. He was in his 20s when he documented community life.

What the brief bio doesn't say, but what I infer from the photos, is that Twine was Catholic or was close to the Catholic community in Lincolnville. A number of his pictures depict St. Benedict the Moor church, churchgoers and schoolchildren. St. Benedict the Moor was the first African-American parish in the St. Augustine diocese, according to a 2014 article in the St. Augustine Record. Part Two of this blog post looks more closely at the church and school.

Ninety-six of Twine's photos can be viewed online. One of my favorites is titled "The 'Catholic Crowd' After Church." Twine - looking quite dapper - is seated in the middle of the photo, and is surrounded by women wearing their Sunday best. The image preserves a slice of life from a long-ago Sunday.

I looked at every one of the photos. Each draws the viewer in for a closer look. Each leaves the viewer with a better understanding of a place and people at a certain point in time. A sensitive and gifted man was behind the camera. I wonder what happened to him. Did he stop taking photos? If so, why? Did he move away? Embark on a different career? The photos are silent.

Early 1900s photo of group of African-Americans
'The 'Catholic Crowd' After Church," by Richard A. Twine, seated at center.
(Photo credit: State Archives of Florida/Twine)

Part 2 of the original 2017 post is about St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Food, culture contrast in 'Cross Creek Cookery'

Open pages of Cross Creek Cookery cookbook
Cross Creek Cookery was published 75 years ago.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of Cross Creek and Cross Creek Cookery, both by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. First editions of both books have a place of honor on my bookshelves.

Rawlings moved to Florida in the 1920s and homesteaded in pioneer fashion on a citrus grove in Cross Creek. Even today, the Creek remains a hamlet. It's a strip of land sandwiched between Lochloosa and Orange lakes, an easy drive from Gainesville or Ocala but a century away in ambience.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Cross Creek was remote. Many local customs and behaviors were country holdovers from the turn of the 20th century and earlier. Rawlings captured the essence and lifestyles of the people, and brought them to life in fiction and nonfiction. Readers met many of the locals in Rawlings' popular memoir, Cross Creek.

Although Rawlings lived her version of a Florida Cracker lifestyle at Cross Creek, she was from a privileged background. She moved seamlessly between her rural haven and the urban Northeast. Nowhere is that contrast more evident than in Cross Creek Cookery

The cookbook features a mix of local country cuisine and family recipes from Rawlings' cultured upbringing. The instructions for "Mother's Almond Cake," with its "Almond Paste Filling" and "Boiled Frosting for Almond Cake," require three pages of text. "Cassava Pudding" - a backwoods treat - needs only a paragraph. The recipe was shared with Rawlings by a homesteader in the Ocala National Forest. The woman and her family had settled in the Florida scrub before it became a national forest.

The book's commentary is as revealing as the juxtaposition of recipes. Rawlings was aware. She knew that although she had lived in Cross Creek for years, she never truly could be of Cross Creek. In her preface to the recipe for "Sweet Potato Pone," she tells of the time she invited a local friend to the family's Christmas dinner at Cross Creek. She spent days preparing an elaborate meal.

Afterwards, she told her guest the meal was an example of a typical Yankee Christmas dinner. She asked what his family would eat for a typical Florida Cracker Christmas dinner. Her friend's reply? "Whatever we can git, Ma'am. Whatever we can git." (Page 183)

Be sure you get the chance to spend some time with one or both of these classic books. Happy 75th Anniversary to a piece of Florida's past.