Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Faces of Bovina – Andrew and Sophie Reinertsen

This is the start of a new series in the Bovina NY History Blog that will feature photographs mostly of people I knew as a child in Bovina.  The photos will all come from the Bob Wyer photo collection at the Delaware County Historical Association.  Wyer, who started his photographic career in the late 1930s and continued until the late 1970s, photographed people, places and events in and around the Delhi, NY area.  One of the services he offered for much of his career was taking photographs that people needed for various licenses and for passports.  This new series is going to focus on these images.

What I find interesting about these photos is that these often show people as they really were.   They might work to make sure their clothes and hair were presentable, but otherwise they would walk in, sit down and Bob would shoot, and usually only one photo.  His wife Billie was not there to work on your pose, as she would for formal portraits.  These were ID photos, not something you would share with relatives or hang in your living room.  And the background on some of these is not much more than a wall in his studio.  In some of the images, you can see ‘stuff’ on the edges.  Wyer would cut the photo down so just the face would show for the license.  These will be presented in this series as the full shot.

On Friday, September 7, there will be an opening reception for a new exhibit at the Delaware County Historical Association featuring around 100 of Bob’s many photographs, now held by the DCHA.  The variety of images may surprise you.  One feature of the exhibit will be a demonstration of how one family's story was told through his images over multiple generations.  That family will be the Reinertsen family.

Andrew and Sophie (Larsen) Reinertsen were both natives of Norway.  Andrew Reinertsen (1883-1961) came to the United States from Norway around 1900.  Sophia (Sophie) Larsen (1895-1971) came about a decade later.  Andrew and Sophie were married in Brooklyn and came to Bovina Center in 1918, where they farmed and raised their family of nine children:  sons Sigurd, Leif, Carl, Robert and Walter and daughters Thelma, Gladys, Ethel and Edna.  In 1944, they moved from the family farm at the upper end of Reinertsen Hill Road to a smaller farm just outside the hamlet of Bovina Center (my house, as it so happens).  Right around the time of the move came the D-Day invasion.  In that invasion, their son Carl, also known as Arthur, was killed.  Two other sons served in the war and survived.

In 1950, my newly wed parents moved into the house right next to Andrew and Sophie, so I grew up right next door to them.  I was only six when Andrew died in December 1961, so I only remember him vaguely.  I do recall when he died because us kids were playing in our yard and my dad asked us to keep it down because Mr. Reinertsen had passed away.  Sophie survived Andrew by a decade, so I have a stronger recollection of her.  We loved to hear her say the word 'water,' which, with her still existent Norwegian accent, came out 'vater.'  She was very good-natured about us coming over and asking for a glass of water.  We did it partly to hear her say 'vater' but also because her well water was really good.  Sophie was happy to have us clamber around the land behind her house to pick blackberries, which my sisters and I sold in town.  We would occasionally give her a quart or two as a thank you, but had to do it surreptitiously because otherwise she insisted on paying for them.  As Sophie's health began to fail, my sister Susan was hired to stay overnight with her to keep an eye on her.  Sophie died in February 1971.

All of Sophie and Andrew's children are now gone, with the exception of Thelma, who was married to my great uncle, Ed LaFever.  As a kid, I found it somewhat confusing that Andrew and Sophie had grandchildren who were also my cousins, but they had other grandchildren who were not.  Some of their descendants are still in Bovina today, including the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of their son Leif. Other descendants still are in Delaware County, while others have gone further afield. 

Andrew's passport photo, March 15, 1946

Sophie's passport photo March 15, 1946

This photo dates from March 1946 and appears to have been after the above two pictures.  Why it was redone is not clear, but it might be because back in the 1940s, couples traveled on one passport and Sophie and Andrew may not have realized this.   

After Sophie was widowed, she needed to have a new passport photo.  This photo dates from March 27, 1962 

A request (and what will be a reminder at the end of each of these Faces of Bovina entries) – I would love it for people who remember Andrew and Sophie to share their memories – incidents, small stories, whatever – through the use of the comments feature of this blog.  And I would appreciate it if you would include your name in your comments.  Most people who respond to a blog have some kind of alias or post anonymously.  For the historical record, I really would like to know who left the comment. Thanks.


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  2. I made a very slight correction to this entry as it was originally posted to note that the Reinertsen farm was at the upper end of Reinertsen Hill road, so as not to confuse it with the lower farm that is within site of County Route 6. The lower farm was the Ormmiston farm for many years and was later owned by Don Boggs and later still, Howard Conklin. Thanks to the ever alert Ed Davidson for noting this.