The Ghosts of Christmases Past

For my own amusement, I have pulled a few of what I consider to be the thus-far-digitized Jerkins Family Christmas photos’ greatest hits… Millennium Falcons, creepy Santas from the 80’s and so much more…

Woodbury December 4th 2014-1-Copyright-Stephen-Jerkins-2014
The Jerkins family in Woodbury, TN selecting which tree to kill and take home.

Vintage-Xmas-Copyright-Stephen-Jerkins-2014-1 Myself, my brother and our Christmas bounty – Memphis, 1980 / 1979

Vintage-Xmas-Copyright-Stephen-Jerkins-2014-2Memphis – 1980

Vintage-Xmas-Copyright-Stephen-Jerkins-2014-3Mom Jerkins 1955ish / Dad Jerkins 1956ish

Vintage-Xmas-Copyright-Stephen-Jerkins-2014-4Christmas Brothers – Memphis 1979

Vintage-Xmas-Copyright-Stephen-Jerkins-2014-5Nashville Christmas – early 1960’s


Chris Jerkins + Millennium Falcon – Christmas 1979.


Geraldine Jerkins, Christmas hostess – Nashville, 1990-something

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We are pleased to welcome the newest member of our family to the air-breathing world: Hollis Key Jerkins. Like with young Reason, Hollis and Key are both family names.

Everyone is well and we are tickled pink.




Les and Ola (Hollis) Davis, Amanda’s great grandparents, early 1900’s:


Ola and her Hollis siblings, Louisiana, around 1905:


By 1933, the above family multiplied into this… the Hollis family reunion near Spearsville, Louisiana:


The Ambrotypist / BOWLING GREEN, KY

Since Olan Mills was closed last week, Amanda and I drove to an ambrotypist in Bowling Green, KY to have our family portrait made. The supremely kind Tim Parson has been doing this authentic late-1800’s photo process since the early 2000’s. He’s self-taught and does it mostly out of his love for history. Peruse some of his work and see for yourself how very cool it is.

Although I DID have my soul captured by a 150 year-old-camera, I’m not exactly an expert on the wet collodion photography process. Instead, I will direct you to the Wikipedia page for the very specifics. But in short, it is this: a piece of glass is coated with light-sensitive chemicals and placed in the back of a box camera. The exposure onto the wet glass can be several seconds long, depending on available light (in our case, it was seven… and our 2-year-old child was still for all seven of them… amazing). After the exposure is made, the plate of glass is removed from the camera and taken to a makeshift darkroom where it is developed, washed, dried and a varnish is applied. Then, voila:

For the record, my all-time favorite photograph.


The process took about two hours from the coating of the first glass until each dried, varnished product was in our hands. I didn’t document the entire process thoroughly because I was busy taking it all in, but here are a few excerpts from our Back To The Future 3-style trip into the late 1800’s:









The above photo is of my great-great-great grandfather, Reason Wilson Jerkins in 1861. This is the only ambrotype of my family that I’ve ever run across. Thanks to distant cousin Ben Barrington for allowing me to photograph it.

Family Tintypes

I sincerely love the hunt for old family photos (see my family tree). It usually puts me in awkward situations inside the dens of 70+ year-olds who I’m very distantly related to and I tell you, it’s a genuine joy.

As I sort through these people’s chests of photos, it’s especially exciting when I come across a tintype. Abbreviated history lesson: tintypes – most popular in the 1860′s and 1870′s – are one-of-a-kind images where the exposure is captured onto a (typically) credit card-sized piece of metal treated with chemicals inside a box camera. So help me, one day I am going to amass the equipment and learn how.

Below are a few scans of the tintypes that I have tracked down within the fam… a couple I am lucky enough to now own.






JFK by Ray Jerkins

Here’s a recently-ish discovered 35mm slide of JFK taken by my grandad, Ray Jerkins, during the president’s visit to Nashville on May 18th, 1963 – six months before the visit to Dallas. My grandad, dad and uncle caught this glimpse along the side of the road, on the president’s path from the airport to Vanderbilt, where JFK delivered a speech that afternoon. Obviously one of the cooler photos from the Jerkins family archive.


An All-American Vacation

My continuous hunt for long-lost family photos bears more fruit – this time Kodachrome slides from my mom’s childhood (see others like them). I deemed these the greatest hits after sorting/scanning several dozen. All from a vacation out west in the mid-to-late 1950’s.

This first photo of my grandfather’s 1959 Pontiac in Joshua Tree National Park is a genuine work of art. I assume the others are in California and the miscellaneous southwest.