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Interviewer Carrie Kline: All right. Today is the 11th of May. I'm Carrie Kline, here with my partner and husband, Michael Kline in the Trustee's Room of the Concord Free Public Library. Here to talk about the history of Anderson Photograph. And let's have everybody introduce yourselves. Would you start?
Mary Anderson: Yes. I'm Mary Anderson. I'm—my husband was William Anderson and he was the one who started Anderson's Photography. I guess that would be the proper way of putting it, to start with anyway.
CK: Okay. And are you comfortable giving a date of birth to put this in some perspective?
MA: Yes. I'm very comfortable. I was born on the 18th of August in 1925. You want—
CK: Boy, are you beautiful? (Laughs)
MA: (Laughs) Thank you. Would you like me to give you Bill's birthday?
CK: Yes, I would.
MA: Bill was born in 1924 on March 13th and we met in high school. Or I spotted him and (laughs) there was where we met.
CK: Oh. Well, let's have everyone else introduce and then—
MA: Yeah. That's fine.
CK: come back to you and we can jump around some.
Elizabeth Monaghan: Hi. I am Libby Anderson Monaghan. I am the youngest of Mary's children and I live here in Concord.
CK: And your date of birth?
EM: July 3, 1954.
CK: Okay. Glad to have you here.
EM: Thank you.
Kristin Emerson: Hi. I'm Kristin Emerson, third child, first daughter and I was born on August 20, 1950.
CK: Okay. All right, Mary—well, for a little perspective, maybe tell us about your people and where you were raised to get us into the story.
MA: Well, I bumped around for the first maybe ten years of my life. We—I started out in Ottawa, Ontario and this was right after the first World War. And my father, who had gotten his degree at Edinburgh, at the—a gift from the King of England after his fighting at—with The Canadian Expeditionary Force—excuse me for—
At that time, he was—by the time I was born, he was working as a newspaper man and my mother who was really the power house in our family for many years, decided that this was not for him. And so, she announced to him one day that we were moving to New York. She said, ‘I'm going to go first. I will get a job and I will get you a job, and then you and the children can come down.' And that's how we landed in New York.
Um, she got herself a job on Broadway—excuse me, not Broadway—the—
KE: (Laughter) Wall Street?
MA: Wall Street. She got herself a job on Wall Street. She did, in fact, get a job for my father and we ended up living in Flushing, Long Island, which my mother never referred to as Flushing. She called it Broadway which happened to be the railroad stop. I never asked her why, but I think I can figure it out. And so, we lived there until I was there ten years old, at which time my father had offers from several brokerage firms. He had gotten into brokerage and he accepted the job in Boston. So, that's how we got up to this area. And several of the men who worked in the firm, in Boston, lived in either Lincoln or Concord and suggested that we come to that area to live. So, we did.
We settled in Lincoln, which is a very small town. I think there were no more than two thousand people in Lincoln at the time and so that when the time came for me to go to high school, I went to—we—all Lincoln children were sent to mostly Concord High School. And that's where on the first day of classes, I spotted my future husband. He walked into the classroom that I was in. And that's how we met and we married. We married shortly after we graduated from high school. Because of the war, he had had a year of college and we had decided that if he was going to Asia, which it looked like he was going—this was 1945, the war in Europe was over—that maybe we better—we better get married. And then, of course, the war in Asia (laughs) immediately—almost immediately because of the Atom Bomb, stopped. And so then we up to the—to what was then Massachusetts State College.
It is now the University of Massachusetts. And that's where Anderson Photos started. And really and honestly, prior to that, I don't remember Bill as being a camera buff. I mean occasionally cameras would record moments in our life but I don't have a lot of that so I know he wasn't taking a lot of pictures, at least at that time. Anyway—and the kids will probably correct the situation there. So, we went to University of Massachusetts. He started out where he had left off. He had been there for a year before the war started. And we had a little (laughs) apartment and we had one child and we were expecting another and he was—he was adding to the $90 a month that the government gave us—Can you imagine back then—(laughs)—by taking photographs at campus events.
CK: The government—this was from having been a veteran?
MA: Yes. Yes.
CK: So, he was taking photos on the side for extra money.
MA: Well, he was taking photos at all the places he figured where people would like to have their photos taken, like at proms and different kinds of events like that. And he was extraordinarily successful. I mean he really—we had the smallest little place to live in of course and there were three of us there. So, one room was the—a single bed and a crib (laughs). And I have a wonderful story which I guess I had better not tell, right—about the doctor?
KE: (Laughs) I don't know. I don't remember that story.
MA: She does.
EM: I—it's up to you Mom. Everyone's going to hear it so, it's—
MA: (laughs) Well anyway, I—we—because we were a small family, we connected with a doctor and one time, I went over to see him and I said, ‘I think I'm pregnant and I don't want to be.' And he said, ‘Well, if you're pregnant, you're pregnant and you better get used to it.' So, at some point in this time, I got—I was quite sick and so Bill called the doctor and asked the doctor to come over and see me. So, he came into our little bedroom and he was sitting on the side of the bed and he had checked me over and decided I had the flu or something.
And he said, ‘You sleep here, on the single bed?' I said, ‘Yes.' And he said, ‘And the baby sleeps there?' And I said, ‘Yes.' And he said, ‘Where does the—where does your husband sleep?' And I said, ‘He sleeps here.' He says, ‘He sleeps here?' And I said, ‘Yes.' He said, ‘Well, no wonder you're pregnant.' (Laughter)
CK: I like that story.
CK: Now I'm assuming you liked the outcome of the pregnancy. (Laughter)
EM: That would be Billy. (Laughs)
MA: So, but in any case, he was taking pictures all over the campus to compliment what we were getting from the government and he finally said after his—after that term at college—I think it was his sophomore year—he said, ‘You know something. I—this is what I want to do. This is really what I want to do.' So, he—we went back to Concord and he talked to his mother about wanting to start a photography business and she understood and so we were living with her and she gave him a big old closet for a dark room. And that's basically, where Anderson's Photos started. It started in a big closet in a huge farm house on a nine-acre corner in Concord. And from there, it grew into finally the store which—is it still there?
EM: No, the store is closed but, it then went to over Anderson's Market.
CK: This is Libby.
MA: Yes, that's true.
EM: Anderson's Market, which was owned by Lars Anderson, which was our great grandfather.
EM: And then my grandfather, Leslie, owned it. And upstairs over it was some little apartments or rooms, and Dad had a studio and a dark room there. So that's—do you know what year that was—
KE: Late 40's probably.
MA: I'm going to say in the—around '47.
CK: Is when he moved out of—I'm assuming there is a walk in closet at 9-acre farm?
MA: Yes. From the walk in closet on the farm, the 9-acre corner.
CK: The 9-acre corner.
MA: To the up—sort of an upstairs space over his father's and grandfather's store, Anderson's Market. And it was enough room for him to have a studio and a dark room up there. And so that's where it officially began as a business. And um—and he—and he was in his element. He loved it.
CK: Yeah, talk more about that—like that—talk more about that, that moment when he said, this is what I want to do and he was in his element, taking pictures, you're saying?
MA: He had a studio because there was enough room up there for him to have a studio and also a dark room so he didn't have to have a darkroom at home. He could do all—all the work stayed right there in this one space.
KE: And actually something that you can talk about—at that launching of this, he had been trained as a pilot during the war and when he came back, he combined the skill the flying with taking photographs so—
MA: That's right. That's right. He started out—I had forgotten that. He started out taking aerial photographs which was an absolute novelty at that time—an absolute novelty. And I was out on the street, knocking on doors and showing people their house from the sky. And it was great—it was a great sale. Everybody just, ‘Look at that' kind of thing, so we didn't have any trouble selling those photographs.
CK: You'd walk around and offer people a picture of their house from above?
MA: Yes. I'd just knock on the door and it didn't—you know people are always resistant to sales people at the door, but if the minute I flashed the photograph at them, they would soften right down. They wanted to find out how they could get a hold of this picture. This a—it was unique. It was unique. I supposed there were aerial pictures before that. I'm sure there were but, nobody had—in that—in our area, nobody had done anything about it. So, it was—I had forgotten that. Thank you.
CK: Would that have been the early 50's?
MA: No. Right after the war.
CK: Right after the war. How did you feel about door knocking?
MA: I don't—it didn't bother me at all. (laughs) It really didn't.
CK: You've got the smile for the job.
MA: Well, I don't know. I don't know. I made one of the best friends I had in my life by knocking on their door.
EM: Who was that?
MA: Ruth King.
Interviewer Michael Kline: Can you reconstruct that experience?
MA: Well, I was—I was in west Concord at that time and that's the—that's the western branch of Concord and he had taken some pictures in that area and I—we would go along the street and locate. And he would make prints of the ones that were really good. So, I would walk up to the house and all I had to do was flash the picture. And I walked up their driveway because there was a baby carriage in the driveway and there was obviously, a baby asleep in it and she came—oh, I know—and a friend of mine had told me to try them anyway. So, she was quite fascinated with the picture and she bought it and her husband was fascinated.
MK: Who was that?
MA: Stafford and Ruth King. And—what was his business? Oh, I know his business—his father's business was electric meters that everybody had on a house. Back—
EM: But it turned out he was a pilot as well so he probably really—
MA: And he also—he also was a pilot so he was—the whole thing was very fascinating. We became fast friends.
EM: And still are—well, they've deceased but, the kids and we are all still good friends.
MA: Yes. Yeah. They're next to family kind of thing.
MA: And so that—that started out well and then I—somewhere in there, Bill's father, Leslie made the space up over the store at Bill's—gave it to Bill to use as he wanted. He did put a—he, and at that time, he had a close friend who was his partner, John Wood. So, it was Anderson and Wood, right? And they were in the space up over Anderson's Market which is now Anderson's?
EM: Main Street
MA: Main Street CafÃ© in the—downtown Concord.
CK: Still owned by an Anderson?
MA: Yes. It's still owned by my husband's nephew.
CK: So when there was the previous market, then people would walk upstairs to enter Anderson's Photography?
MA: Then that was where—yes, eventually it became known that he was there and he started to—people started to come in off the street to see him. I don't think he ever did any advertising.
KE: Well, I was just going to give you a break for a sec. There's a fabulous photograph that my father took from that studio up over what we all knew as Anderson Market and it was taken probably around '47 and you see down the alley to the absolute center intersection of town and you see a 1940's style car, a police man directing traffic and it just gives you a beautiful clip of life in the center at that time. And I think that one of the fabulous things about my father's business over the years is he was always right in the center and he was not an outgoing man. He was very reserved, but through his eye, he captured things.
So, from there up on that second floor to the center and then ultimately, he moved down to a store front which you can see in that picture but it's on Walden Street. So over the course of decades of his career, he was able to capture. He really chronicled a particular place at a particular time over a couple decades. So, anyway I just wanted to say that the aerial business launched this and then it went on into some other directions but the common denominator was being right in Concord center.
EM: But at that time, didn't he start taking portraits of children and family?
MA: Yeah, but somewhere along the way he and John went out to the west coast and took lessons from that very famous photographer on the west coast. Do you remember?
KE: The last name was Mortensen and it was a very particular style that's quite captivating and so I actually hadn't known they'd gone to California to study that but, they did and then they came back and photographed many, many, many people in Concord so that a lot of the dining rooms across town had Anderson Wood portraits or William Anderson portraits of their children. They were extremely recognizable by this soft—by soft, I mean wasn't hard smiles on everybody, but a real soulful—is that the right word? Just a gentle photo—a gentle portrait that really showed who the person was.
EM: And it almost was an art because he used—the technique was with pencils so—isn't that correct? He went in—
KE: It looked like pencils. It was screens.
EM: Screens—oh, screens. But, it was—so the photographs were just amazing and I still have friends who still have their photographs when they were children and that's quite a few years ago.
KE: We should have brought one in.
CK: What were you saying about screens?
MA: Well, he—when he went to California to take lessons from—remember the—
MA: Mortensen. Mr. Mortensen had developed a wonderful way of portraiture with backgrounds that had just very soft shaded in—just suggestive kind of geometrical like etching and it was done with just a—a plastic—like a clear plastic screen with the lines in there very gently that you would place over the—
KE: So when you are making the print in the dark room, it—the dark room enlarger goes through the screen so there's just a suggestion of an etching. It's very subtle.
CK: Of a particular scene and little landscape behind?
KE: No. Just—
KE: Let me see if I can make this audibly understandable. If there was a portrait of me, in the background you could see the backdrop that is just plain, but if you look very closely you see there is a—just a gentle texture to it--just little dashes—so, it's nothing you see. You might not ever even acknowledge it, but it gave it a textural quality—a very subtle textural quality.
EM: Unique. Very unique.
CK: And what's the art of having someone look so relaxed instead of that hard smile? I mean what kind of—
MA: I think his personality had a lot to do with that. He had an extraordinarily gentle personality and children would eventually just—don't you think that was part of it?
KE: Children and dogs.
MA: Yeah. He just—I mean he—I mean he was not a challenging personality at all. He was a very comfortable, wonderful, very shy personality, if anything. So—
KE: Yeah, so I think he put people at ease and I mentioned the dogs because I don't know that he was a dog person at all, but he made a number of dog portraits that are wonderful to look at and he was like a dog whisperer when it came to time in the studio.
CK: Solo dog.
EM: Jumping around a little bit. About ten years ago, Kristin set up an exhibit up in the—up in my father's old studio over Anderson's Photo—over Anderson's Market—excuse me—of Dad's aerials and dog photographs and people—farmers and so forth. And there was a—sort of a rekindling of interest in his work and the dogs were a big seller, as were the aerials. The aerials—everyone all of a sudden had a—wanted an old aerial of their property and so, there's still—there is still a demand for them.
CK: Why do you think?
EM: He was unique. You know, you see a lot of photography now and it's all digital and everyone can pretty much take a photograph. Dad would take a piece—a photo and turn it into a piece of art and it just—I guess there was something gentle and soft and interesting about his work. It wasn't in your face type of art. If that makes sense.
MA: That makes sense. Yeah. I think so. He just—he saw things that the rest of us couldn't see and he knew how to—somehow or other, he knew how to get them presented in a camera. Not something I ever could do.
CK: He saw things that you hadn't seen before?
MA: Well, he just had a—he had an artist's eye. I think that's the best thing to say. He just knew how to take a picture of something. I can't—I can't uh describe it. These two can because both of them are artists but I—I'm just a housewife.
EM: No. That's not true.
KE: Oh, stop it. No, but one way of looking at the lineage on this—his mother whom we've talked about before, Esther Anderson, ran the farm, but she was also very interested in nature and Thoreau. And I've talked about she went through the back woods of Concord and photographed things that had been noted by Thoreau in his journal. So, she documented nature. And they were great pictures but, it was more of a document really. And so my father, her son, had a great appreciation for nature. He was totally at one with nature as a boy out there on the farm. And when photography surfaced as a means of expression for him, I think he took his mother's interest and then took it a little bit farther and as my sister Libby said, the photograph became art and so, uh—so it went beyond document to statement and feeling and um—
MK: What camera—sort of camera did she use Mary?
KE: Esther, you mean—my—
EM: Esther. It would be Bill's mother, Esther.
CK: Bill's mother, Esther.
KE: Is that what you mean?
MK: Yes. I guess so.
KE: I'm not great on the technical stuff but I think it was one of the Kodak's early good cameras, not a Brownie but—
EM: Yeah because she was—it was Kodachrome.
KE: Wasn't it slides?
MA: Kodachrome made a big difference in her life when it came. That was in the mid 30's, wasn't it that Kodachrome?
KE: Right she—
CK: Kodachrome? I don't even exactly know what that is. What is it?
EM: There is a song—is it something about Kodachrome and I am not going to sing it because I can't. But, it's a kind of a film that the colors are just incredibly vibrant.
KE: Yes, the colors are vibrant and they are permanent as opposed to some of the films that were developed later like Ektachrome. When you go in—
MA: Yes, but I think the most important thing about Kodachrome is that it was a slide.
MA: It was a slide and you could put it into a slide projector. You could put it into a slide projector and it would project onto a screen perfectly. And as a matter of fact, she took her—she created a series of slides all with—taken—she would find something in her readings of Thoreau. She would go to that spot. She would find the plant. She would take a picture of it and then she would append to that picture, not—I mean she would—there would be a quotation from Thoreau that related to that picture. And starting during, or even before the war, she had a lecture that she gave where she showed the pictures and she read the appropriate—the piece from Thoreau and it was fascinating. I mean it was very popular throughout all the garden clubs and so forth in the area. I went with her once by the way when she gave it over at the military installation at Bedford. It wasn't quite that—
KE: They didn't appreciate it.
MA: It wasn't appreciated as much by the boys as these garden clubs appreciated it, but she was wonderful.
CK: Yeah. Your mother-in-law.
MK: The bottle makes noise on the microphone.
CK: You can keep it. Just don't scrunch it.
MA: Stop popping.
EM: I'm not sure, but I believe that there's a photograph of Esther's upstairs in the exhibit, the Wyatt exhibit.
CK: Your grandmother.
EM: Grandmother. Yeah, I think that there's a photograph upstairs, but not sure. I haven't been up to look but—
CK: Do you remember her?
EM: Oh, absolutely! Yeah.
MK: What are some of your memories of her?
EM: I remember going out and staying for the weekend. Mom would drive me up, across town, drop me off and I would be there with my cousin, Maurine Wilson. And it was just wonderful. We would kind of camp in and then get up in the morning and we always went for a walk, whether it was down to Fairhaven Bay or through different woods—second division at that time wasn't developed and we always a bag with a snack and something and she would be identifying plants and so forth and it—it was stepping back in time when you went out to visit her because she believed in reading and being outdoors and the good things in life. So, but I do—I remember her quite well. She died in 1985 so, I must have been in my late 20's, 30's so yeah.
CK: Maureen is e-e-n or i-n-e.
EM: I-n-e. She was named after the marines. M-a-u-r-i-n-e. Her father was in the marines.
KE: Oh, I didn't know that.
CK: Oh. Gosh.
EM: So, it's a different spelling. Yeah. Yeah. So—
MA: I'm not 100% sure about that. But—
KE: We'll research it.
MA: But, we'll research it.
CK: So, I wonder when Bill did first have access to a camera?
MA: Well, it's interesting. That's a very interesting question because the only time that I—the earliest time I remember being anywhere with him was the day we went hiking up Nobska is it or?
EM: No, it's—in Framingham.
MA: A small mountain in Framingham. I think the Boy Scouts own it, but I'm not sure about that.
EM: I think it's Nob Hill.
MA: But we—we—that particular—that was the only excursion during our childhood connection in high school. Excuse me, I should get it back too far where I remember him having a camera in hand. That was the only time I remember.
CK: And what do you remember about that?
MA: What do I remember about that?
MA: Well, I can remember climbing the hill and I can remember climbing the tower and I can remember that he was there and there was one other couple. I think it was Jimmy Beardsley but I am not sure. I have lots of memories of our childhood—of our relationship through high school but, I don't think that they're relevant to this—I don't think they're—
KE: There are a zillion snapshots from that era that either he took or his mother—so fabulous photos of all the—all of you having a great time and around the farmhouse. So, it's—the multitude of photographs from both sides of the family is overwhelming—overwhelming and when you give yourself to them, there's a full picture of life on the farm in the case of the Andersen photos and in the case of my mother's family, her mother grew up in Japan. They too took an enormous number of photographs and it really presents a full picture of the life that they led which, by comparison to life in Concord, was quite exotic. So, it's just a history of photography coming from both angles.
EM: We were talking about Dad and being up on top of Andersen's Market and as Pooky said, he did move down to Walden Street where he opened Andersen Photo, a store. The other one wasn't really a store though, was it? It was more of a studio. And um—
CK: As in?
MA: There was a studio and there was a major difference. You're right.
EM: Well, there was a studio in the store.
MA: Yes, he had the—the back part of the store was his studio and the front was a store—
MA: where he sold cameras and film and did—and sent things—sent people's rolls of film out to be processed.
CK: In the new location, you are talking about?
MA: Yes. It was a complete photography store.
EM: And the wonderful thing from my father was that Dad and Mom and the family lived around the corner on Hubbard Street so Dad could walk to work and then walk home, have lunch, take a nap in the backyard and then come back and work. So, he didn't need to drive to work. You know it was a perfect location and—but the store was consuming. It—we—Dad worked six days a week and come holiday time—
MA: Christmas was cruel. It was cruel. He had the—he was struggling right up until the time we had Christmas dinner on—I mean he was struggling at—
MA: It was partly because he—everything he did, was done by hand. He was a very specific kind of craftsperson. He wanted things his way and he did not send things out to be done.
CK: Or have help either—in the developing?
EM: No, he did the dark room work himself and that was consuming and he was, as she said, a perfectionist, a craftsman so—but there was a retail division which is quite demanding in and of itself and then, full service—anything photo related and he never knew how to say no, so if you asked—if somebody would come in and ask him to do something, he would say yes and then, figure it out.
CK: So, he was also in the front retail part as well as the studio without any help?
KE: Well, he ultimately got wonderful help up front and that began to take more and more care of itself so that he could do—take photographs and do the printing so—and at some point, he probably would have a staff of about three or four extra people when it got rolling.
CK: But not to—not to make the pictures?
KE: No. I—later when I took over the business or I came to help him run the business, I did hire people to work in the darkroom and that was probably hard for him, but on the other hand, it was probably a great relief then he didn't have to be—uh tied to the store.
EM: He was sick. Dad had cancer so, he really was relying on Kristen and—but also, we sort of forgot—Billy, our brother—our second brother, Billy worked for quite a while with Dad through the years, right?
CK: Making pictures, snapping?
EM: Everything. He was—he was—
KE: He really popularized—
EM: He really opened up Andersen Photo conceptually and made it a really popular place to go and Billy, himself—or Billy was an artist/photographer so he was out photographing all sorts of things. So, he was a—continues to be—but, as a motivator for the store, he was very energetic, electric and um, charismatic so, I think he really brought it to a new level.
CK: What do you think?
MA: What do I think? (Laughs) I think that she's been very, very kind to her brother. Her brother is really—when it comes to being an artist, it's almost—
MK: Pause it, please.
KE: So, just in thinking about Andersen Photo, the shop in the center of town, and having—what my father had done as a personality and then having that even amplified more with my brother, in a very different era because at that time, now we're in the ‘70's—it became—the shop became really a center. People came to the shop with the great moments of life—births, graduations, birthday parties, weddings and so forth. And—
EM: And also talking about that, Dad not only took photographs of children and dogs and landscape, he did weddings. He was a wedding photographer also. So, he knew a lot of people in Concord and those people would come into the store and there would be other people out front, but they'd want Bill to come. They'd go, ‘I want to see Bill Andersen, please. I really want to see Bill Andersen, no one else', you know. So, he had a following, right? Isn't that—
MA: Yes. Yes. He had a following.
EM: Had a following.
MA: He was wonderful at weddings, I was told once by somebody who had him at their wedding because Bill was absolutely, very, very quiet in many, many different ways and he knew how to move around a room without creating any kind of a fuss so, people would get their pictures taken without being aware of the fact that they were being photographed and his—and so that always, his wedding pictures were much—and he'd spend time at every wedding singling out the people who were important to the family. He could—he had a way of—he had an instinct about who mattered and who didn't matter so much so that his—the pictures he took at weddings were much more—were full of meaning to the family and it was just out of his instinct, wouldn't you say? Yes.
CK: So, people weren't aware that they were being photographed?
MA: No. Yes, a lot of those times, they had no idea. He would get people talking to one another and—or else looking at something that was going on. I mean he—everybody was—nobody was posed in his pictures in a sense—or very few people were posed.
CK: It sounds like he really captured a sense of people.
MA: Yes, he had an instinct about—about how to take pictures. I can't really—
KE: Another fun part of his career was taking photographs of the boys at Fenn School and there was the annual picture day and they would line up, probably two hundred kids and right in the front of the school, row upon row and right in the middle would be the founder of the school, Roger Fenn. And so, all of those were in his store of negatives, but the fun thing is that he, himself, my father went to Fenn and there is a great picture as an eight-year-old with a grumpy face sitting right next to young Roger Fenn. So, there's wonderful history in those.
MA: Yeah. Yeah.
KE: And, let's see—he did lots of ribbon cutting throughout the town—new buildings that opened up and so as I said, his work became a chronicle, a document of this town and the pictures that were very current when he took them, you look at them now and it just—it is a 1960's diorama and—
CK: Explain that.
EM: I was just going to say, he also was hired by the police department to photograph car accidents so, you have—well, Dad's archives has a photograph of a street sweeper and Volkswagen in an accident. I mean no one was hurt but, it's just this wonderful photograph. You look at it and you just think—trying to imagine how it happened.
KE: Right. Well—what's the municipal truck with the—
EM: That's a street sweeper. Yeah. The cleaner.
KE: Oh, okay. It's a cleaner. Okay. I thought it was a flattener. But yeah, so there's all sorts of things in that line. And he had a wonderful cadence to his walk and as Libby said, in the morning he walked down and took a left onto Walden Street and went to work and at the end of the day, he walked down Walden Street and took a right down Hubbard to home and that march he made pretty much right up until his last few days and it was—it was very tough because he was very sick and he fought cancer for almost a decade, but he—
EM: But, he wanted to stay at the store.
KE: He didn't want to give up going to work even though he was so sick and that's what—that was his life, you know—the family and the store and taking pictures and people. And Concord—Concord was his home. He loved it. He loved being downtown and seeing people and being part of it. And I think that they all loved him. So, what do you think?
MA: (Laughs) Well, what's not to love?
EM: The question is how was it to love someone who was so busy being loved by everyone?
MA: No. It was—I was very a fortunate woman. He was wonderful. He really was.
EM: And we miss him.
MA: And we miss him, yes.
CK: Sounds like he was gone so much having to work.
MA: Well, that's the truth of the matter. I mean Christmas was an ordeal for him—an absolute ordeal because he would—people would come in and to have their children's picture taken with the idea that Grammy and Grandpa would love to have pictures of the children for Christmas and he used to work—he used to work ‘til midnight the week or so before Christmas and even on Christmas Eve.
EM: He'd come home for dinner and then go back. But even though he worked a lot, he was just around the corner and growing up, I could walk down to Dad's store and never have to cross the street and pop in and he'd always have time to say hello and pay attention. So, he was there. It just—he was working but, different than him driving into Boston or somewhere far away. He was just around the corner. Yeah.
MK: You know as you all wax on; I can picture a large photography book of Concord-based on these photographs. I can see it as clearly in my mind as if it was on this table and I'm wondering, are you—is the family taking any steps in that direction?
KE: Well, yes always steps in that direction. Since I have the bulk of his work and always with the hope of making a production as you mentioned and I just seem to constantly get sidetracked by my own work but there is never, ever a time that I go into his work, that I am not thrilled. It just goes right to the—right to the heart. Both because of the emotional connection to him and to the town, but because photographically, aesthetically, they're so interesting. So, just as it has for the past few decades, it's coming.
MK: If I may, I could picture a book with this interview as the commentary with pictures arranged all through. So you have text and pictures, but this is such a beautiful description of an artist and his work.
KE: Well, thank you. There's no shortage of ideas and no shortage of images and no shortages of sentiment.
CK: You talked about Christmas as a time when he was busy and you talked about yourself as a housewife and I think of that as a busy time for the housewife.
MA: Well, for the last um, what fifteen or twenty years, of our marriage, I was full-time—I was working full time, only because that was the only way we could keep going. I had—am I saying this right?
KE: Yes, he was sick and—
MA: Um, so I was very fortunate because I managed to get a pretty good job and—
EM: Where? Where was your job?
MA: At Brandeis University.
CK: So you got a good job at Brandeis to—
MA: Yeah, I had been going to—I had been working part-time and going to Brandeis part-time and finally, somebody told me that there was a pretty good job coming up and why didn't I interview for it? And there was a new Executive Vice President coming, so I interviewed for that job, thinking this is just an interview and I got the job, which was absolutely amazing. I mean just an amazing job. He had come into the university at a time when it needed to be stirred up a little bit. It had gotten into the usual kind of euphoria that—not euphoria, but you know just sort—day to day goings on and he stoked up the fires. He was a fascinating man and—
MA: Arthur Gillis.
KE: And then you had the—
CK: And your job then?
MA: He gave me—I was his Executive Secretary so, there was nothing that went on in the university that didn't crisscross my desk. It was really—it was all of a sudden, wow!
EM: But, you also in this full-time job taking classes and Dad encouraged Mom to keep going while he was sick and so I think it was a year after Dad died, you graduated—
MA: I graduated. I started—well, I had started out taking part-time courses at Brandeis because we were married so young that we were almost married—I was almost married right out of high school so, I had—I really never got—
EM: But tell her—what did you graduate? Do you remember?
MA: Yes, I do remember. I graduated as a senior.
EM: Yeah. That was good. Wasn't quite what I meant, Mom.
CK: You still have the upper hand, don't you Mary?
KE: You were Class Marshall—
EM: She was Class Marshall.
MA: I was the Class Marshall but, I—
EM: And Magna—
MA: Magna cum laude.
CK: While your husband was sick, while you were Executive Secretary to the Vice President of Brandeis, while you were a "housewife" running a home, commuting—
MA: Well, I had a leg up on everybody else. None of those kids know what they've been given by college. It really is interesting because I think it's a gift. I think—I think—I don't think—I suppose all of my children appreciated the fact that they went to college and—but, well I—to be perfectly honest, one time I got into an argument with my oldest child and his best friend. And—
KE: When you were—when they were in high school?
Well, I was—they were just in high school but, they had been in a class called Critical Thinking. Is that what it was? (laughs) So, they got me cornered one day on some issue. I have no idea what it was but, they made so mad. I stood them up against the wall, and I said, ‘One of these days after you guys are educated, I am going back to college and then, let's have this discussion!'
EM: And have you?
MA: I think that all of us have forgotten what the issue was but—
MA: Anyways, it has been fun.
CK: We should do a full interview—at least one with you, about you and,—
MA: About me? I don't see why that's necessary.
CK: Well, that just says a lot about you right there. But winding up with Andersen Photography, and with Bill and what he chronicled, how has Concord changed since the—since the first imagery that he documented? What's—
MA: Well, Concord is much, much, much bigger than it—I mean remember Concord when I was in high school. We would sometimes skim out at lunch and come downtown and get an ice cream cone and there may be four or five people, four or five cars parked—parked, what is it called?
MA: No, not diagonal. Before—
MA: Parallel parking.
EM: No. No. No.
EM: Perpendicular. This way. What's that?
KE: Just out.
MA: No. Parallel parking. There would just be a few cars downtown and we'd come down and get an ice cream cone at Richardson's because there was a cute guy working there and—
KE: But, never mind.
MA: But never mind.
MA: No. I have to say I absolutely loved the experience of high school. I absolutely loved it. It was just wonderful. Field hockey and the only thing I didn't like was the fact that there wasn't any girl's baseball. That really upset me. I played tennis. She plays tennis. You do too, don't you? No. She plays golf.
CK: She, being Kristen.
KE: But that was your introduction was coming to Concord for high school, and that—it seemed—
MA: It was wonderful.
CK: Can you say that again?
EM: Well, you had asked, how did she feel Concord had changed and her first introduction was in high school and I think—
KE: I mean just the numbers itself, necessitate or—what's the word? They—change will happen just because of the numbers and I'm sure it's a wonderful community now and there are pockets of sub-communities but, I just think, in general, the whole culture was just folksier, quieter, calmer—
CK: Folksier, Kristen?
KE: Well, just that when you're not rushing around, you have a chance to just be folks.
MA: Oh, let me tell you something. One of the things that I—one of the first things that I saw when I used to come down—in coming downtown was this old, old car that was just barely a car. It was just a few pieces of black steel put together with a little hood and a person sitting there with one little stick. It was—how old would you have—
KE: Well, who is it?
MA: It was Bill's Aunt Mary and she—but she lived at the Colonial Inn, which at that time called God's Waiting Room because everything—there were no old folks homes, so when it was time to retire out of mainstream living, you went to the Colonial Inn, at least you did if you had enough money, I guess. Anyway, his Aunt Mary, who was a notorious spinster—or not a notorious spinster—a spinster of renown or something in the town—had a car that drove this way and—
CK: With the gears down at her waist. Is that what you're describing?
KE: Yeah, like a Model T or something.
CK: And that was Mary Andersen?
MA: Mary Wheeler.
CK: Mary Wheeler. Okay.
MA: Mary Wheeler, which was his mother's family and the Wheeler have been here—I think there was a Wheeler in the first group of men which was about 13 or 14 who came.
EM: We're the thirteenth generation. This is Libby. We're the thirteenth generation of the Wheelers in Concord.
CK: So, it's deep.
EM: It's deep. Yeah, a lot of roots so—but you're right, interviewing my mother alone, the stories that she has of Concord.
MA: No. No. No. I don't tell those stories.
CK: And we won't be filtering her.
MA: No, it's a great town. I can't tell you how fortunate I felt to have been able to bring my children up in Concord. It's a unique, wonderful experience. Just for every different kind of reason, besides being just a beautiful town.
MK: Can you talk more about the changes over the decades as you begin to raise a family? What things began?
MA: Well, I—I'm pretty much a realist about the change. I mean I'm sorry to see things become more and more citified if that's the right word to use. I mean—I just—when I moved to Lincoln—when my family moved to Lincoln, there were only 1500 people there at the time and I had something like 19 students in my classroom. It was like just a—it was like going to a private school and I had come from a 49 student classroom at PS32 in Flushing, New York. It was just—it was like—it was just like somebody walked into a room and turned on a light. It was just marvelous and that was just euphoric for me and then some of the things that I could do well when I was young came out. First of all, I could sing so—and Miss King, who was the mathematics teacher gave it a—did a little—what do they call them? Opera—comic opera or—
MA: Operetta—like pinafore and things of that sort. So, I always got a singing role and I—and then she also—although my father used to make me shut up every Sunday afternoon so he could listen to the Philharmonic on the radio, Miss King used to take a bunch of us into Pops during the Pops—or the Pops season in the late Spring. She took us all every Friday afternoon into Pops which was wonderful. I mean it was just wonderful. This business of seeing an orchestra working when you have only just heard them over the radio. It was just—it's marvelous. And I love to do it still.
CK: This is Boston, we are talking about? Going into Boston?
MA: Yes. Boston Pops Orchestra. Then when I married my second husband after Bill died, I found out to my absolute delight that he had tickets every Thursday—or not every Thursday, but most Thursdays to watch the Boston Symphony Orchestra, up in the first balcony. Like I'd just—watch everybody in the orchestra doing their thing. It was—it was heavenly. I've been very fortunate. I really have and I—I'm grateful for it.
CK: You wear it well.
MA: Oh, do I? (Laughter)
CK: Yes, you do.
MA: Thank you.
MK: Did you find out about the tickets before you married him or—
MA: That's an excellent question.
MK: That wasn't quite clear but—
CK: Libby, any final thoughts from you?
EM: No. I mean I grew up in Concord and I left it for about 25 years and I came about 11 years and it—it isn't the Concord of our youth, but it's still beautiful. The—when I was growing up downtown, you could get anything and everything you needed in downtown Concord and now you can get a lot of nice clothes and gifts, but it's still got a good feeling and it's—when I came back, I feel like I came back home because that's what Concord is. It's home and it's—and it's where I grew up and I love it and I still love Concord center and I, ironically, if that's the right word, ended up living back on Hubbard Street so I can still walk downtown or walk to the library and I—I actually take classes where my mother met my father at the old high school, which was the Emerson High School around the corner. It's an art center now. So, a lot of good feelings about Concord.
CK: Is it different from other places?
EM: Yes. I think it is. It's a special town. People—I run into people who I knew in my youth and you feel like you just saw them last year or you know, there's not 40 years. There's just a nice connection. Home.
CK: Conclusions from you?
KE: Well, I'll just—as a concluding story, (laughs) wrapping all the things that we were talking about and that you were just asking about how things have changed and I—I think Concord and Lincoln were very much a rural place and that's where a lot of our Wheeler/Anderson roots come from, but the—when my parents met in high school, sophomore year, my mother lived in Lincoln in the woods and my father lived in Concord and as we've talked about, he was very taken with nature—so much that he really felt like a native American. So he—I believe—(laughs) this is the story, we were told. He tromped through the woods and shot an arrow into her front door with a love note on it so their—she'll correct it; she'll correct it—but their—
EM: The listeners can't see her mouth open and close here.
KE: No, but therein began a relationship that led to all that we've talked about and so.
MA: And the truth of the matter is, at that time we were having a major fight and he was going with somebody else and he just—he just sent the arrow into the door, with all kinds of not particularly nice remarks.
KE: Okay. Wait. Scratch that.
MA: And my mother—she heard the twang when it hit the door and you know, afterward, Bill did have some remorse. He thought, ‘Oh, my God. Somebody could have opened that door and we would—but anyway, she pulled the—and she gave me the note, then she said, ‘Let me read it.' She read it and she said, ‘He still loves you.'
CK: She saw through him.
EM: Yeah, she saw through him.
MA: Oh, she was wonderful. She was, by the way, part Chinese and she grew—and she was born and grew up in Japan and—
MA: No. Yes. Nagasaki. Yes, she did. She grew up in Nagasaki. Her father was an Englishman and a sailor who I think sailed the Pacific Ocean in his own little ship and the Mitsubishi boat company took a shine to him and when they put a new boat yard into Nagasaki, they asked him if he would go down there and run the boat yard. So those were all the—and that's where he met his wife who was part Chinese and part English and they had all these little children. (Laughs)
CK: Well, they made a beautiful one in you.
MA: No, I wasn't one of those. My mother was one of those.
CK: Your mother was one. You are a descendant. Well, let's please think about spending more time recording you and thank you three for starting this process and sharing all this.
KE: Our pleasure.
EM: Yeah, absolutely.
MA: Where is this going?
CK: I will stop it now.