Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A little on the tall side






















There has been an interesting discussion underneath my post on Robert Ford. Today Spanish Civil War researcher Mark Derby sent me this photo, which I think confirms my hypothesis that Ford was a little on the tall side. The photo was taken sometime in the 1950s, the decade when Ford and his wife Augusta emigrated to New Zealand to escape McCarthyism.

Mark also sent me a document made up of cut and pasted bits of interviews with an old friend of the Fords. Here are some excerpts:

Bob and Augusta came to NZ in early 1950s. Augusta taught English at Takapuna Grammar, Bob was a lathe operator for some firm that made brass plumbing fittings.

I believe one incident that precipitated their comming to New Zealand was the killing of a pet cat, but I think McCarthyism had a lot to do with it...

I would say they were very left wing. I doubt they were communists but given the political climate in USA at the time some people may have thought they were. I do not think they were politically active in the sense of belonging to or working for any political organisation. They were very interested in politics and civil rights in particular and their friends would have no doubt where their sympathies lay. Like my father enlisting in 1939 I believe Bob's involvment in the International Brigade would have been a deep seated abhorance to fascism.

Bob had told us stories of his time as an Military Policeman in World War Two I do not think these went down that well with my father who did not have a great admiration for the American army or their military police...because of his height he look huge in a military great coat and combined with his very deep voice he seemed to be menacing to any trouble makers and so never had any trouble.

One of the things that first drew the Fords to us was the number of books in our house. Our parents became good friends and we visited them regularly long after we left Auckland...

Bob was a nephew of the film director John Ford and had in a few small parts in a few of his films, my mother had actually seen one of them, but I do not know what one.

Augusta spent most of her working life here teaching English at Auckland teachers training college, Bob stayed with the same firm. I asked him once how he came to be a lathe worker, he told me after the war the army gave him an aptitude test and told him that is what they recommended so that is what he did. It must have been agony for him, he was very tall and most of the machines here English and built for a population the was much shorter than him.

Bob was a great talker and widely read. He was keen on his jazz too and this became all the more important to him as he became quite blind. I built him an amplifier and speakers and sorted out a deck and earphones when his old gear packed up...

One Summer I did a lot of work in their garden which had got away from them. They paid and fed me well (both of which I needed) that and helping some old friends and haveing an excuse to spend some time with them very good for my sence of well being. The only mistake they made was insisting on giving me a large tumbler of strong Spanish red wine with my lunch every time, the weeds suffered very little on those afternoons...

When we were helping them move, Bob produced a small revolver. It was from his days in the Spanish Civil War - I was gobsmacked. I may have known that he was involved but can really remember nothing of this (my brother claimed he saw a copy of Bob's pasport in the Auckland Museum in connection with the Spanish Civil war) I did not realise what he was doing and reacted too late, he went out to the back of the section and flung it into the forest of toitoi there. I was there too late to see where it landed, I spent hours looking for it with no success, I thought it should be in a museum.

7 Comments:

Blogger Richard Taylor said...

There is something tall sad and gentle looking about John Ford. Tall people can often seem vulnerable - being short as I can attest is valuable in the gain in stability to the vertical or the horizontal as one may or may not view the degree or direction of (summated) turning moments and taking into account the centre of gravity (as ascertained or derived) - if there is gravity - (contra hilarity) - but although the great Napoleon was short it is wise if one is short to be relatively thin so as to accentuate the illusion (or the vague hope and or velleity that) of at least the potential possibility that one might have been tall if one had eaten properly as a child....

But tallness is indisputable.

11:53 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Robert Ford I meant of course...

11:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very amusing Richard!

11:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert Ford = George Oppen?

11:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://writing.upenn.edu/epc/authors
/oppen/images/oppen_1_55.jpg

11:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even when Oppen was sporting that Heidegger tache, he didn't look a thing like Ford.

12:05 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

There is something sad about the man..I feel. Something deeply and humanly sad; yet paradoxically kind of "precarious" (that is the image in any case I get...It might be I am reading too much W G Sebald lately...

10:05 pm  

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