18 Walstan Avenue – ‘The haven of us all’

The house on Walstan Avenue, a place of refuge in the postwar world.

The house on Walstan Avenue, a place of refuge in the postwar world.

In 1947, families in America as everywhere else were still reeling from the unprecedented violence and destruction resulting from the entire developed world being at war, and trying to understand what the conflict’s end would mean in their own lives. Here in a photo sent to me by two different cousins on two opposite coasts is the lion’s share of the James Ezra Fleagle family, gathered around the table with visiting relatives. Back row, from left: Willard Fleagle, Jennie V. (Coffin) Fleagle, Wallace Hickey, Benjamin J. Fleagle, Albert Hickey, Lewis “Freddie” Linker. Middle row, from left: James E. Fleagle, Sally Linker (Fred’s mother), Mamie Hickey, Miriam (Fleagle) Linker holding Robin R. Linker, Vivian (Fleagle) Wise holding Nancy Wise. Front row, from left: Rebecca Linker, James Linker.

I am almost inexpressibly moved by this photo, not only because of the image itself, which depicts the familial calm and obdurate normalcy — deviled eggs! — of a Rockwellian American dining room, but also because of the letter that my Aunt Miriam wrote to my cousin Nancy Stake-Reynolds explaining who is in the photo, and who is not, and why. But I will let Miriam’s words do the honors here:

“Cousins (mother’s) Albert Hickey and wife Mamie of Genoa, Nebr. visited us in 1947 (Robin was an infant). Wally Hickey later became a minister. We loved Mamie and Albert, also Wally and Richard [Wally’s brother, not in this picture]

“I know it was 1947 because Robin was just months old — born in April 1947. Wesley was born the following September. The picture was probably taken by Dick. This was the time when the boys were coming home from World War II and housing was scarce. We had rented a house in Gamber, Md. and it was sold, sending us into the housing shortage. We stayed with Mom and Dad, Ben was already home from war, Billy still in high school and Dick just returned. Viv had left Ray Wise, you and your little sister, Linda Carol [not in this picture] & Viv had the bedroom over the kitchen and Wesley was born the following September.

“By Christmas of 1947 I went home (we had moved to Disney’s farm) and only Mom & Dad were there. Ben had gotten sick and was in the hospital a long time — Dick had gone West in disillusion to be with Jim & work at Boeing, Viv had gone back to live with Ray, and Bill had joined the Army. But at the time the picture was taken, 18 Walstan Ave. was the haven of us all.”

Click here for the higher-resolution version of this image, suitable for printing. -mdf

Image archive ID:

About the physical photograph:
Written on back: [uncertain]
From the collection of Miriam Linker (among others).


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