Friday, September 23, 2016

The Spumoni Family's Rural Idyll

1955 was the year E. L. Moore first appeared in print: 4 articles, all published in Railroad Model Craftsman. The scanned original photo shown above appeared in Spumoni Country Estate in the July issue. The article focused on the construction of the well, but like other E. L. Moore articles of that era, I suspect its actual purpose was to showcase his photos, which in this case were pictures of the Spumoni farm.

The Spumonis, Ma, Pa, Pistachio Jr, and Uncle Charley, appeared regularly in Mr. Moore's articles. Strictly speaking they were just HO-scale figures from Weston, but he transformed them into personalities with stories and photos over the course of a number of articles. July '55 was their world debut with a photo tour of their backwoods farm. 
Over the course of his career, E. L. Moore built a wide variety of models, but I think his early rural ones, made primarily from balsa and shaped with a wood burning tool, are ones that held a special significance for him. I think they are some sort of amalgamation of his memories of his boyhood growing up on a farm in Michigan in the early 20th century and of the times he spent tramping though The Great Smoky Mountains as a younger man. There's a certain love and affection in his rural models, but it's not a cloying sentimentality. The buildings are quite representative of hard scrabble rural life in the Smokies and aren't romanticized, even though the people are mostly shown at ease. Well, the men are usually seen loafing and Ma is doing work :-)
Now that I'm speculating, if you've been reading this series for awhile you'll know that I think E. L. Moore's approach to making model buildings came out of the world of folk art miniature building construction. His rural models are the closest to that approach. They're personal (based on his memories and interests), use simple materials and methods (balsa and a wood burning pen) and don't have a lot to do with classic model railroading subjects. I suspect he included trains because he liked them and they were part of the world he was recreating, not because he wanted to simulate railroad operations in miniature. Because of his apparent lack of interest in modelling railroads as the businesses they are, it was often noted that he wasn't a model railroader. That's a narrow definition of the hobby and I disagree with that assessment. But that's just me :-)
I don't think Mr. Moore had a permanent Spumoni farm diorama or layout section. I think he would pose his collection of rural models and figures in various scenes and stage photo shoots. And most included an outhouse.
This is a scan of a portrait he shot of the outhouse in the previous picture. I didn't slice this image from a bigger photo, it was simply a photo of the outhouse itself. 
I don't recall seeing this down-on-its-luck house before, but it's well done and highly evocative. The outhouse might be tough to get to, especially after dark. You have to climb up a hill via a very steep set of stairs. At least you'll have some privacy :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment