Family adventures worldwide with the Speer family photos

Dr Homer Speer Sr onboard a world cruise with fellow travellers suited up in costumes
Dr Homer Speer Sr onboard a world cruise with fellow travellers suited up in costumes for a shipboard party.

Travel document Dr. Homer A Speer Sr. Cancelled Argentinean Travel Visa

 I’ve scanned hundreds of Homer A Speer Jr’s  collection of vintage photos and postcards, learning the stories behind most of the the family history treasure Homer’s collected. I’ve learned a lot of local history along the way while preserving important mementos and photos.

While Homer and I scanned we talked about the photos and share memories.  I can imagine I am traveling this junket too, set in the early 20th century.

Dr Speer lived a colorful life and left a deep lasting visual legacy for his son.

World Travel Shipboard Costume Party early 20th century
Shipboard party Dr. Homer A Speer Sr World Travel

I’ve learned about the San Paulo serpentaria. I wouldn’t have imagined I would be researching serums, serpentaria and geography when I started my vintage trek through a treasury of family photos. It all started innocently enough….

“What do you suppose those hives are he is looking at’ says Homer, looking at a photo of his father circa 1924. It is sunny hot on this day almost 90 years ago Homer’s dad is wearing a full suit, hat and tie in the heat of the day.  This vintage photo shows Homer Alexander Speer Sr leaning against a wall, peering into the moat behind the wall.

I am sorting through the photos we’ve scanned to the antique photos folder “Wasn’t there a picture earlier of a snake we thought was taken in Peru? I think the guy holding the snake was standing in front of one of those too”. We look through Homer’s computer to find the particular group of photos I am talking about.

From Homer’s Picasa album, we find the picture I’d scanned a few weeks before. Sure enough, the guy holding the snake IS standing in front of one of those hives. This photo has 1924, San Paulo, written on the back. Here is where the curious get hooked.

” Let’s google ‘San Paulo Brazil snakes’ Homer!” Up pops the Institutio Batalan, built by Brazilian physician Vital Brazil in 1901.  Our curiosity is as strong as Dr. Speer’s as Homer flies us over the same spot almost a hundred year’s later by satellite and mapping.

President Teddy Roosevelt Butanan Museum, San Paulo Brazil 1912

We can’t see the serpentaria in the photos we pull up on google earth. The Google car didn’t drive into the compound of Institutio Batalan when it was mapping San Paulo this century, but in 1914 Teddy Roosevelt did.

Lab Session with Cadaver Dr Homer A Speer Sr c. 1905

Turns out, anti-venom and a lot of other research has been conducted in San Paulo for over a century, making it a world renowned center for sera and other pharmaceutical development.  This is why Teddy Roosevelt was here in 1914, and  Dr. Speer arrived a decade later. The elder Homer was educating himself about  serums development and the medical advances that would come around the globe from research being done here in Brazil.

Looking through Homer’s vintage photo we’ve both learned something new about Brazil, snakes and those ‘hives’. Both Homer and I are curious; we learn that each time we get together to compile his vintage photos and put the pieces together for his own personal history project.

Homer A Speer Jr Beaverton OR Skype Call
Homer A Speer Jr enjoys exploring technology during Skype call

Homer and met when he was looking for some tutoring on his computer. He’s in his mid-eighties and as curious as I am, Homer has a lifetime of stories to share. He has a treasure of family photos and friends he’s connected with by having a tutor who can help him with learning more about how his computer will connect him with many things.

You know how sometimes life has a way of working in funny little vignettes. When you are doing something you really love with another person who has a passion for sharing their stories and inviting you on their journey? I’ve gotten to walk into the past with Homer and learn some wonderful things.  In the case of my dear friend Homer, the past is lovingly illustrated by stories and those vintage photos. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to help preserve and share his past. And watch as he confidently shows me something he’s now learned to do on his own on his computer.

Homer, Walter, Dr Speer and Bobby enjoy the beach at Seaside Oregon

This past year, I’ve ridden bikes with Homer and his brothers in Seaside Oregon. Thanks to those vintage photos I’ve built sand castles on the coast as the Dr. Speer the elder shades the beach  in his suit coat, tie and ever present hat.

I’ve traveled to Alaska circa 1947 when Homer was stationed there during his time in the Air Force. I’ve attended Homer and Nancy’s wedding the year I was born, lifting a glass to the happy couple at Nancy’s parent’s home over in West Slope.

Homer Speer and Nancy Lee Finn Wedding 1957

I’ve also waded in Odell Lake beside the family and watch the string of fish unfurl out of the boat to be proudly displayed. I’ve seen the home in Beaverton, when the land was raw. Furry sheep, the ‘girls’, grazed the pasture tucked into the property before the house was built.

This past summer I looked photos from the 1960’s of dam’s being built by the Guy Atkinson Company. Through conversation I’d sat beside Homer as he carefully enters numbers in the general ledger for the company those years ago. As Homer’s career developed ‘we’ traveled to Guernsey in the UK where he scouted for Tektronix and met new friends.  Among them a heretofore distant cousin who shared a family tree that included Homer’s own family. Homer is a man who seems to gather synchronicity wherever he goes. He delights in family and has drawn Nancy and I over closer to one another as we share stories and lessons over dinner.

In the present day I’ve excitedly passed on the story of treasure unearthed in a potato field and teased Homer that he’d missed his change to find the horde when he was in Guernsey. He must have been working too hard that year.

Roman Age Treasure found on Jersey Britain

I have found a treasure myself. How?  Every day I am whetting my curiosity whistle beside wonderful folks who are keepers of their family’s personal history. Like being part of a magical family legacy.  Wonderful stuff, being part of the family!

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Pleased to announce this blog about my adventures with the Speer family photos was featured in the NixPlay blog, “Recounting One Family’s Past Through Pictures.” Their blog about ‘our project’ recognizes the importance of preserving these marvelous stories! Thanks NixPlay!~ zm

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