Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

 

Family treasures come to us in all different ways. In this instance, we had been hoping to find a picture of Ray Gibbons from his military years for at least the past 10 years. Recently when going through photographs left to us by my mother-in-law, I found an old photo album, the kind with the fragile black pages. She never mentioned it or pointed out the album in any way. Within were keepsakes of a long gone era.

In 1952, at the age of 20, Ray Gibbons joined the Air Force. He was away from his beloved Marie, and they exchanged photographs and letters. Marie confided to me once that many of the letters Ray wrote her are gone. They were too personal to share and so she destroyed them. I selfishly wanted to have a lens into their early life together, as an historian, but I also understand as a woman with children and family, that some feelings are better savored privately. Of the few letters remaining, they are sentimental and show the deep love they shared.

These are just a small selection of photographs from this old album that Ray kept while in the Air Force. He was in various locations around America and also deployed to French Morocco in Africa in 1953. Based on his photographs, he was curious, observant, and often smiling. Most of the people in his photographs are Air Force buddies, all young, all finding their way I assume. Very few are identified, regrettably. Some photographs will have to undergo restoration due to damage from the old paper. I’m hopeful that one of them may be a photo of Ray and his father Henry, as I have no other photos of Henry and we know very little about him. I presume that other branches of the family have photos of him, but time and distance has estranged the family members and photo sharing.

I hope you find these photographs interesting. I did a little research about French Morocco, which you can find at the end of this post.

Moroccan girl, 1953

Church, French Morocco, 1953

Building on base, 1953

Unidentified Moroccan men, 1953

Unidentified Moroccan men, 1953

Unidentified Moroccan men, 1953

Although Morocco has an ancient history of independent rule, Morocco existed as a French protectorate from 1912 to 1955, when it reestablished itself as an independent country. It was originally a sultanate that was desired by various European governments due to its valuable Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. After turmoil in the sultanate at the turn of the century and a threat by Germany, the French protectorate was established with the support of Britain and Spain, both countries with financial and other interests in Africa. Other countries were not necessarily pleased with the French influence, and there were also several rebellions against French rule over the ensuing 40 years.

Morocco is considered to be an exotic location due to its geographical location as well as historical influences of Mediterranean culture. The well known cities of Marakesh, Tangier, and Casablanca are all Moroccan cities with long histories and their own cachet. Marakesh has been mentioned numerous times in relation to the Indiana Jones movies, and of course Casablanca was the location of the classic namesake 1942 film. More recently, scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed in Morocco. The cuisine is considered to be among the most varied due to the availability of spices, meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and the flavorful combinations that have come about due to the many international communities within the country. Varying populations have created an exciting local culture that combines West African, Berber, Arab and European traditions. Traditional clothing may be ornately embroidered and colorful, conjuring images of Bedouin tribes and Arabian nights. It is currently an Islamic nation with the attendant rules of Islamic law, which I won’t cover here.

Further Reading About Morocco

French Protectorate via University of Central Arkansas

French Colony to Sovereign State via Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Morocco via Encyclopedia Britannica

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