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Granton historian’s second book chronicles past in pictures

Granton historian’s second book chronicles past in pictures Granton historian’s second book chronicles past in pictures

A picture is said to be many things. It is worth a thousand words, a window into a different time, never changing, and always accurate. Capturing a moment that can never again be reproduced, pictures have a way of connecting individuals to a different time and place.

For Jay Parker, the place he hopes to connect people with is Granton, the home of his childhood. Four years ago, he took the first step of connecting individuals to his hometown with the publication of his first history book about Granton called “Granton: A Stop on the Stage Route.” With a chronological history about the founding of Granton under his belt, Parker took the next step in his presentation of Granton history this fall with the publication of his second book, composed entirely of pictures.

Called “Looking Back — A Pictorial History of Granton, WI,” the book contains 610 photographs of different people and places during the years between 1900 and 2020. Many of these photos, Parker said, are being shown to the public for the very first time, having taken years to track many of these photographs down.

“There were certain things that I looked for that I knew had to exist,” he said during a presentation about his book to the Granton Rotary on Oct. 13. “Photographers used to come into town and take pictures of the streets to use for postcards.”

A lot of the research Parker did to create his newest book stemmed from research he did when creating his first book. Establishing connections with people across the country, he said even after he completed the book, people would continue to send him photographs and other artifacts from Granton’s past. After a while, he thought those items that didn’t make it into his first book could be another story in and of themselves.

“I had an interest in historical things, I would purchase these things just for my own interest,” he said. “It got to a point where I had a lot of these artifacts, and I thought I should do something with it while it was in my possession. ‘Granton: Stop on the Stage Route’ was created from that … I did it, and I thought it would be one and done, but it wasn’t. People used to save things for me, it got to the point where I thought, maybe there’s another book here.”

After deciding on creating another book, with the focus being on old photographs of Granton, Parker had to then decide how best to format his newest book. Looking at his options, he finally decided to put as many of his photos into the book as he could, making them large and detailed enough for readers to be able to see the past in the way it was seen through the photographers’ eyes.

“I didn’t want to do the same thing twice,” he said. “I had 600 photos, and I didn’t want a publisher to decide what photos would be put in or not.”

While some of the photos were taken by Parker himself over the past 35 years or so, for him, the best photos were the ones that were the hardest to find or that explained something he couldn’t figure out about the past. A historian first, he said this project has continued to open his eyes to what Granton once had, and he is hopeful others will be able to enjoy his efforts to bring the past to life.

“I found pictures that would explain the exact locations of things I couldn’t find before,” he said. “For example, I would see advertisements all the time for these harness shops. They would say that they would be in one location and then move into the J.R. Birle’s building. I didn’t know where that was or what building they would be referring to. I find this picture that I had never seen in my 40 years of research and it answers that question.”

The book is divided up into different chapters to separate the different kinds of photos Parker published in his book. From street views to interiors of buildings and people, each photo is labeled and includes a caption written by Parker which gives information about the subject of the photo, providing more pieces to Granton’s past.

“Chapter 1 is street views,” said Parker. “If you look at the pictures, you see how quickly or how slowly things change. Sometimes what used to be on a street will be there for years, and then gone between two different pictures.”

“Looking Back” costs $40 per copy and is available to purchase at the Granton Hardware Store, Mapleworks Cafe and the Granton Village Office.