Tuesday, January 20, 2015


My paternal grandfather who came to the United States as a child as a Niehaves/Neuhaus/Newhouse until taken in by the Eilers who probably knew his family in Germany or the Netherlands:  Bernhardt ("Barney") Eilers with two of his 10 (?) sons.  For their very large family, hunting was a big source of food up in Michigan -- Click on the photo if you want to look at those German faces.  Later Barney had a black eyepatch that, with his gruff-speaking, tough manner, made him scary as a pirate. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


My urban-raised (Hollywood) friend Don Mark can speak movie, and so, to convey my adolescence in a small Midwestern town, I could refer him to the movie Picnic, which has the look of Nappanee, Indiana, in the 1950s, down to the rusty old oil drum at the end of the back yard where you burned trash, and including portraits of characters similar to the people who lived at that time in that environment.
The love affair between Hal (William Holden) and Madge (Kim Novak) resembles the convergence of my older brother Ed/“Buster,” the town’s handsome athletic hero, and Nanette, the beautiful Homecoming Queen, surely the most watched and envied couple in town.  My part is reflected in the character Millie (Susan Strasberg), the awkward bookworm who says – envious of her sister’s popularity, “Madge is the pretty one.” 
Such envious comparison, besides the usual sibling rivalry, was magnified by how little we knew of each other’s separate endangerment in that distant past, while for years now Buster and I have come to the sweet understanding of how much we had in common when we felt so separate as we survived chaotic early lives.  In spite of my resenting my rather bullying older brother’s status as a local idol, I took this photo of him when he was in high school.  I don’t know how conscious I was as I took so many of the surviving family photos with my wonderful little Kodak

“Panda” camera.  Now I find all the old pictures to have a wealth of meaning in the smallest details.  I love the self-conscious curl on my older brother’s forehead.  The dog, Pal, he acquired as a puppy, a comfort when Ed was far from “home,” still in grade school but living with and working for a rather criminal person, in exile from the family (while I was just returning from a year in exile with a different family).  Does Ed/Buster have a rather “you better love me or else” hold on his old pet?  Pal, later, became the comforting companion for one family member after the other, truly well named, as Pal.  I cannot see the chair Ed is sitting in without remembering a certain comfortable roughness to the texture of the fabric against my face where, reading late and alone, I often feel asleep with my face against the arm of the chair.  Something about the somewhat moderne design of the 1950s drapes keeps some hold on my mind, still obsessed with leaves and images of leaves….But I won’t continue this photographic detective work.  Suffice it to say – with amusement and love for my brother, “He was the pretty one!”  And I love him.

About Edward Lloyd Eilers, by James McColley Eilers
13 January 2014