Images from the Backcountry Eighty Years Ago
By Karlene Bayok Edwards
Photos by Joe Bayok
In 1936, my father, Joe Bayok, used part of his first Forest Service paycheck to buy what he called a “good” camera, a German-made Nagel Librette with a foldaway lens. When he wasn’t stringing telephone wire between backcountry lookouts or maintaining trail, he shot mountain scenes, pioneer cabins, and people at work. He took enough photos to fill an album, limited only by how much he could afford to spend on film.
When we were growing up, he often brought out the album to share stories with us. Among our favorite photos was one he took of himself at Cold Meadows Guard Station to send to Mother, then nineteen-year-old Marcella Whitney, enclosed in a letter he wrote to her in 1936. In the lower right corner of the photo you can see the string he tied to the camera to take what today we would call a selfie. He told us he met Mother at a Whitney family party and liked to watch her jitterbugging with her older brother, Gerald. She saved the letters he wrote, and many of them correspond to the photos in his album, so even now, eighty years later, they help identify dates, places, and people.