Photos of John Parker's House

Photographer's notes

John Albert Parker, Jr. was a complicated soul: part cynical curmudgeon, part encyclopedic neighborhood raconteur, part sentimental lover of all things cuddly and sweet. He was also a huge collector of books, tapes of old radio and TV shows, photographs, graphic prints — especially pinup pictures — figurines, comic books, baseball cards, teddy bears, assorted antiques and memorabilia of all kinds. So, why not photo's of John Parkers house? It was all too wonderful not to try to preserve some meager semblance of it in photos.

About a month after John's death on May 11, 2014, several hours were spent taking photographs at his splendid old Queen Anne-style mansion (built in 1897). Everything was photographed in its place using combinations of available light from the windows and the house lamps as well as the camera’s flash. Since John had filled practically every nook and cranny of the huge old house (7,650 square feet) with one visual delight after another, the cramped quarters of hallways, bathrooms, and dormers provided their own photographic challenges. Then too, there was the sheer excess of items spread around the rooms and covering the walls.

As the quality of the photos attests, the photographer was not a professional, but merely one of John Parker’s friends with a camera. His purpose was to provide an informal overview of John’s house and possessions, since producing a comprehensive photo archive would have required many, many hours more of both photography and editing. Generally, only objects in plain view were photographed (for example, furnishings and artwork on display as opposed to things stashed away in drawers or boxes). The hope was to convey something of the whimsical diversity of the objects that John had surrounded himself with, as well as to capture the quirkiness of his arrangement of things. The unlikely juxtapositions of Victorian street urchins, movie stars as well as movie monsters, tedy bears, wizened grandmothers, cartoon characters, pinup girls galore, even Jesus, only added to the wonder of it all. The photographer only hopes that seeing these photos might give the viewer some small insight into the curious and delighted mind of John Parker.


What about all the pinups?

Someone suggested that John Parker was a private person who would not like a lot of people seeing photos of the inside of his house. But this doesn't sound like the John Parker the photographer knew, the John Parker who loved to regale people with his stories and loved showing them around his house and talking about his many collectibles.

Since John decorated much of his wall space with his copious collection of pinup pictures — most of them mounted under glass and neatly framed — the photographer had to wonder if the concern someone expressed about John Parker's privacy might actually have been an uneasiness with the pinups.

The first time the photographer and his wife visited John Parker's house in 2012, John relished giving them the tour as he treated them with a feast of tidbits about his varied collectables, particularly the innumerable and ubiquitous pinups. When the viewers, who were overwhelmed by the grandeur as well as the sheer abundance of it all, mentioned an acquaintance of theirs whom they thought would also love to see his splendid old house, John instantly offered to give this acquaintance a tour, sight unseen. And he reminded them of his offer three or four times thereafter.

By the anything-goes standards of modern-day pornography, John Parker's pinup collection would surely have been judged quaint. Most of John's pinups were classic in their design and artistry. Many were highly stylized and idealistic, and often sentimental, nostalgic, or humorous — if not just plain fun to look at. Many, like the numbered photos of Bettie Page and the magazine and calendar pinups and posters for old strip clubs and movies, were historical collectibles. It might be noted, too, that John's wife, Rose, even found and purchased some of the pinups.

Bettie Page, the "Queen of Pinups" — about as racy as the collection got:

The collection included several numbered photos of Bettie:


Why a website?

No, John was hardly shy about showing and talking about the many things — including the pinups — that he collected and surrounded himself with. And as for his Ludditism regarding computers and the online experience (he didn't own a computer; he wrote his novels on an old manual typewriter), he often had friends google things for him. Shortly before his death, he even confessed that he had finally decided to get himself a computer! But who knows? Maybe now John's awareness far exceeds even what's available on the World Wide Web. At any rate, the photographer would like to think that John would approve of this online presence, this small tribute to a unique individual and the unique way he had decorated his surroundings.


Public viewing precedents...

Not long after John Parker's death, his estate opened his house to the public for a memorial meet-and-greet. Pizza and drinks were served. Adults and children of all ages, from teenagers to what appeared to be six-year-olds or younger, roamed the house looking at everything. Then an estate liquidation outfit was hired to sell off the many and varied things that John had spent years collecting. Many pages of photos of John's possessions were put online, then the house was opened to the public again for a number of weekends as the various items belonging to John Parker's estate were sold off to browsers.

But, alas, a dumpsterful of things did not sell — for example, no-longer-loved teddy bears:


Cassette tapes of old radio shows were not in great demand, either (like these of the Great Gildersleeve):


And binders labeled "Unfinished Novels":


John's own antique childhood highchair (he saved everything) sitting in the back of a truck, waiting to be carted off to...


A Sampling of the Photos

Delight is in the eye of the beholder

Unfortunately, it was the photographer, and not John Parker himself, who aimed the camera How much different the photo collection might have come out if the camera had been doing the bidding of the person who had assembled the varoius subjects of the photography! Later, while compiling and arranging the many photos, the photographer often found himself amazed by some detail in the corner of a photo that he had missed as he did the snapping. If only he could go back and aimed the camera directly at a slew of such overlooked delights.

Nevertheless, many, many photos were collected, photos taken in all the rooms except the basement and the attic storage spaces. Let's hope that viewers will get some sense of the whimsical visual feast of it all, and might even notice other small wonders here and there that the photographer overlooked.

John loved all things Dickens:


If we can overlook the usual art verbiage about this well-known Goya painting: the boy a young aristocrat, the servile magpie representing the artist, etc., and we simply focus on the boy and his expression, we might glimpse something of John Parker's early years as the only, though hardly aristocratic, child of an alcoholic father and a stern mother:


John asked the photographer's wife once if we had any old cassette tape cases lying around our house. It seemed he needed them for his many tapes of old radio shows, and he was having trouble finding them. She went online and in short order found some and ordered a hundred for John for Christmas. John seemed so amazed and appreciative, we wondered if this could have beens the best Christmas present he'd ever gotten. He had the photographer's wife tell him where she'd found the little plastic wonders, and he ordered himself 500 more.


Another of the many old library card catalogue cabinets stationed throughout John's house, fitting tributes to his libratian career as well as his passion for labelling and cataloguing his many collectibles:


A quintessentially Parker-esque pairing on the kitchen wall:


Pratt Institute was the art school in New York City that John had wanted to attend, but alas, Pratt did not accept him. He went to UNC instead and majored in library science. Some fifty years later, Pratt Institute memorabilia could still be found in his house, as here on a shelf in his kitchen. His cars still sported Pratt Institute bumper stickers:


A little library humor:


A fine specimen of canine beefcake:


John's collection of unpublished novels about family life and childhood — longed-for things that he'd been shorted on in real life? He did all his writing on an old manual typewriter:


From one of the bathrooms. Note the matching frames suggesting some theme or connection that probably only John Parker could decipher:


Is the little girl the nurse when she was little? Is the little girl still inside the nurse? Is the nurse what happens to little girls? Is she really a nurse? What the deuce is that little girl reading?


Brazen little girl, bashful little boy. Perfect addition to John's collection?


Detail from the second-floor kitchenette — more material for the analysts?


What boy hasn't felt the angst of going to school?


A poignant reminder?


Note the intimate apparel ration book next to the Holy Bible? Who says Spec 4 Parker didn't have a sense of humor?


John's many stuffed buddies

In a nook off the foyer, John's larger-than-life velveteen rabbit? — and what the photographer thought was one of the most poignant scenes in the house:


John's childhood highchair — he saved everything — here occupied by a grumpy egg-and-glass-eating monster:


One of the many gatherings of teddy bears — and a duck:


"Now I lay me down to sleep — and dream."


The epitome of relaxation?


This ribald scene greeted anyone who cracked open the door to the third-floor storage closet:


Shady characters?


An old army buddy?


Bettie Page

A rare photo of Bettie Page fully clothed. Bettie, the "Queen of Pinups, and quite a remarkable woman," was said to be the most photographed model of the Twentieth Century and well ahead of her time (the 1950s). They even made a movie about her. She was also one of John's favorites, and photos of her appeared often in his collection. The juxtaposition of her pioneering risqué modeling and her latter religious conversion seemed to have intrigued him:


Photo inscribed, "To John, Many thanks, Love Paua Klaw" (who was one of Bettie's photograpers):


Here's Bettie in the presence of the Lord, who, in this little bedroom vignette, appears to be recommending her to the Rich Young Man (he of "camel through the eye of a needle" fame):


Young John next to Bettie and friend?


An even younger admirer?


Bears for Bettie:


Sex in advertising...

An American tradition — and a great source of pinups and amusement. Here, let's sell some hats and/or undies? — no, make that veggies:


Not sure what this friendly lady is peddling? Better call and find out:


This lady wants to satisfy all your windshield wiper needs:


Sheet metal work, anyone? Blower systems?


"May I whisper something in your ear about Big Oil?"


Shape up, ladies. Make a point (or two) of it:







Last Up Next