POMEROY — The river town that captured the imagination of a student has led to a 40-year-old mystery involving a couple of photographs. After years in storage, a photographer’s work is being digitized, and it has turned up a few interesting pictures, as well as decades-old memories.
In 1972, Jerry Ross was working on a master of fine arts degree in photography at Ohio University. He took a lot of photographs of the Athens area, but eventually made his way to Pomeroy.
“I was thoroughly enchanted with the town,” Ross said.
The appeal of the serene, little river town drew him in, and he examined the heart of its people through the lens of his camera. He spent time walking around Pomeroy and taking photographs along the way. Ross was a college student at the time and was working his way through school. As a student, he could not always print every photograph due to lack of funds or lab time to develop them all. He did, however, keep the negatives.
Ross did not stay at Ohio University more than one semester. He moved on to another program, but met some very interesting people during his time in southeast Ohio. He went on to other endeavors in life, including working at a newspaper during which time he interviewed and photographed Mother Theresa. He also became a special education teacher and, eventually, a police officer. After retiring from police work, Ross began to think about all those photographs he had collected in 50 years of photography. He decided to start the monumental task of digitizing them all. It was in this process he rediscovered some delightful images from 40 years ago.
In 1972, he encountered a young man walking on the sidewalk in Pomeroy. Ross took a picture the young boy caring a case of Pepsi on his head while creatively walking his dog. Ross said he was not even sure the youth knew he was being photographed or would remember the event.
Ross, however, was taken with the photograph. Through the years, Ross wondered what became of the young man. Though he does not know the subject of the picture, or even if the man is still alive, he said he wants to try to find him or his relatives to give them a copy of the photograph.
“People would enjoy having these pictures. They bring back memories,” Ross said.
It is his intention to share the photograph with the person in the picture or his family, if the man is deceased. Ross said he is not interested in personal gain, just to share this memory. The photograph is one of his favorites.
Another favorite photograph is also tied to Pomeroy. While walking through Pomeroy so many years ago, he encountered a man leaning on a fence with a sign challenging people to a game of horse shoes. The man was Emmett Blackburn. Ross asked Blackburn if it would be alright to take his picture, and the two struck up the first of many conversations. Ross learned that Blackburn had recently become a widower. Eventually, they played a game of horse shoes that Ross said he soundly lost. Ross would visit Blackburn again, talking, playing horse shoes and photographing him.
“He was quite a character with a twinkle in his eye,” Ross noted. He believed Blackburn had retired from the railroad.
Ross moved on in life, but often thought of Blackburn and the photographs he took of him. Though Ross had given Blackburn several photographs, he had not shared them all. Ross wanted to share the rest with Blackburn, but was unsuccessful in tracking him — or any of his relatives — down years later. He would now like to share the pictures with family that Blackburn may have had. Ross said that in 1972, Blackburn was 76 years old. He recalled Blackburn’s home was in Pomeroy, near the river and had a big fenced-in yard. He added it was a wire fence.
Ross feels someone must remember Blackburn because of the character he was and would be able to give information about relatives that might like to own copies of the photographs.
There is where the mystery lies. What happened to these people? Who was the young man caring Pepsi and walking his dog? What became of him? Is he still alive? Can he be identified? Does he have relatives? Who was this young man that had his whole life ahead of him 40 years ago? What happened to Emmett Blackburn? Does he have relatives that can be contacted? Are they still in the area? Does anyone remember this man that captured the thoughts of college student in 1972?
Perhaps, only the readers can help. Ross would like to be able to simply share these photographs. Anyone with information about either of the two men is asked to contact the newspaper.
The photographs may not be the only mysteries to be solved from Ross, either. He said digitizing the photographs is very labor-intensive, and he has quite a few to go through just from his time in Athens and Pomeroy. He hopes to find more such gems from Pomeroy, especially, and be able to share them. He truly was enchanted with the area and the people along the Ohio River. Maybe this mystery will lead to more and rediscovering memories of days gone by. Hopefully, someone will remember Blackburn and be able to identify the young man.
Those with information about either of the photographs are asked to contact Managing Editor Stephanie Filson at (740) 446-2342 ext. 18 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please enter ‘MYSTERY’ in the subject line.