Carolyn’s Online Magazine (#COMe)
THROUGH THE LENS OF CHARLES R. MARTIN’S CAMERA
As Told by His Wife, Sally Martin
A Charles R. Martin photography exhibit
At the Ligonier Valley Library
Pennsylvania Room hallway (downstairs)
For further information contact Shirley Iscrupe
in the PA Room of the Library, 724 238 6451.
April 5, 2016
Presentation by Sally Martin
Hosted by The Foothills Writers (formerly the Beanery Writers Group)
Charles (Chuck) R. Martin only refused his wife Sally Martin one request during their marriage: he wouldn’t take her to Selma, Alabama, to participate in the April 7, 1968, national day of mourning for Martin Luther King, Jr. It was scheduled 3 days after King’s assassination.
Chuck said “No, it’s too dangerous” following the killing of a northern housewife. “I don’t want to be raising three children alone.”
Instead, the couple contacted a Quaker church in Shadyside, thinking members might want to participate in the Pittsburgh march.
Chuck wanted sensed something important was happening, and he wanted to document it with his camera. The church warned them not to take the children. Thus, heading toward the action, they stopped in the North Hills.
“The bridges were barricaded, so we couldn’t get into downtown Pittsburgh,” Sally said.
Two Nikon cameras swayed gently from Chuck’s as he walked through the Sixth Street Bridge barricade alone, leaving Sally and their children on the North Side with the kids.
“You knew 100 cities were burning, yet people on the North Side were washing their cars…they weren’t about to participate in anything,” she said, noting that, from her vantage point, she could see smoke rising from Pittsburgh. “Places that were burned out there never opened for business again.”
After Chuck crossed the bridge he headed straight to the Hill District, Sally said.
Upon his arrival he saw a line of police wearing their idea of riot gear back then. They looked more like soldiers than police. There was a line of them across the street.”
The police talked to the leaders of the black group, which included the late Byrd R. Brown, an attorney and civil rights activist, who was leader of the Pittsburgh chapter of the NAACP.
“There were representatives of Congress representing the black community. It was a large conversation. The black community decided not to do anything violent. Frankly the way they were dressed, it looked nothing like they wanted to do anything violent, just have a memorial parade for Martin Luther King.”
Chuck began recording images shortly before David Craig, the city’s public safety director, announced through a megaphone that King would have wanted a peaceful memorial march.
He then ordered the police to step aside so the march could proceed.
According to Sally Martin “There was no one there from the newspapers. Chuck was the only person there with a camera.” Later, Chuck offered his pictures to the media which refused them. “They only wanted violence,” Sally commented.
Chuck’s 280 images on eight rolls of film are the crown jewels of his lifelong photography. His 60-plus year collection of photographs, which includes many promotional photos taken for various Pittsburgh-based organizations and many images of French and Indian War reenactments, was donated to the Archives Service Center at University of Pittsburgh‘s School of Information Sciences.
When Chuck died July 8, 2013, at the age of 86 I was one of his friends that felt a great loss. Chuck and Sally became my special friends at the original Foothills Writers Group in Mt. Pleasant. Later they joined the Beanery Writers Group, now the Foothills Writers, which meets in Latrobe.
One day, about 8 years after we met, I was speaking about my newly discovered ancestors in Hempfield Township. Chuck and I discovered his ancestor Hugh Martin, and my ancestor Michael Rugh, were two of the five-member committee that purchased the land for the Westmoreland County Court House. A small piece of that land was purchased from Sally’s ancestors.
Later, I was with Sally and another writer, Pat Smith, whose child was at Fort Drum in New York. I suggested when she drive around she check out a little town, Edwards, where my sister in law lives. Sally piped up “I was born there.”
Our friendship solidified after these conversations that brought a New Englander back to the roots Chuck hadn’t left.
Sally is pleased the library is hosting a show of Chuck’s photographs during April and the Foothills Writers is hosting a reception, during which she is doing a presentation, on April 5.
For further information contact Shirley Iscrupe in the Pennsylvania Room of the Library, 724 238 6451 or myself, Carolyn Cornell Holland, at 724 238 3493.