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Roberson’s Sawmill, 1930s?

A Thousand Words
By Jock Lauterer

Rich with a “sense of place,” this week’s photograph captures an early Carrboro sawmill tableau of stern-faced working men and a barefoot boy posing stiffly in front of stacks of neatly sawn lumber. According to Citizen reader Ricky Roberson of Chapel Hill, that’s his grandfather, Edward Roberson, the sawmill owner, on the far right. However, trying to accurately date the photograph is challenging. Family lore has it that the sawmill was sold to the Fitch family (of present-day Fitch Lumber Co.) for “little or nothing,” Robbie writes – leading me to speculate that the transaction happened during hard times. That being said, the photographer clearly made the picture from an elevated perspective (perhaps from atop another stack of lumber), and it looks strikingly like the WPA-era work of Chapel Hill’s redoubtable Bayard Wootten, who was fond of shooting from creative angles. Who knows? What we don’t know about this image is made up for by its compelling sense of place.

Do you have an important old photo that you value? Email your photo to jock@email.unc.edu and include the story behind the picture. Because every picture tells a story. And its worth? A thousand words.
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