The Way it Was – Photographer Tony Spina, 1950

Spina worked at the ’Detroit Free Press’ for more than 40 years
Tony Spina
Photograph courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University (Tony Spina Collection)

1950 As if mothers don’t have enough to do, sometimes they’re pressed into service for additional tasks. This woman is serving as caddie for the son striding determinedly ahead of her on Junior Golf Day at Detroit’s Palmer Park. There’s a folksy, Rockwellian quality to the image, as if Norman Rockwell might paint it for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. 

Born on Detroit’s east side near Eastern Market to Italian immigrants in 1914, photographer Tony Spina (SPEEN’-ah) worked 40-plus years at the Detroit Free Press, shooting presidents and popes, the highborn and the hoi polloi. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, he was hired in 1946 and became the paper’s chief photographer in 1952. In the 1988 book Tony Spina: Chief Photographer, Spina, who had remained unobtrusive to his subjects as he waited for the right moment, captioned this image: “Mom was the caddy for Junior Golf Day as Tommy Taylor went swinging. … As soon as I spotted the mother walking behind, I knew I had my picture. I shot it from a sand trap, using a Speed Graphic. They walked on, unaware of me.” 

In the same book, the photographer wrote that this image was one of his favorites. Spina was a Cass Technical High School and Detroit Institute of Technology graduate and died in 1995. The 18-hole Palmer Park golf course, which opened in 1927 and was popular with beginners and intermediates, was closed by the city of Detroit in 2018. 

This story is featured in the September 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition