It’s a Saturday afternoon and Jack Erickson is at a table at the back of Temperance House in Newtown. Marilyn Monroe is in front of him.
He lifts up Marilyn, who is radiant and framed in black – a photo he took of the legendary Hollywood star 66 years ago.
“Ah, look at her,” he said with a smile.
He was fit for the mission, having previously been a daily photographer for his hometown newspaper, the Herald & Review in Decatur, Illinois.
“Marilyn was there to perform in Bement, Illinois, which was celebrating its centenary,” he declared.
It was August 1955, and Monroe’s classic “The Seven Year Itch” had hit theaters two months earlier.
“Before her performance in Bement, she was invited to a private house. It must have cost the guy a lot of money to get him there. So my boyfriend who does the job asked me to help him. He took the pictures of the outside, and I took the inside.
“Well, I’m standing there in this guy’s library, and she comes in. She was 28 and I was 26. Now I have to admit I noticed her figure, but her face” – he looked. again the photo – “she was beautiful. And there was none of that,” he said, raising his nose in the air like a snoot. “She was also earth- Down to earth and as friendly as possible. She reached out and said, “I’m Marilyn. And I said, ‘Well, I’m Jack.’ And we shook hands. Then she was interviewed by Hap Jensen, who worked for WSOY radio. Hap talking to her. I took the picture, and that’s it. They didn’t. ‘have never published, however.
So he published it himself – on his business cards.
“I have to thank my father for introducing me to photography,” he said. “I was a kid when he bought me my first camera and development equipment. My dark room was in our basement, under the stairs. I took my first professional wedding photos, let’s see, 78 years ago, when I was 13. The wedding of our church secretary. I sold the 5x7s at the back of the church for $ 1 each. Good money.
“I never lost my interest in photography,” he said. “Of course, that’s really why we’re here, why we’re talking. Because of this photo of Marilyn, right? I can honestly say that I owe all the best of my life to photography. It opened doors for me that would never have been opened. I have met so many interesting people.
He photographed Harry Truman during his 1948 presidential campaign in Illinois.
“He came from Champaign to Decatur on the Wabash,” Erickson said.
He met Big Band leaders like the Dorsey Brothers and Stan Kenton.
“It was my time, you know, good music,” he said.
He met athletes, especially golfers, a game he played and still plays until he is 90 years old.
“I was on a golf course filming Sam Sneed, and he said, ‘Sonny, you’re going to take a picture of me and it’s going to be good. And I did. And it was good. When I look back, there are chapters in my life that without photography I don’t think I would have had.
From his newspaper days he entered the military, serving in the Korean War Army Signal Corps (based in New York, not overseas). After the war he became the in-house photographer and assistant to the CEO of AE Staley Manufacturing Co. This led to a sales promotion and a move to Memphis, Tennessee, and then another promotion to the sales manager of the east coast of Staley, and he moved to Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
In 1973, he moved to Bucks County, working at Staley’s regional headquarters on the third floor of the One Oxford Valley building in the Middletown Mall. He and his late wife, Susan, who had five children, got into real estate in the 1970s and moved from Yardley to Newtown, his home for over 30 years.
“I can say that I have wonderful children, and they gave me seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren,” he said.
He keeps a well-worn print of their birthdays in his pocket, to keep track of.
The last chapter in the life of Jack Erickson?
At 92, he introduced himself as a police officer in Newtown. Without hiding his age either. On the palm card he hands out, it’s the first thing he wants you to know: “92, born in Illinois, 33-year-old Newtown resident.
Why would he run for the police station?
“Well, I was meeting some Republican friends at the Clubhouse Bar & Grill down the street here, and Mark (former Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker) said, ‘You know, we need someone on the ballot. vote to run for a police officer. What about Jack? ”
He was called to the bar by acclamation.
“So here I am,” he said. “It’s a six-year term, and I’m told I’ll be working two days a year, once in the primary and once in the general election. I told someone, okay, what am I doing? I’m not going to pack a gun. And I was told: ‘You keep order at the polling station. If someone gets off the line or causes a disturbance, you call the police.
“I can handle this,” he said. “It’s a six-year term, and if I get it, who knows, maybe I’ll run for a second term.”
Columnist JD Mullane can be reached at 215-949-5745 or [email protected]