When Lt. Barry Duncan started out with the Carthage Police Department in 1977, police work was different and the people who worked in law enforcement were a different breed.

When Lt. Barry Duncan started out with the Carthage Police Department in 1977, police work was different and the people who worked in law enforcement were a different breed.

After Duncan retired in 2009, he took advantage of the opportunity to look back at an earlier age of law enforcement in Jasper County and Carthage by putting together a book of photos of cops, crime scenes, accidents and related events.

That book, which he called “Photographic Coppertunities,” was completed this summer and released in September and is now available at the Powers Museum or at Mother Road Coffee on the Carthage Square.
Duncan, who served as interim Carthage Police Chief between Chiefs Dennis Veach and Greg Dagnan in 2008, said assembling these photos, which were mainly taken by the late Carthage Photographer Carl Taylor, was a trip down memory lane.

“I just find it fascinating, to me, all the old photos because I knew all the cops by name,” Duncan said. “I don't know if I ever really met half of them or not, but as a kid growing up you knew who all the cops were growing up in a small town. I still sit there and flip through the book and look through the old pictures and remember.”
Duncan said the pictures by Taylor date mainly from 1955-1975. They're all black and white. Thousands of Taylor's negatives became property of the Jasper County Records Center when The Carthage Press moved from its Main Street office to its current location on Central Avenue.

“I'd go through Press archives and since Carl worked for the Press, you can match a lot of information up from the newspaper to the pictures and stories and identify the people and it made it interesting,” Duncan said. “There is some good text in the book telling about different things and events.”

The more than 300-page book has pictures of interesting vehicle crashes, including one where Mrs. Jack Bray's vehicle fell off the side of a brick-paved Oak Street railroad overpass and landed on its side, and another from 1957 at Olive and Garrison that shows the original Boots Court and Boots Drive In signs.

Steve Weldon, director of the Jasper County Records Center, said sometimes the value of some of the photos in Duncan's book is not just the accident or the crime scene in the foreground.

“A lot of people enjoy this book because the photos show various points around town that they remember from their past,” Weldon said. “You can see the car wreck or train wreck in the foreground, but maybe in the background they see a store or a house they remember that's not there anymore.”

Duncan said people are also seeing old friends or relatives or even themselves in some of the photos.
“One lady called me and wanted to get the book and I was in between printings,” Duncan said. “So I called her back and she said 'We looked at the book, and I'm going to buy a copy for my husband for his birthday. I got to looking in it and my husband said I was at that wreck up by Avilla.' That was back in the 1950s. She said 'My husband went to that wreck, he ran up there and tried to help.' People are going to connect with some of these pictures.”

Weldon said the book is one of a number of projects that was made possible because Jasper County maintains a records center that can hold archives and collections like Taylor's

He said Carl Taylor was an independent photographer who took pictures for The Carthage Press, but also took pictures for the police departments and the highway patrol. Taylor had a studio on the Carthage Square for many years and his widow donated thousands of negatives to the Records Center.

Weldon said the Records Center doesn't have the technology currently to print the pictures in this and other collections, but it is available for historians and authors to look through and use on a limited basis.

“These are the property of the public and we can't just let anyone come in and take the negatives out,” Weldon said. “But because we have these collections, authors, historians and others working on specific projects can put together works like the book Barry has assembled. That's the value of maintaining the Records Center.”
Duncan's book is available at the Powers Museum and at Mother Road Coffee on the west side of the Carthage Square. Cost is $25.

“I'm not trying to make any money, I'm just trying to pay my costs,” Duncan said. “I thought it was cool for me to have the pictures, then I felt like everyone should enjoy them. It's like I told my wife, if someone came out with a book that had that kind of stuff, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I want to see it and I want to have it. However few or many books I get scattered out there, it's preserving Carthage history.”