‘That newspaper boy is me’ says 64-year-old carpenter

February 26, 2012, Sunday/ 11:23:00

A black-and-white photograph changed the life of Hayrettin Baş, now a 64-year-old retired carpenter.

The photograph, taken years ago by a passerby, features him as a newspaper boy in knee pants, with a large number of newspapers in his hand. It is a famous image: a boy shouting “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” to attract attention and sell papers.

He remembers well the day the photograph was taken. It was a summer day in the year 1958. Baş was a 10-year-old boy, living with his family in the Little Hagia Sophia neighborhood of Sultanahmet in İstanbul. He used to sell 50-60 newspapers a day to earn pocket money. He would go to crowded places like train stations and squares and read the headlines out loud to pique people’s curiosity and sell papers.

One day, when he went out as usual to sell the papers he had taken from the distributor, he saw a slim man wearing a fedora and a cream trench coat taking his photograph. He did not mind, as he was only thinking of money he would earn.

Forty years after this incident, master carpenter Baş came across a periodical in one of the drawers of a wooden table while he was working in a friend’s carpentry workshop in İstanbul’s Sultangazi district. The periodical consisted of photos of old İstanbul, and a photograph featuring an automobile attracted his attention. He examined the photograph closely and suddenly caught sight of a boy on the next page. He was shocked to see that the boy in the photograph was him. It was his nose, shoes and newspapers. He remembered well the day the photograph was taken. He told the story to his co-workers and shared his astonishment. He took the photo and showed it to his family. His wife, children, grandchildren and friends talked about the photograph for days. Baş, who is now enjoying his retirement at home in the Kocasinan neighborhood of İstanbul’s Bahçelievler district, had the photo framed, and he hung it on a wall of his house. But, the story does not end here. Baş came across the same childhood photograph on billboards one day when he was driving along a Greek cemetery in İstanbul’s Şişli district. He was shocked once again. He got excited and drove along the same road a few times more to see it. The photograph became a conversation piece among his family and friends once again. Then, wherever Baş went, he came across his childhood photograph.

One day, when he was going up Babıali Hill in the Eminönü district, he saw a big poster featuring the same newspaper boy on the outer wall of the building of the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC). He wanted to keep one of the posters he saw on the wall, and he told the building supers that he is the boy in the poster, but they did not believe him. When the photograph was used in many other places, Baş’s friends urged him to retain a lawyer and obtain the patent right of his photograph. Although it sounded plausible to him, Baş rejected the idea saying, “I am in my 60s, thank God I have a pension. I don’t need money. It is enough for me to look at the photograph and remember those childhood days.”

It was Necmettin Ünalmış, the post-modern mukhtar (headman) of Kocasinan, who introduced Hayrettin Baş to me. Baş took me to the street in the Little Hagia Sophia neighborhood where the photo in question was taken years ago. He told me they lived in that area between 1954 and 1959 following their migration from Samsun to İstanbul. He said he went to the Kadırga Primary School there, and his school number was 494. “I have never forgotten my teachers and school friends, I remember all of them with gratitude,” he said.

He related an incident he experienced: One day when he was working at the Galatasaray High School in the Beyoğlu district installing doors and furniture, one of the teachers working at the school looked quite familiar to him. First, he thought he was an individual he had once worked with, but later he realized who he actually was. The teacher was one of his school friends. He took the master carpenter to the teachers’ lounge and introduced him as his schoolmate to the teachers there, among whom was Candan Erçetin, a famous Turkish singer.

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