A Nostalgic Trip Down Memory Lane

I have always enjoyed looking at old family photographs, the older the better.  Of course, it was always great to find those photographs labeled with dates, names, places, and events.  But lots of times, we had photos with no clues.  The best we could do was share the photos with all the cousins we could find, and hope to get the names figured out.  We used that tact with a family reunion photo of about 40 people, trying to pin down the date based on the ages of the youngest children, and the date of an uncle’s death.  We had lively debates about whether the man in the front row was Uncle Gene or Uncle George.  We eventually had most of them named.  Having too many children was finally explained when someone mentioned that some girls had been boarding with one of the families. 

Slides are a little harder to share with others.  We took on the project of digitizing the slides in my parents’ collection.  Tons and tons of slides.  Real slide scanners were pretty expensive.  We set up a system where we projected the slides on the upraised lid of a flatbed document scanner, and then used digital cameras on a tripod to take photos of the images.  We used two cameras, so that one camera could be charging while the other was in use.  We made careful notes in a spreadsheet regarding the year, the slide number, and the subjects (names/places) in the slide.  Luckily, our slides had notes and the carousel boxes (remember those?) also had a notes page.  We divided up the slides by year.  This worked well for us.  We could search the spreadsheet for all photos of a certain person, or place, and could usually find them pretty quickly.  We found that many of the slides had faded, or had a lot of red overtones.

Recently, my brother acquired temporary possession of about 1200 of my grandparents’ slides.  Some were labeled, most were not, and they were not in chronological order.  He has scanned them all, this time using a borrowed, older, good-quality scanner.  Some of the cardboard slide frames had the processing date, which helped identify when the photo was taken, although we had to guess how long the film was in the camera before developing. 

A lot of the slides were dark, almost black.  Thanks to modern technology and a photo software program, we were able to lighten and brighten back to almost original colors.  It was fun to discover what treasures emerged out of the gloom.

We compared Grandma’s slides to my mom’s slides and were able to label those where we were together.  Grandma went to the Rose Bowl parade, but what year?  Walt Disney was photographed in the car of the Grand Marshal.  A visit to Google gave the answer.  They visited a dam under construction, and Wikipedia told me what year it was built.  One photo happened to catch the license plate of the car, and the “57” registration sticker.  Later I was able to see that a Fort Ticonderoga bumper sticker had appeared on the car, so I was able to go back and date the photos of Grandma and her teacher friends touring the Lake Champlain area. 

Next step is to share the photos with Grandma’s three daughters, and all the cousins, to see if any more clues can be found.  Maybe someone will remember what year that little sailboat first sailed at the lake camp.  And a DVD will go to the families.

So what did we learn?  Early snapshots, and recollections, are that the grandparents did not have a lot when they started out.  A naval machinist and a school teacher did not necessarily make a lot of money, and they were raising three daughters during the Depression.  Grandpa eventually built their home, but to avoid paying rent for a house, plus the payments for the new property, he built a two car garage, fitted as a small house, where they lived while the main house was built.  A few decades later, the slides show us that Grandpa was buying a new car every couple years (a Ford, of course).  They bought a camp on a lake in central New Hampshire.  After Grandma retired, they wintered a few years in southern California, and owned a house there. They travelled across the country numerous times, and visited Hawaii. From living in an unfinished garage to owning three residences simultaneously – not bad, not bad at all. 


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