I have a remarkable tale to share as we creep ever closer to Christmas Day.
As most of you know, I have no siblings, so thus I became the lucky keeper of the family albums where some vintage photographs are from the 1920s. Back in 2017, I spent Thanksgiving weekend digitizing hundreds of sepia-tinted, black-and-white and color photos chronicling years of family, friends and travel. It was time well spent, because prior to that long weekend, if I wanted to peruse those albums, I had to dig through multiple boxes in the bottom of a seldom-used clothes closet, where they were stacked alongside scrapbooks, school yearbooks and other mementos. Not only was retrieving the albums a laborious task, but the more-recent photo albums had begun falling apart, their bindings pulling away from the plastic-overlay pages. The photo albums from years before were still intact, as photos had been placed in gummed photo corners with tissue overlays separating the pages. I love having this treasure trove of memories just a few mouse clicks away and I’ve been able to use these images in blog posts as well. I have some more photos post-1990s in a shoebox which I forgot about, so that will be a future digitizing project.
Here’s something to ponder – as an only child, with no family members left, what if there were no photos of me as a youngster? I’m sure my parents would have told me that I had mousy-brown, stick-straight hair, (except on special occasions when it was set on pin curls for church, or holidays, or school photos and I often looked like I stuck my finger in an electric socket). There were “the real homely years” like when I got cat-eye glasses on my 7th birthday …
… then braces on my teeth when I was 20 years old. This may be the only photo of me smiling with my metal mouth.
Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to wonder about what I looked like because Mom, with her Baby Brownie camera and my father with his Leica 35mm camera, captured countless images and filled those album pages with photos of their little girl.
But what if you never saw your childhood pictures until you were grown with children, or even grandchildren, of your own?
Our neighbors and good family friends are long gone, both having passed away over a decade ago. They had four children, like stair steps – just a year or two apart. Money was tight in those days with four children. The man of the house worked and like most women in the 1950s and 1960s, the woman of the house was a stay-at-home mom. Because they were the same age, my mom would tell me, in their near-daily telephone chats, topics ranged from recipes, household remedies, their offspring or goings-on in the neighborhood, and, because both women were frugal, having grown up in the Depression era, they often discussed how that event impacted them as youngsters.
However, unlike my parents who documented my formative years and beyond with their respective cameras, our neighbors got a Kodak Instamatic camera, one roll of film and a package of flashbulbs and each Christmas they posed their four youngsters in front of the Christmas tree. Snap – one shot. Then the camera was tucked away until the following Christmas.
Some followers of this blog may never have used anything but a digital camera or phone to record images. So, it may be difficult to imagine taking photos, sending the film off to Kodak’s processing facility in New York and waiting weeks for those glossy prints to be returned. It wasn’t cheap either and you’d kick yourself for each photo that was blurred or a boo-boo. That was how it was for many years, then one-hour photo processing took over and picture-taking was suddenly revolutionized. Now, of course, the digital age of photography is here to stay.
Back to the story I wanted to tell you …
So, when the roll of film was finally finished, the photos were never developed, but instead the camera was returned for safekeeping in a bureau drawer. Why? Weren’t they curious and wanted to ooh and aah over how their little darlings had grown through the years? One will never know their mindset.
Fast forward a few decades, the kids were long gone, having raised families of their own and they returned to clear out their childhood home after their parents’ deaths in order to put the house up for sale. In doing so, drawers were opened and contents examined. The Kodak camera was discovered and the roll of film processed. The integrity of the film was good despite its age. So, imagine four adults crowded around those photos, seeing their youthful, smiling faces in identical poses each year in front of the Christmas tree. Their parents were never in the photos, just them. I’m sure there were tears in their eyes.
I’ll make this a Throwback Thursday post … here are some of my favorite Christmas photos through the years. My parents similarly had me pose by the Christmas tree or touching it lightly with one hand (in the Summertime, it was standing next to the car.)
Taking photos is easier than ever now. I hope you capture some special memories with loved ones this holiday season.