Monday, November 24, 2014

A treasure of old photographs ~ my column this week

I stumbled upon a cache of old photos of Jilda’s family this week. She’d almost broken a hip trying to get sweaters out of the depths of my closet. From the darkness, I could hear muffled curses and unkind words about the way I stored my winter clothing.
I’d be the first to admit my storage methodology is a bit unorthodox and hard for others to grasp, but it works for me.
After the sermon, I started packing away all my summer things and fetching the sweats, sweaters and long johns from the bowels of my closet. In the back corner, I found a large plastic storage box the size of a footlocker.
It was filled with things her mother had kept for almost a century. We’d found it in the back of her closet while cleaning out her house after she passed away.
Once I had it out in the open, I poked it a few times with the broom handle to make sure no spiders or wintering mice hopped out.
Popping the plastic lid, I found old cards, letters, photographs, and yellowed newspaper clippings as fragile as a butterfly wing.
Jilda and I started dating when she was barely 16, so I attended holidays, funerals, family reunions and vacations. I took many pictures through the years. But these pictures predated me, and they showed a part of their lives that I’d never seen.
A rolled picture that resembled a scroll stood in one corner. It was about 12 inches tall, but about three-feet wide. I had to put a book on one end to weigh it down, and gently unroll the picture with the tips of my fingers.
The photograph was taken during the early days of WWII when her dad Sharky served as an Army medic. There were 112 soldiers posing in rows for the camera.
Normally with that many men, the photographer would have to back up so far that the faces in the picture would be unrecognizable.
But somehow, the photographer used a lens that allowed him to get close enough that every face was clear. I guess that’s why the picture was so wide.
Standing in the third row in his kakis with his garrison cap tilted to one side, was the young Sharky Phillips looking pensively at the camera. I couldn’t believe I’d never seen that photograph.
Another older picture was of Jilda’s mom Ruby standing outside in a dress and hat, holding her firstborn child Herbert. She was 15 years old at the time. The picture looked as if it could have appeared in Vogue magazine.
Jilda heard me say “Wow!” as I looked at it for the first time. She said, “Mama was so afraid that someone would steal her beautiful baby, that she pinned him to her breast pocket with a diaper pin whenever she took him anywhere.”
There was another picture of Jilda's mom in her Captain Anderson waitress uniform that was taken in 1942 when Sharky was in training at Kendall Air force base.
We both looked at the photographs for a long time. I wish I knew the stories behind all the pictures, but I’d never seen them before, and now it is too late to ask.
Old photographs add richness to the story of our families, and at the risk of sounding like a cliché, they add color to the tapestry of our lives.
I made a decision right then to scan all these one-of-a-kind images.
It would be a shame not to share them with others in our family so they can be passed down to the generations that follow.


  1. They definitely need to be preserved.

  2. Anonymous10:14 PM


  3. Very good article, I love to run across old photos.

  4. You're fortunate to have these photographic reminders of the past. So many people today take only digital pictures and I wonder if it will even be possible to view them in years to come.

  5. Old photos are a wonderful gift that those who have passed leave behind for us...hopefully, we will do the same!

  6. I love old family photos and after my mom and dad passed away, my sister scanned all the old family photos and sent them to all of us by email. I now have them on Dvd.

    Enjoy your family treasures. They are a real treasure.

  7. Thats a nice photo.
    I love old photos. I like to see how the women dressed in those days and wore their hair.
    My Mom was a surgical nurse and today I laugh cause she'd faint at the site of blood but during the war she did what she had to do.
    Many pics I also don't know who they were. Friends ...old relatives.....

  8. Old pictures are so fun to's really fun if names and dates are printed on the back! I love looking at old slides too..they were fun! My son was putting new windows in a home that was being redone one summer. He said there was a dumpster that was full of old photos and albums. He said it really bothered him that someone's life was just tossed into that dumpster in the form of old photos...that is sad. I'm glad we can have creative ways of preserving photos these days. Love this column and love that pic!

  9. My brother-in-law took all of his old family photos and scanned them into his computer. I think it was a smart move--it preserves them as they are right now, without further deterioration to the quality. We have SO many pictures, that would be quite a job, though!

  10. I so agree. I never tire of looking at old photos and sometimes I notice things I never had before. Just overlooked the pic or saw it afresh. I have been wanting to scan them all, but it's a little overwhelming. When I do a memory post, I include as many as possible so I can preserve them and print them out. I found too many that don't have names or dates and I don't have anybody left who can explain.


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