Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Old photos and Irreplaceable Stories

Do you have piles of old photographs
stashed in boxes and drawers
or in ancient albums that are falling apart?

Do you have stacks of mystery photos
that you can't identify in any way?

I do in spades!
I'm in the midst of
corralling my massive collection.

Fortunately, in the summer of 1968,
I organized Acadia University's
collection of historical photographs.

I know I can corral 
at least five generations of family photos,
even if the prospect is daunting.

I love to play with old photos
to see what I can discover.

Who?  Where?  When? 

This is a dangerous 
because hours of my time
can vanish down a black hole.

Black Hole

And, sometimes,
the answers pierce my heart.

Yesterday I came across 
two 2½ by 3 inch bits 
of black and white mystery.

The photos were stashed in an album 
my sister Barb lent me,
and they were unrelated 
to any others in the album.

But I was hooked 
by the boats on the water
and the fishermen at work.

Six:  One Moment in Time

Not a clue on the back of the first one,
but on the back of the second:

That's where the marlinspike 
to the heart comes in.

It's my mother's handwriting,
and the date is the day
she and my father married.
They drove down Digby Neck
for their honeymoon
in Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia
on September 4, 1948.

From the correct album:

Don and Sara   
Honeymoon Cottage
Sandy Cove,
Nova Scotia
September 4, 1948


We've all captured those moments,

stoping time in its tracks,
so we can hold and remember them keenly.

My parents:  
young, hopeful, just starting out,
capturing the time and place of their joy.

Now, a fading image in black and white,
a trick of light and chemical fixed in time.

Irreplaceable and real people
behind mystery photographs ~
That's what drives me 
as I archive photos and write stories.

Doing this can be piercing,
but I always feel the love, 
the struggle,
the magnificence 
of those I love
who have gone before me.

A Honey Moon Postcard
from Long Ago

So pull out those photos
if you are lucky enough to have them ~

And write down their stories,
if you are lucky enough to know them.

Every human has a story,
and each story illuminates
our collective and complex human heart. 


  1. My parents have kept their photos very well organized, but I'm sure there are people in places in those photos that only they know.

  2. I do not come from such organized stock! I have lots to unearth! I'm the ancestor now! LOL! An ancestor with a sharpie, piles of letters, and some diaries. Have a good evening!

  3. I am very sad to say that many photos from my childhood got burned in a fire, along with all the negatives. :( I really love your photos, thank you so much for sharing.

    1. How sad for you, Linda! Going through a fire is traumatic. Thank you for your kind words.

  4. Always great to see what you can see in old photos, try to get the story behind it. Just avoid the black hole lol

    1. I have a number of black holes sucking me in! LOL!

  5. How lovely. And such sound advice. If only people would think to identify the subjects in their pictures. So glad you were able to find the clue you needed!

    1. Thanks, Francie! I think people underestimate how much you forget over the years. We're so caught up in the busyness of every day.

  6. This post is beautifully written. I wish I had more photos. Most are lost to me.


    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Janie! I work really hard on my writing. It's sad to lose family photos. I often wonder what will happen today with so many things on computers. It seems like photos could easily be lost. Take care!

  7. I LOVE old photos. Whenever I visit my mom, I bring back another batch of photos with me. She doesn't mind me taking them. In fact, she encourages it because she wants to pass them onto the next generation. I can identify some of the people in them, but not all. My mom is a big help with most of the unknowns, so I try to make it a point of going through them images with her before I return home. It is so much fun! I love that photo of your parents. They look so happy!

    1. I hear you, Martha! I LOVE old photos too. Kudos to your mom for wanting to pass them onto the next generation! I'm glad that you are working on identifying them. I'm trying to get names onto one clear photo of a person, and then using that to find the person in other photos. It's a fun challenge! Have a good one!

  8. When I closed out my Mom's apartment when she went into the nursing home, I brought all her old photo albums and boxes of loose old photos back to Edmonton. I know I should go through them and sort them but I don't have the time. Maybe when I'm retired?

    1. Time is the big challenge, isn't it, Debra? I had to wait until I retired to really tackle my writing and my photographs. Sometimes I worry that I'll run out of time before I accomplish all I hope to do. Everyone thinks they will remember who the people are in photos, but more often than not, they forget. Take care!

  9. Oh wow this is so amazing! Thanks for sharing these pictures x
    I find it s moving looking back at old photos. My mums wedding album always moves me.. looking back at them just married young with no children.. I wonder what they were thinking then. Old pictures remind me that life is short and to enjoy making special moments of history

    1. Life is short and wonderful. Making those moments of history is what it's all about. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the pictures. I feel the same things as I look at my parents' wedding and honeymoon photos. Have a happy day!

  10. The boat photograph is magnificent. Bless your mother for taking time to document on the back. It was a moment in your parents young life. Precious

    My sister and I just went through some old pictures trying to identify people. It solidified my goal of making my winter project getting out my albums and documenting the pictures.

    1. Thanks, Peggy. I was struck by the beauty of the boat images when I came across the photos. There is a richness of shape and texture in the old black and white photos that can be lost in our colorful photos today. Good luck with your winter project. I can see how loving and close your family is in your blog posts, and I know your family will appreciate it when you preserve their history. *Hugs*

  11. Oh my, so many thoughts as I read your last two posts!

    Your father's life and the photos to go with them are absolutely fascinating. Kudos to you for documenting the precious stories, poems and photos. I love the schoolroom shots, the Ojibway lessons, the commuting struggles and the laughter of the natives, and oh.. my.. those boats and the hardworking men who built them and used them at such peril to their lives in order to feed their families. And then, the wedding photo.. so much hope in those smiles. Thanks so much for a wonderful read this morning!

    I'm not sure if you knew my grandfather was a Newfoundland fisherman, living for 6 months of every year on his schooner and working the Labrador coast. He usually had a crew of six or seven working with him.. his three sons fished.. my mother worked as cook and her older sister before her. As for photographs, there are only a few from that time, but in general, I recognized their importance too late. My sister has been working very hard to document as many as she can from our childhood. Here is the post I did about my grandfather:

  12. What a delight to find your comment, Carol! You made my day! I'm working on a book based on my father's letters and our family's time in the North, so your words are really encouraging. I have a lot of fishermen in my family, because my ancestors lived on Digby Neck where Sandy Cove is located. One of my cousins is currently a scallop fisherman out of Digby. I didn't know about your grandfather, but I dearly love Newfoundland. I had the pleasure and wonder of living in Westport and on White Bay. I wouldn't be surprised to know that your grandfather knew of Sir Willfred Grenfell, my earliest hero, who worked so hard for the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador. I've been to Labrador once, and I long to go back. Kudos to your sister who is working to document those precious childhood photos. I have the same task in my family! Of course, I am going next to the link that you provided! Happy Monday to you and an ear scratch or bellyrub or whatever Black Jack enjoys to him!

  13. Wow, this gave me chills. I love that you were able to figure out what the photo was. My grandmother has done a phenomenal job figuring out a lot of old family photos. I'm so grateful for that. Less work for me in the future. Ha! :-) I adore looking at old b&w photos that belonged to my great grandparents. Such a gift!

    1. Lucky you to have a grandmother has sorted everything out. That job has fallen to me in our family, but it is so much fun. I adore looking at old photos too. They're like little time machines! *Hugs!*


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