Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Unknown, Unremembered

After driving Emil down to Lake Manitou to attend Camp Easter Seal one summer, I browsed through an antiques store in the resort village of Manitou Beach. For a few cents I purchased a small rectangular wooden picture frame that I was sure I could find a use for.

Behind its glass were these two photos:

The young man on the top right seems to be the young boy on the lower left, a little older. You think?

I have removed them from the frame and turned the cardboard backing around; it reveals a poem called The Daisies Won't Tell, and I've posted a photo of it, in the frame, on this blog before. It hangs in the bathroom now.

But I can't throw these photographs away.
Sure, their relatives couldn't — for whatever reason — keep them. Maybe everyone in the family already had a copy. Maybe they didn't have time to go through everything when their grandmother passed away, and just had to box up her house and let them go. There are many possibilities. It seems a shame, as one would think photos like these would be precious to their family members. But life gets in the way of sentimental attachments to material things, doesn't it.

Still, this is how bad it is:
Not only can I not part with photos of my own ancestors; now I can't part with photos of someone else's!

In my family collection there are photos containing people I can't identify. These most surely have a relation to my family, to my ancestors and extended family, but no one now knows who they were or what the relation was.

These, one might think, would be photos I would not need to keep for posterity.
And yet ... I am quite fond of some of them and of the people in them.
Is that weird? Well then, it's weird.
And weirder yet is that I have started to create casual identities for these people, as if eventually they will tell me who they are (were). It's kind of fun.

I have no clue who these people are, or where, but:

This I do know was at the nurses' residence at Mayo, Yukon, and was either a coworker of my great-great Aunt Alma's OR it is Aunt Alma herself as a very young woman. (Reta, could that be?)
Could these be some of Grandpa Benson's mother's siblings in the midwestern States?
Isn't this a fabulous photo? But who were these two?
On the back it says "Mary Ward on right." Who was Mary, and who is the other lady? Taken Feb '59.
The cardboard frame is embossed ECRossi, Regina, Sask; a photography business there?
And finally this young woman with her lilies on her parched land. 
I can't make myself throw these in the garbage. Someday someone might know something. In the meantime, I think: Back in those days, people weren't snapping pictures left and right. You were fortunate to get photos of your loved ones, and that's why you kept them. That's why they were in Aunt Alma's collection, and Grandma's, and Aunt Jean's. And so I keep them.


  1. I'm the same, keeping photos of people and places I don't know. Maybe start a facebook page... "unidentified photos" . Considering how far social media reaches, who knows what might turn up?

    1. That's not a bad idea, Ralph! Are you going to add it to your To Do list, or am I?

    2. Seriously considering it. Maybe its already been done and I'd be re-inventing the wheel.

    3. It probably *has* already been done, that's true. But where? That is the question ....

  2. Kate, I feel for you! I too cannot part with old photos, although I am extremely fortunate that I can identify most of them. In addition, I have old letters, old receipts, old this and old that, and cannot part with those items either. They are part of the family history. I share these digitally whenever I can, and some relatives are beginning to take an interest. That is because they are getting old now, and it seems that for most people taking an interest in where they come from only kicks in when they realize their own time here is limited.

  3. Post them dingly on FB and ask people to write a 200-word story about each. It would be interesting to see how differently people see what is going on. I'd do it.

  4. Scan them and save the digital files and shred the originals. Keep the memories and save space!


Leave a message here or email me at stubblejumperscafe@gmail.com, home of the snow and land of the wheat!