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Aging Matters: Take time to ID old family photos

  • Published Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, at 11:39 p.m.

“Wait till you see what’s in this box, Grandma!”

He hardly could wait to lift the lid on an old Agfa camera box that bulged with fading black and white snapshots.

“This is grandpa when he was young, but where was it taken?”

Obviously, at a park shelter — but where? A photo or two later, I was transported back to Reading Lake a few miles north of Emporia, where a bunch of us college kids had gone for a Sunday afternoon picnic. After briefly reliving those carefree days, grateful for that memory trip, I resolved to dig out another box of old family photos to ID those whose faces and names I could retrieve. And do it now. Well, at least soon.

Unmarked photos are far too common. A couple of my readers have suggested we talk about that problem in this column. Here’s my take on resolving it: Set aside an hour or so, and make it a project.

Avoid any pen that would bleed through and ruin the image. A good No. 2 pencil works great — but never, ever, one with a sharp point and a hard lead, like the old “penny pencils” we started with in first grade. Work on a hard surface so you won’t need to exert any pressure that would emboss those photo memories. Obviously, front margin inscriptions work, too.

Turned out, the whole roll of film had recorded the Reading Lake picnic, so I could recall the other couples (assuming I remembered all of them).

OK, now name names. But don’t stop there. What was the occasion? Who was there? What did you do? Etc., etc., etc. Facts, plus some details, breathe life.

You may have read it here or heard me discuss how to go about writing those memories for kids/grands/greats, revealing why you were the way you were. Maybe, why they are the way they are — whence their talents in art or music, athletics or math. Or lack of talent — that missing math gene, or two left feet.

That done, you’ve accomplished two important goals: You’ve enjoyed reliving the memory. They’ll treasure your words and pictures.

Legacies in black and white.

Phyllis Spade, 87, has made Sedgwick Plaza her home for the past six years. She welcomes your comments at phylace@yahoo.com.

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