Photographs and Memories: Those Family Pictures Are Not Junk


UPDATE: This post has been edited from the original published earlier in the day on December 14. New information about the photos had been passed on shortly after the post hit the blog. The changes did not affect the content of the original presentation.

It was almost a standing joke in the 20th Century: People would go out on vacations, take a lot of photos, return home, and share those photos with anyone who would look. Friends and family would roll their eyes and politely sit through the presentation. Some, though, enthused over the smallest details of the pictured treasures.

It seems doubtful that the many folks who took those shots imagined a 21st Century when those meaningful moments would be seen all over the world with just a click of a mouse. Little did they realize that they were documenting an era(s) for future generations of strangers. The snapshots would be put into scrapbooks for future familial generations, or into boxes and stored away like so much junk. As time went on the photos would fade, not unlike the memories. Some would end up in a landfill close to the old family home. Some would be passed down the family tree where younger generations would obligingly accept them and stow them away for what, they don’t know. Some would be sold by bulk in garage sales, or vintage memorabilia shops, or entire estate sales.

Fortunately, for history’s sake, there are people like Vieilles-Annonces – a Vernacular Photography Curator working with 35mm slide digitizing and restoration, who specializes in Kodachrome. Her Flickr page, Midwestern Femme, features pages of this work and it is truly wonderful. Vieilles-Annonces:

These slides and photographs came from many estate sales. They were dusty, darkened, bent, underexposed (some damaged by water) and were destined to be trash. Through the help of Photoshop, they can be seen once again.

A number of the photos shown below were purchased by  Vieilles-Annonces from an older, more experienced collector/restorer. One might say that torch has been passed in the interest of preservation. Those snapshots that were acquired from the gentleman curator will be marked with an asterisk.

All of these photos have been restored with their great Kodachrome color look and seem almost like they were taken yesterday. Having had to narrow them down to a few was difficult to do. Below you’ll find some of the meaningful moments of yesterday that shine a light on the photographers’ otherwise long lost past.

Children were almost always a favorite subject:

Chicago Museum in 1967
*Chicago Museum in 1967 – the Telstar model satellite above the children looks a lot like the Star Wars’ Death Star…are we seeing an influence on George Lucas?

Dutch Wonderland in 1964
*Dutch Wonderland in 1964 – the photographer was probably waiting at just the right spot to get this shot.

Of course the adults had their moments:

After Dinner Play - mid 1950s
*After Dinner Play – mid 1950s. A more subdued evening with everyone dressed to the nines.

Now THIS is a Party - Taken between May 1949 -May 1952
Taken between May 1949 -May 1952. Perhaps a New Year party where getting loose is a bit more acceptable – the expressions are priceless.

And then there were the vehicles – people took great pride in their rides:

Bye-Bye, Miss American Pie, Drove My Chevy To The Levee, But The Levee Was Dry - Taken between May 1952 - Aug 1955
Taken between May 1952 – Aug 1955. This Buick Eight Dynaflow must have taken pride of place for its owner.

Big White Cadillac, I Hope Somebody's Got My Back, Boy - August, 1961
August, 1961- The space age tail on this Cadillac Sedan de Ville probably had all the neighbors talking.

All The Young Dudes Carry the News - September, 1961
September, 1961- Looks like someone’s son is standing at the ready to protect this Cadillac Series 62 Convertible.

Messerschmitt Auto Nuremberg, Germany in March, 1956
Messerschmitt Auto Nuremberg, Germany in March, 1956 – The Europeans were a bit more experimental it seems.

Public transportation used to be more appreciated:

Hawaii 1965's Gray Line Touring Cars
*Hawaii 1965’s Gray Line Touring Car – For a lot of folks, this would be the closest to a limo ride that they would ever get.

Spirit of 1776 in Allentown, Pennsylvania - Late 1940s
*Spirit of 1776 in Allentown, Pennsylvania – Late 1940s. Also known as The Freedom Train, this ALCO powered locomotive was the first diesel train in an age of steam. It was very popular with the masses and the lines were always long – as seen in this great photo. The Freedom Train is said to ‘hold the record for “the most kissed” locomotive of all time.’

De Grasse Steamship - Taken Between 1949 and 1952
*De Grasse Steamship – Taken Between 1949 and 1952. Officially known as, The Doughty De Grasse, and built by Cammell Laird, Birkenhead, United Kingdom for the French Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, she was the largest French liner at the time. She was seized in 1940 by the Germans and sunk by gunfire at Bordeaux in 1944. The De Grasse was rebuilt and refit in 1947. In 1953 she was taken over, refitted by Canadian Pacific Steamships, and renamed The Empress Of Australia. Her end came in 1962. By then renamed The Venezuela, the ship wrecked off Cannes in March and she was broken up at La Spezia in August the same year.

Deutsche Bundesbahn - Late 1950s
*Deutsche Bundesbahn – Late 1950s. This looks a lot like an Schienen-Straßen-Omnibus (aka, The Rail Bus) – a two-way vehicle for passenger transport on both railways and roads. Perhaps the photographer knew of its novelty, hence the pic.

The Clipper Defender in Portugal August, 1959 - Pan American World Airline
The Clipper Defender in Portugal August, 1959 – Pan American World Airline. The Defender was a Douglas DC-7C, aka ‘Seven Seas,’ as it could fly ‘non-stop routes across the US, as well as in transatlantic, transpacific, and even Great Circle routes over the North Pole.’ The DC-7C was ‘a plane that finally brought virtually every spot on the globe within reach of the world’s airlines via a direct routing.’ Within a few years of its accomplishments the DC-7C would become obsolete as the world of flight would abandon piston-engine transport for the jet-age stars like the Boeing 707.

And then there are the unusual transports:

A Shark Plane Boat - 1943
*A Shark Plane Boat – 1943. The design is reminiscent of Commander Claire Chennaul’s famous WWII Flying TIgers’ nose art. Check out their story here.

While in Japan... Early 1950s

While in Japan… Early 1950s. This is an excellent photo of an early fire bike. In Japan there has been, for a long time, concern about earthquakes. The fire bikes are to this day seen as having an all terrain, obstacle avoiding advantage over trucks. Today they are known as ‘Quick Attackers’ and are used for fire-fighting, rescue and medical first aid treatment.

And some history:

Alaska Comes Into The Union - January 3, 1959
*Alaska Comes Into The Union – January 3, 1959. That’s a pretty big headline for a big event, but it looks like there’s a blazing fire in the background. Curious.

Cold Bay Alaska manning the controls - late 1950s
*Cold Bay Alaska manning the controls – late 1950s. Completed in September, 1958, and manned by the 714th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, the Cold Bay AFS was set up as a defense radar station constructed to provide the United States Air Force early warning of an attack by the Soviet Union on Alaska. The site was inactivated in 1979 when microwave signals proved more reliable than the high frequency radio system used until that time.

There are photographs of some exotic looking American sites:

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota - 1950
The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota – 1950

And some very exotic places overseas:

Cairo, Egypt in 1956
*Cairo, Egypt in 1956

And finally, there is humor.

This Bear Is Becoming A Tad Too Familiar - Taken between 1939 and May 1949This Bear Is Becoming A Tad Too Familiar – Taken between 1939 and May 1949. The woman in the car does not look amused but I’m sure there were laughs when the pic was shown to family and friends.

So there you have it – some really super photos taken by average people who unwittingly captured their moments in time for all of us to enjoy. Many thanks go out to the Gentleman Collector for his contributions to this collection, and to Vieilles-Annonces for her wonderful work and dedication to preserving these gems.


6 thoughts on “Photographs and Memories: Those Family Pictures Are Not Junk

    • Unfortunately, the owner (Vieilles-Annonces) of the photos removed them from flickr. I did inquire about them and was told: ‘I am moving my things to Instagram since I never come to Flickr anymore.’ The account’s still there but these particulars have been removed. *meh* I should have downloaded them and posted but I used the links instead. Bad mistake. I’m considering removing the post…feel bad about that – it was good.


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