Today, I hit the antique stores looking for furniture for my new pad. I found some WONDERFUL old furniture at a great antique store where people have their old memorabilia on consignment. Some stuff was estate, but a lot of it were from people who no longer wanted these things in their family.
What struck me were all the PHOTOGRAPHS from turn of the century and from the earlier part of the 1900s the store was selling- piles of photos, some going for $1 each, and others going for .50 cents each. I found it sad.
When I got to the register to pay, I asked the woman working there about the photos. She said that a lot of the photos came from people who just didn't want them anymore. She told me about another woman that came in yesterday and bought a whole bunch of photos. When she came to the counter, she said she was going to use the photos to pin to her arms and legs and go as a family tree for Halloween. I told the woman at the register that it was sad that someone took so much time and consideration to take such beautiful photos, and all their efforts are the sum of a Halloween costume. But here's something that stunned me- as I turned to leave, I saw a few piles of photo albums sitting on the counter. I called my friend over, and we spent about a half hour going through people's photo albums and commenting on the pictures. All of these photo albums were from the 1960s and earlier, and some of them were from WW 2. In fact, one of the guys who served in WW II took a bunch of beautiful photos of some of the places the US soldiers fought- sometimes there were photos with the GI's in the background, and the GI's were taking pictures themselves!
One photo album in particular was from a woman who travelled A LOT- the scrapbook was beautifully documented and the photos were well preserved black and whites. She'd been travelling since she was in college, and she noted every place she'd been, what was going on in the picture, etc. The writing was beautiful script handwriting. It was all in order of dates, and some of those photos were priceless.
I bought the album.
I asked the woman at the register if there was any way I could contact the people who were selling the book and give them back the photos of the woman. The woman at the register said the people who dropped off the photo album had no interest in keeping the photos at all. I originally thought perhaps it was from an estate sale, but she said no, that the relatives just dropped off the book and kept on moving.
"Dang, they must really hate that woman", I told the woman at the register.
I was speechless when she said they weren't interested. Then I bought the book- mainly because I want to restore it and use the photos I took of some of the places she'd been (Canada, Mexico, and Illinois) and put them side by side next to mine, since I'd been to a lot of the places she'd been and took some of the same photos she took- I thought it would be cool to see how things have changed since 1957 and beyond.
But putting all that aside, I had a long discussion with my friend- we agreed that photos are priceless. How could someone possibly take a piece of their family history and put it on the auction block like that? I know I love every picture I've ever taken, and I was heartbroken when my college accidentally threw away a whole batch of pictures I took on a trip to Sweden back in 2000, which was a really special trip and meant a lot to me- I cried for like a week over that one. I'm still scarred from that experience. I could never look at one of my family the same way again if they pushed aside something so personal to me and pawned it off to some resale shop.
Ok, just pondering this- do people just have little or no value for family history, or am I just overthinking this whole thing?
After I left, I really wanted to go back and buy all the rest of the photo albums. But my friend and I figured, for every 5 we bought, there's probably going to be 5 new ones. Sad, isn't it?
I really hope I can respect what this woman was trying to do and add to what she'd done. She seemed like such a unique person- all that travel from 1957 and onwards, and to so many countries, plus she went to the same university I went to, and she was modelling in front of one of the halls where I used to hang. Weird. :-/