This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a photo of steamers along a river near Sydney, Australia. The photo is badly scratched, much like many in my own collection of old pictures passed down through the family.
Even if scratched or torn, old photos keep alive those family members we’ve never known. Take for example this photo of John Joseph Killeen, the first husband of my great grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh, and father to my sweet great-aunts that I have written about so often.
|John Joseph Killeen|
1863 Ireland - 1905 New York
If it weren’t for the brittle yellow tape, one or both pieces of this cabinet card might have been lost, taking with it one glimpse into my great grandmother’s past as just a young wife and mother, widowed far too soon at age 36.
Not wanting Mary Theresa to be lonely, John Killeen’s family introduced her to John Fleming Walsh who a year later became her second husband and my great grandfather. Until a couple months ago, I had never seen a picture of him, nor had my dad seen pictures. But Daddy said he had always heard that his grandfather John Walsh was handsome.
My aunt gave me an envelope of old photos to scan. Out of the envelope tumbled two tiny chips of cardboard, each less than a square inch. When I pushed them together, I saw my great grandfather for the first time.
|John Fleming Walsh|
1868-1918 Portsmouth, Virginia
But I saw something else too. That cleft in his chin – my dad and I both inherited that physical trait. Now I know where it came from. Still I’m left to wonder what happened to the rest of the picture and why this is the only one of him.
To genealogists and family historians, the scratches and wrinkles don’t decrease the value of those old photos. But sometimes little hands get in the way, resulting in this:
No doubt this is an autographed photo of SOME baseball player, one of two Daddy owned (the other is a photo signed in 1941 by Bob Feller, pitcher for the Cleveland Indians). Who scratched out the autograph and signed Daddy’s name? Not Daddy. His penmanship was more refined, downright beautiful with its strong right slant and distinctive lower case “e” resembling a backwards 3. And Daddy would never have scribbled a baseball into the pitcher’s glove – how ridiculous is that?! Obviously the culprit had no knowledge of the kinesiology of pitching.
I don’t know why we have kept this photo. It certainly wouldn’t fetch anything on eBay, “Antiques Road Show” or even “Pawn Stars.” Maybe we hope the picture will offer a glimpse into our past, and that one day we’ll figure out whether my sister or I engaged in this bit of photo enhancing activity. (Eh – it was probably my sister. I was always the good one.)
Visit Sepia Saturday for more photos and their stories.