Old photographs, especially those discovered which had never been seen, are like a happily successful archeological dig. There is nothing more exciting to me than this kind of find.
Kitty Sutherland, married to my husband’s older brother Dick, urged us to come see something that she knew we would be thrilled to share. As she started up her computer for us, I couldn’t imagine what was in store.
She explained that in the 1960s in the little town of New London, there was a couple who owned a dry cleaning business.
One day the woman thought it might be fun to just start snapping pictures of customers who came in to their business. New London was a thriving community at that time, with several major businesses.
The first pictures to appear on the screen looked like characters out of Mayberry.
Smiling women appeared with their hair often swept up in to a french twist, then men dressed in suit coat and colorful tie. Doug was able to name almost every one, and the business in which they worked. A sweet picture of a good-looking man in a gray fedora, his full attention on his little grandson whom he had picked up and stood on the counter, made a huge impact.
It was Kitty’s father, vice president of The Ohio Body, holding Kitty’s young son Jamey, a little red lollipop clutched in his hand.
Kitty had never seen the picture, and it is now a treasured find. She could tell by Jamey’s age, and the winter coat he was wearing, that this would have been taken just months before her father’s death.
The next big find to appear on the screen was a smiling Don Sutherland, in his U.S. mail carrier uniform, a satchel over one shoulder, a bundle of mail in his hand to be delivered to this nice lady who wanted to snap his picture.
It was like turning back time for all of us to see this beloved father and father-in-law making his appointed rounds with a smile.
The lady with the camera decided to go around town and take pictures of people working in the businesses all around her dry cleaning shop.
We laughed out loud as we saw ancient looking typewriters and the old rotary dial phones, taking us all back in time. Though I did not know them, I could relate to the role they played: the hardware store workers, the Chevy garage guys, the library ladies, the grain elevator operator.
How thrilling to be able to step back in time in this way!
The outdoor pictures were incredibly interesting. The cars and trucks put us all back to the 1960s, and there were photographs of buildings no longer in existence.
The booming business world of New London was highly apparent in these photographs. Like so many wonderful American small towns, it began fading sharply when so many jobs were lost as industry left for bigger cities.
It may have seemed like just a simple little fun project when this dear woman loaded up her camera and started taking single photographs of the people she encountered every day. She placed memories in a vault for us to open one day.
I wish we could tell her, all these years later, what a gift she gave to us all.