June 29th, 2021
I am in the midst of yet another project. I do love a good project. This time it's sorting through slides. It's going to take awhile because it's an entire briefcase full. Hundreds of pictures, very few of them labelled. Joy has already sorted through and began the arduous process of categorizing them. Now it's my turn.
Our dad was very fond of taking pictures. He happy snapped everything, cars, planes, boats and buildings. He commemorated family adventures, pets, countless airports and mother's flower gardens. There are pictures of people we know, people we don't and at least 148 pictures of the Columbia River. We know for sure that it's the Columbia River because he did write that carefully on one of them.
Many of the pictures my dad took throughout his life were regular snapshots. But at some point, he fell in love with slides. I can remember on special occasions, as a child, sitting on the floor while our Dad set up the screen and the projector so that we could watch the newest (or perhaps re-view the oldest) slides. There was something about sitting in that dark room with just that beam of light that always showed swirling dust motes until the first slide appeared on the screen that was almost as magical as sitting in a movie theatre. The slides were in cartridges that fitted onto the side of the projector. I actually remember him loading the cartridges, carefully making sure that each slide was the proper side up and in the order he intended. I vividly recall the Kachunk noise while watching a slide show as Daddy moved from one slide to the next one. If he was going through the slides quickly the Kachunk sound was so fast it almost sounded like a train. Those were fun family nights.
And now, as the two people who inherited these slides, it's up to Joy and I to go through decide exactly how many photographs of the Columbia River we actually need to keep. Do we really need to hold on to slides of people we don't know? Places we've never been or at least do not remember ever being? I am fairly merciless when it comes to such things so I had no problem tearing through the pictures and throwing unfamiliar things and people into a discard pile. But there were a few pictures that even though I had no idea what particular mountain range it was a picture of, or what building it was (or what city it was in) it was such a damned good picture that I had to keep it.
Of the slides that are left, I'm trying desperately to organize them into some sort of logical order. Again, Joy already started the process. She had groupings labelled, "Family", "Disney' (Lots of Disneyland - at one time we lived in southern California y'see) and "Family Places" . Now I'm fumbling around with the remainder.
In the first place, we no longer have a projector with or without a Kachunk noise, nor do we have a screen. What we do have is a small slide scanner. The slides can be viewed after being placed, one at a time, in what is essentially a very slightly magnified light box. It helps. A little bit. But sometimes I do just as well holding a slide up to the window or a light fixture.
The first time I went through, it was just to get an idea of what these slides were pictures of and at the same time to discard anything I didn't recognize and, of course, duplicates (147 of the pictures of the Columbia River). The remainder seemed to be pictures of my mother's gardens in all of the places we ever lived, random buildings, various modes of transportation, all different kinds of landscapes and pictures of water - every kind of water: rivers, ponds, oceans and creeks.
After a discussion with my sister, I put trains, planes and automobiles and garden pictures in the discard pile. (By the way I actually have kept the discarded photos in case I change my mind about any of them but they are in a separate box marked - Discards) Leaving us with Landscapes, Waterscapes and Buildings. I need to go through all of those again to see if I recognize any of them. Unless it is a truly magnificent photograph from an artistic point of view, I'm not sure there is a reason to keep pictures of things we have no idea what are. Does that make sense?
There were also quite a number of purchased slides from famous places. Professional grade photos (in slide form) of iconic New York City, or Holland Michigan. The Amish areas of Pennsylvania and Gillette's Castle in Connecticut. The Hills of San Francisco and Balboa Park in San Diego were both well represented as was Merrimack Caverns. Excellent photos but do we need to keep them?
So right now, the the kitchen counter is covered in stacks of slides and small paper stickers with my notes scribbled on them while I try to make order out of chaos. This is no small task. And I can only work on it a few hours at a time without going cross-eyed. But it is bringing back a few great memories and it does make me feel close to my Dad once more.
Meanwhile, we are for sure hanging on to the pictures of people we know, family and friends and places that we remember. Those are treasures. At least to us. When we are gone and our kids have to go through all of these pictures yet again, they may be saying, "Why do we have 148 pictures of these people and places that we don't know?" and create their own discard pile. Or maybe they will keep one, just in case, and throw out 147.
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Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.