Many boomers are reflecting back on bygone days

We seem to look back a lot these days. Not back to the future but back to the past. That’s what southern New Hampshire’s Kathleen Bailey was doing the other day, and it seems to have turned a bit emotional.

I became the keeper of the family archives by default. My sister is so much younger, she doesn’t even remember the people in the black-and-white photos. And I have begun the sometimes joyful, sometimes tedious process of preserving them electronically. Some are fragile, creased from much handling. Some go back to the turn of the century (the one that turned from 1899 to the year 1900).

Kathleen is the toddler in the front row.

Kathleen is the toddler in the front row.

There are Canadian ancestors in Victorian clothing, standing stiff and posed in a photo studio, or looking awkward in the backyard as a family member tries to figure out the mechanics of the first Kodak personal camera. Some of the women wear ruffled caps, and the children, even the baby boys, wear long dresses. It is another world.

At the Walmart photo desk, I held a fragment of a baby picture by the edges. The photographer’s name, “Joseph Belanger, Quebec,” was stamped in a corner. Did Joseph Belanger, Quebec, know that this infant’s grandchild would sit in a busy store and handle the photo by the edges? Could Joseph Belanger, Quebec, have even imagined the changes the world would see?

The family gathers for Thanksgiving in 1950 before Kathleen was born in January 1951.

The family gathers for Thanksgiving in 1950 before Kathleen was born in January 1951.

I looked with wonder on my very young parents, before there was a Me, sometimes before they were a They. And my once very young grandparents, holding one of their first babies in the barren yard of the home that would be theirs for 50 years.

The Walmart photo desk was not created with me in mind. But after a few false starts and an All Points Bulletin call to tech support, I started scanning.

A woman about my age occupied the next photo kiosk, with an older man I took to be her father. She was archiving some of HIS precious photos, and she took her time, going through every shot with him, reminiscing as they decided which ones they wanted to save. She explained everything to him, as though they had all the time in the world, which of course they didn’t. I wished I had my father with me. With his bent for technology, he’d probably be explaining the process to me.

Kathleen's mother and her two older siblings pose outside in their cool hats some time in the Roaring 20s.

Kathleen’s mother and her two older siblings pose outside in their cool hats some time in the Roaring 20s.

They left, and another woman about my age took their place. She fumbled at first, but got the hang of it, eventually managing better than I was. She looked over once and I had the compulsion to show her what I was doing. “Look,” I said, holding up a rumpled sepia photo. “That’s my mother, holding me.” She nodded politely.

Kathleen Bailey with family photos.

Kathleen Bailey with family photos.

Weddings, picnics, First Communions. The Thanksgiving dinner before I was born, the Christmas after. Those who had gone before, frozen in youth, middle age, old age. Proclaiming proudly, “We were here.”

And thanks to photography, they still were.

My photo desk neighbor finished first, despite my occasional interruption with some faded, creased image. She knew I had had some problems with the scanner. As she packed up to go she asked kindly, “Can I get you someone from Electronics to help?”

“Only,” I said, “if they have a grief counselor.”


  1. This might be a project for me.
    I am completely clueless on how to do ANYTHING with photos
    except post them from my iPhone to facebook,email or text message.
    How does one learn to do this.
    My adult daughters 28 and 25 will never,ever have the patience to show me………..

    1. The best way I have found is to use a reasonably good inkjet printer with scanner – such as the Brother printer/scanner for about $100. Scan the old photos in high resolution — large files and 300 dpi (or dots per inch). Save to a small external USB hard drive that costs about $65.

      Or contact a good photo archiving company, such as Duggal ( They are reasonably priced and very good.

      David –

      1. Oh Kathleen I can relate as I, being the oldest have been given the keeper of the past. As I look back on those old pictures, as you have, I treasure those memories of family now gone. I hold dear those old photos, because they tell the story of my life.
        It seems that those days many years ago were “the good old days”, and are missed very much.

        1. Yes, Darlene, I can relate to the “missing” part. The amazing part is the photos themselves, that a technology was developed that allows us to keep images of our loved ones, and that it keeps getting better all the time. Do what you can to preserve them. Thank you for your comment.

      2. David, this is good advice and I am going to invest in a scanner. It’s better than the Walmart photo counter. I. Have.Thousands. of photos to scan. As you can tell.

    2. R. Honey, it’s not that hard but you do need someone to walk you through it. The more you do it, the easier it will get. You are already on the way with using the iPhone. You can do this.

  2. My hundreds, no thousands, of old photos await me. I can’t decide which way to go — use the HP scanner in my home office, or go someplace like Walmart. Does anyone have info on how/where to get the highest resolution scans? Thx!

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