Found Slides, A Life Remembered

In 2011, quite by chance, I bought a vintage slide projector from a thrift store in St. Petersburg. In the base of the projector were eighty color Kodachrome slides from the 1950s.  The slides were in amazing shape, with images of a couple of families somewhere in America. The search for the people in the slides became a worldwide story, covered by multiple news outlets.
What follows in this post is the original blog post (created on an older blog platform), with the images themselves, followed by the story of how the people in the slides were identified. Even after the slides were returned, the story continued, a remarkable series of events.
To re-create the mystery and intrigue of the search for the people in the slides (especially for those who are new to the whole saga), I have removed all identifying clues and references from this blog post. I am writing a graphic novel about this fun story, and when  Found Slides, A Life Remembered is published, I will restore the clues, hints and tips, so that the mystery is retained.

I listened to a particular piece of music while I was uploading the slides to my blog, and writing my commentary for them, and this piece of music has become the unofficial theme song for Found Slides, A Life Remembered. It’s a beautiful piece called Lady Child’s Dream by David Darling (buy it HERE), and if you want to listen to it (the way I do) when looking at these slides,  click on this link. Settle back and enjoy these wonderful images, and thank the families for a peek into a previous era, a golden age of American history.

The Original Blog Post

May, 2011

This is a very special post, resulting from my purchase of a vintage slide projector at a St. Petersburg thrift store. 

In the base of the slide projector were two trays of forgotten color slides taken in the 1950s of a family in a blue collar, working class neighborhood somewhere in America.  I do not know who the people in the slides are, but looking at them is like stepping back in time, a time of postwar prosperity when America was at its greatest, when people had good paying jobs that allowed them to buy nice homes and big American cars; cars had style and personality back then, unlike the drab rolling appliances we drive today.
Looking at these pictures makes me kind of sad. Photography is about capturing moments that are gone forever, and the children in the pictures are grown up now, and probably have children of their own. I wish I knew what their names were, and who they really were, and what the story was behind each of these pictures.

The 501st Legion’s Florida and Excelsior Garrisons have been helping with research, to try to discover who these families could be. All of us would like to see that these wonderful images be returned to the families’ descendants.

You can help! If you recognize anyone or any places in these pictures, or have any clues, please e-mail me at

[Click on each picture for a large-size view]

Since I don’t know the people in these pictures, all I can do is try to fill in the blanks. Trying to guess people’s personalities through photographs is a fool’s errand of course, but it is kind of fun to guess what they were like, and you can tell a lot by the eyes. The eyes are the true windows to the soul.

This is the father, name unknown. He’s very proud of his 1951 Chevrolet, made possible, along with his house in a suburban working class neighborhood, because of a good paying job, probably in a machine parts factory. At the end of each working day he drives his Chevrolet home to his wife and kids, and on the weekends he putters around the house, goes bowling with his pals in the bowling league. His job allows him to take two vacations a year and put food on the table for his family.


His stoicism can perhaps be explained by his time fighting in the war that just ended, or his upbringing in a home where a man showing emotions was something that was simply not done. Like most men of this era, he provided for his family the socially acceptable way, by giving them a good home in a nice neighborhood.






On this quiet Sunday afternoon, there is a lawnmower droning somewhere nearby, as another home owner pushes his Briggs & Stratton over his piece of the American dream.

Later, when the mower stops, you can hear the occasional dog barking, and a passing car every once in awhile. When he wakes up, it’ll be time to snap on the radio to find out who won the game.



This little boy has a sad, worried expression on his face, as if he didn’t feel like posing for a picture at that particular moment.



This is the man’s son, who like most boys in the 1950s, has a fascination with cowboys and lawmen. Notice the yellow STOP sign in the background, before the Department of Transportation was created in 1957 and mandated the stop signs all be red. The man lived on or near an intersection; this is most probably his front yard, and the boy is playing on the sidewalk in front of his house.

The house in the background is the same house as in the picture at right, taken after an early evening rain. Also, the car behind the Chevrolet (mostly off frame, and hidden behind the tree) might be the same car in a picture that comes later in this blog post; below is a close-up of both:









A proud father, he takes lots of pictures of his son , usually near the Chevrolet he so carefully maintains. He buys a nice camera (no Polaroid for this man) so he can document his family. At each family gathering the slide projector comes out and everyone looks at the slides. 

Life is good…the war is finally over, factories have stopped making tanks and weapons and have reverted back to making brand new cars, and America is entering a new age of prosperity. Harry Truman is in the White House, and the next year, 1951, cost-to-coast television is introduced through a speech by Truman himself that documents Japan’s surrener after World War 2. Another war just started, however; the North Korean Communist forces invaded South Korea in 1950. But that seems a world away these days.

Note the small tree-trimmed yards typical of working class homes in mid-fifties America. People raising families and enjoying their piece of prosperity brought about by the victorious end to the war.

There is something haunting about this child’s expression, an expression that seems older than his years. 

Below are various snapshots of life at home, most probably taken on weekends. By the time Dad gets home from work, taking pictures is the last thing on his mind. All he wants to do is throw some cheese on some crackers until dinner’s ready, crack open a cold beer and read the afternoon paper.

Below: this might be the same house, #96, in the below pictures, but with new siding on it. The steps look similar, and both pictures show a covered porch on the right, probably in the same neighborhood.

The family’s last name begins with the letter F. They don’t have a lot of money but they are a close family, and the mother does everything in her power for them. Being a good mother is the most important thing in the world to her.

I’m guessing this is the younger woman’s mother, a pillar of strength when she needs it. The younger woman’s mother lived through the Great Depression, which instilled in her a firm sense of survival and impressed upon her what is important: family. Money can come and go, but one’s family is the most important anchor.

I imagine long, deep conversations between a worried younger mother and the strong, reassuring words of advice from her mother, at the kitchen table when the kids are asleep, or playing in the back yard.

Is she a single mother? Did her husband not come back from the war? In the 1940s, young men dropped everything – careers, families, their life plans – to go overseas and fight because their country needed them. Tom Brokaw was right; it was truly the greatest generation, and our nation is free because of their sacrifices. There was no facet of this country that was unaffected by the war effort.  

A Request: if you happen to discover the location of this house, I ask that you please do not put the address on-line. The owner quite understandably wishes to avoid people driving by and stopping in front of her house taking pictures.  Let’s respect her family’s privacy. If she consents to letting me put a picture on this blog of the house as it looks today, I will of course do so, but I wish to honor her wishes for anonymity.

Here are some more pictures taken at this house:

Here’s the little sheriff in his new duds, with a cowboy hat and toy guns, being gushed over by the mother, while the sister looks on inside.

The father may have been a Shriner; that could be a possible clue

This little boy is wearing the tee shirt that references the brother in the Air Force, namely Samson Air Force Base which is southeast of Rochester; maybe the man in the black leather jacket?

A little boy with his most prized possession: his bicycle. Once he learns to ride it without his training wheels, his whole world will open up, as he explores his neighborhood and rides on patrol with his friends.
His mother will always remember the day she went down to the hardware store or bike shop one December to pick out just the right bike. Likewise she will always remember the look on his face when he saw it for the first time that Christmas morning, and the look of exasperation as he realized he would have to wait six months to ride it.


A winter picture of the house



This is Carol; it says so right on her jacket.

Carol and the girl below (who is on the boat in the pictures below) are very good friends, maybe best friends, and grew up together in the same neighborhood, going to the same school together. I wonder if they maintained contact as they grew older or they lost touch with each other?


Carol is the more withdrawn one, more shy than her friend, who is outgoing, more confident, and has a sunny, positive personality that attracts people to her. Their different personalities compliment each other, and over the years they have become very close friends. Neither one can imagine life without the other. Carol is the more artistic one of the pair, I’m guessing, and loves to read. Her friend is more athletic, and may even have been a cheerleader at the local high school.



Joey Two Hats, a member of the 501st Legion’s Florida Garrison, has a theory that the blonde girl in the Christmas pictures below is the same girl as in the above pictures. He surmises that it may be possible that Carol began wearing the school jacket about six to eight years after the Christmas pictures were taken, when Carol was a freshman.






This is the same side of the house where the picture of Carol was taken, although she may not have necessarily lived there.




These people are different. Are they related? Friends or relatives? The man seems to be the owner of this very beautiful boat. The keys are in his hand, meaning it is time to cast off. 

Notice Carol’s friend, the pretty, all-American girl on the right, standing up. She is in several pictures. What a beautiful, radiant smile she has!




While underway, the mystery person behind the camera snaps her picture. I’m thinking it’s the dad, and the boat owner is a buddy of his, or maybe even his brother.

Below, the boat is docked at Trenton Cold Storage, which is located in Ontario, Canada. So wherever this family lived, it was either in Canada or in New York, near the border (in one picture, there’s a bottle of Genessee beer, which was brewed in New York).


Below is a small photo of Trenton Cold Storage pulled from their website; the buildings are undeniably identical.


Here’s a picture of what it looks like today:


A nice aerial shot of the park and Trenton Cold Storage; you can still see the box-like tower that juts up from the roof, and the stone pier where the boats were tied up in the 50s, when the picture was taken

A sailboat on Lake Ontario, seen either on the way to or from the marina.


The below bridge most probably spans the Genessee River. The boat this photo was taken from appears to be a sailboat, although the water is too calm for sailing; no wind. It was probably under power when it was cruising up the river one late afternoon, as the sun grew lower in the sky, and the shadows got longer. Another day will soon be gone forever.






Halloween in the 1950s, and this young woman has chosen a gypsy costume, with a mask. The Halloween party will be starting later that evening at a neighbor’s house, but while the sun is still in the sky it’s a good time for a quick snapshot. 

Here, hold the jack-o-lantern you spent so much time carving!

Here’s a young man holding what looks like the same jack-o-lantern, taken at the same time. These are probably the little boy and girl as seen in the pictures Christmas morning (below); I do not know if all these slides are from the same roll, or how long the film stayed in the camera before it was finally processed.
My guess is that these two pictures were taken later, perhaps 1957 or so.

Christmas morning in the fifties: does it get any better than that?

I think not! 
Is it only nostalgia which makes people look back on Christmas in the 1950s with such fondness and longing? Our society today is so jaded, cynical and filled with a sense of entitlement, that this era in American history seems magical.

Note the period wall hangings above the black and white TV (fourteen million TV sets are sold in 1950). The little boy has his lawman hat and his pair of six shooters, just what he wanted from Santa. His sister got ice skates, a new doll and what looks like a make-up case. Life is good this December twenty-fifth. After years of sacrifice and a lack of goods to buy during the war, America went on a spending spree in the 1950s, and subsequently became one of the most powerful economies in the world.

Above: the red box behind the boy is a Lasso ‘Em Bill cowboy costume, made by the Kenton hardware Company, which went out of business in 1952, which puts this picture between 1950-51 (because of the 1951 Chevrolet in a lot of the pictures). Some of these slides are from different years, it looks like. Whoever owned this projector selected these images to be kept available for future viewing. It seems ironic they were forgotten about when the projector was donated to the thrift store.






A huge number of babies were born in the 1950s, giving retailers a huge market for cowboy outfits, toy guns, pedal cars and board games. Few children watched television, and the reception of most sets was fuzzy and intermittent, making toy commercials a poor investment. Thus, the Christmas catalog was born: a way for kids to beg, plead and cajole their parents into buying them new toys they ogled within those magical pages.


Here are a picture of the brother and sister playing in the driveway, and a picture of the little boy when he was much younger, or a different little boy








The little boy and his best friend playing cowboys and Indians in the back yard, as summer surrenders to the onset of autumn.

One season dies, so that another can be born. A day that passes can never be re-lived.


The father built this backyard grill, probably using plans in Mechanics Illustrated, or a home improvement magazine. One weekend he took his Chevrolet down to the hardware store and bought bricks and mortar mix and spent the weekend building his own barbecue pit so his family could grill outside on warm summer evenings. The fifties was a booming time for home improvement projects, now that supplies were no longer needed for the war effort.

The Genessee beer puts this location in New York, probably upstate, close to the Canadian border.



A visit from a cousin, perhaps? One that rode a motorcycle (probably a Harley Davidson, or if he had money, an Indian). There were no imported cars or motorcycles back then. Everything was made in America.

The jacket could be an Air Force jacket; in another picture a little boy has a T-shirt  indicating that a brother serves in the Air Force.



This woman is in a lot of the slides, and may have been the man’s wife, or maybe an aunt, and drives a 1952 Cadillac. She’s pretty and confident, and looks like an intelligent, elegant woman who has a strong, proud spirit. This is a person you would be glad to have on your side when you need encouragement.


On a day trip somewhere, our family stops by the side of the road to take some pictures. You can see the pride and happiness of the mother as she poses with her child. The authentic sentiment in these images is what makes them so special.


A prom picture, taken by proud parents in the back yard before she is picked up by her date? This picture looks like late 50s, judging by the dress and hair style.


The two women in the above picture are the two women in the picture below. I would love to hear the background story of these two pictures; all we have is a snapshot of time. Obviously a special occasion; maybe a church service, or maybe even a funeral, or a big family reunion. The man (her brother maybe?) has a pensive expression, as if he would rather be somewhere else, or is troubled by something. I wonder what was going through his mind when the picture was taken.


The little boy in his finest, wearing a hat just like daddy’s. The picture was taken at the same time as the picture above; note the side of the car on the right. It’s the same car behind the pensive man in the picture above. 


What would a childhood be without a visit to Grandmom’s house? A bad one, that’s what.

I think this house is the same one as in the above two pictures, on the same street, taken at a different day or year. The house siding is identical, so we have a view now of what the other side of the street looked like.


The young woman in the pink dress above is in the picture at right and below. 

She has a heart of gold, and cares about people’s needs, always seeing the best in people, and situations. 

But behind those expressive eyes is a hint of sadness, or anxiety, perhaps of the future, or a secret insecurity. Sometimes the world just seems too cruel and unfair.

I hope she lived a happy, fulfilling life. She looks like the kind of person who sincerely deserves it.


Another picture taken in front of this awning

I love the 1950s clothes in this picture. The shorter man on the left might be the pensive man in the above picture, and the one wearing the black leather jacket. They are standing in the driveway in front of a 1950 Pontiac. The driveway is in several pictures


Same man? What do you think? 

Below is a picture of the 1950 Pontiac, the same car in the driveway of the summer backyard party above. Back then General Motors had a car for every part of your life. When you were just starting out, you bought a Chevrolet. Later, you moved up to a Pontiac. When you were doing really well, you stepped up to a Buick. By the time you bought a Cadillac, you were ready to announce to the world that you have truly made it.



Some more pictures taken in this driveway:



This is probably an uncle of the little boy, after a day of hunting with two dead deer strapped to the hood of his Hudson. 


A close up of the Hudson with the deer on it. The deer heads will probably be stuffed and mounted in the basement rumpus room or the den.



Some pictures of get-togethers and what looks like a banquet


This looks like a basement rumpus room during an evening when relatives get together, slap each other on the back and ask how they are doing. Children’s cheeks are being pinched, and promises are being made that everyone will see each other more often, a promise renewed the next time everyone does, which is usually next year.

A day of baseball, probably with a father, introducing his son to the sport.



Three girls playing on a weekend afternoon, while dad is either golfing or puttering around the house, or, watching the game. Mom is inside working on dinner, or talking with her friend on the phone. There were no video games back then, no PCs or smart phones. Back then kids went outside and played, using their imaginations.

Today? Not so much.


I have no idea what the occasion was for this gathering, but I’ll bet there is a good story behind it.

A small town parade featuring the high school marching band makes its way down the street on an idyllic Sunday afternoon…

A reader said that Charlotte High School had those colors, so the parade could be from there 


At some point our camera owner took some pictures of cows crossing a dirt road somewhere.

This boat looks hand made, or a modified boat and is most probably on the Genessee River. 




This is the most recent picture; the houses are newer and the car in the driveway is a 1965 Chevrolet Impala

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