|Slides and their boxes
I was recently looking through some of those grey archive boxes that are often used to store a variety of things, not necessarily in proper archival conditions. I was actually looking for some old slides, which I wanted to convert to images that could be used in a presentation. In the 1970s I took several sets of holiday photos using slide format rather than prints. Unlike the speed and ease with which you can now assess, keep or delete photos taken with a camera, phone, iPad or tablet, and then upload them to your chosen social media site, you sent the film away and waited for the little yellow boxes to arrive. Only then did you see the results of your camerawork – had you taken a good shot or a really bad one. The other thing with slides and prints was that they could be expensive to have processed, so you didn’t necessarily waste your precious film.
|A well-travelled box
The grey box was labelled Pauline’s memorabilia. It has obviously seen better days and been moved around quite a bit. What I did find as well as the slides were school photos, letters, even some aerograms, and several things that started me thinking about celebrations. I found an envelope full of 21st birthday cards, together with several ‘keys to the door’. Without taxing my mathematical skills too much, I celebrated my 21st birthday over 40 years ago.
|21st birthday keys to the door
I was living in London at the time; I didn’t have a party, I seem to remember a cake at morning tea at work. I probably went home to my parents for the weekend. So, as my 21st birthday passed by very quietly, why did I think it important to transport these memorabilia half-way around the world when I migrated to Australia?
I think the answer lies partly in my capacity/desire to hoard ‘stuff’ but also in part to my/our need to keep things that celebrate or at least mark the significant stages in life. In the hustle and bustle created by social media, images and mementos can be quite ephemeral. I also found a couple of lever arch binders where I had stored postcards from my various travels: attached to sheets of plain white paper with photo corners. These were all neatly labelled and, in many cases, they were a substitute or an alternative to a photo taken with my instamatic camera. They reflect a particular point in time, the places may have changed dramatically since the photos or postcard images were taken.
|Postcards from Turkey 1973
Photos and other memorabilia, such as letters and diaries were essentially private – only shared with those whom we chose. The messages on postcards reflect our 2-minute record of what we were doing and where we had been; a colourful way of keeping in touch with family and friends. These have mostly been superceded by images sent via our smartphones and/or posted to social media sites. Photos often recorded a memorable or significant occasion in a person’s life, whether this was a birthday, engagement, wedding, going off to war in military uniform, starting school in a brand-new school uniform, etc.
The other thing about birthday cards is that they remind you of family members now gone, of people who were once important enough in your life (or you were important in their life) to justify them sending you their good wishes. One of my 21st birthday cards is from my maternal grandparents – signed ‘Gran and dad’. Although I don’t have any photos of my 21st birthday, I do have the keys and the cards – and the memories. Elsewhere at home I have sets of cards that relate to significant birthdays, such as my 50th or 60th. I even have telegrams sent by relatives in England when my daughter was born. In my study I have lots of albums full of photos that record my daughter’s early years and evoke memories of many different types of celebrations that mark the various stages of my life.
Sadly, I only have one or two photos of earlier generations of my family, which makes it difficult to visualise the people concerned, and understand what their lives were like. I wonder if they had little to celebrate throughout their lives that justified a photo being taken; maybe they could not afford to have a photo taken; or maybe subsequent generations didn’t place any value on them and tossed them in the bin.
Do you have a ‘memorabilia’ box? If so, have you looked in there lately? I wonder what interesting or thought-provoking memories will emerge when you open the lid. Do you have any items that members of your family decided to bring from afar when they migrated to Australia, or kept hold of even when they moved around this huge country of ours?
By the way, the slides I was looking for related to a holiday to Greece and Turkey in 1973 – my first ‘exposure’ to the Gallipoli story. I did find them, and a friend converted them for me. This experience is yet another reminder of the need to keep up with technology.