Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
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No, this isn’t a story about pizza. It’s a story about those precious photographs that are part of all of our lives. They are in albums, shoeboxes, envelopes and drawers. They are a look back into our pasts, the way we used to be. Frozen in time, captured for eternity.
Recently I was at a 50th anniversary party. The couple’s children put a pretty elaborate photo collage together. You could see the history of their lives right there on the easels. Young and thin with lots of hair, then with babies, then at graduations and on holidays.
I noticed that all of the photos looked very similar. Why? Because over the past 50 years, as the technology of cameras evolved, so did the quality of the photos they produced. That, along with the aging process over many years causes a strange phenomenon. All of our special photographs look eerily similar! We were all using the same cameras, wearing the same period styles and hairdos, and all the photos have aged the same length of time.
In some of my family’s photos it’s fun noticing the changes to Somerville over the years. There is a picture of my sister standing in front of “The Quick Shop.” It’s now Tedeschi’s and before that The Store 24. We have a picture of my mother in front of her office in Davis Square the day after the Blizzard of ’86. It used to be the welfare and social services building but now it’s CVS and that sports club.
One of my favorite photos is among the missing. It’s a shot of me in 1969 (age 16) in a leather jacket directing traffic in that round police box that used to be in Davis Square. I hope I find it someday.
How about those high school graduation pictures? The hair was big, and the fashions were loud. If you are anywhere near my age, you were wearing hideously huge bellbottoms and your hair was falling into your eyes. And the best part is that those photos of our silly selves will last forever.
As I said before, all of our photos have that similar look not only because of the fashions of the day, but because of the evolution of photography. Remember dad’s big old camera that took flash bulbs? One of them was called the Kodak Hawkeye. Then came the Brownie Instamatic, and those cameras that used “flash cubes.” We had a camera made by Argus. Who can forget waving that photo we got from our Polaroid Swinger? We couldn’t wait for the image to appear!
How many of you who graduated from Somerville’s Junior High Schools still have your class photo? You remember it. It came to us all rolled up. There were so many kids in the graduating class that they had to use this special camera that actually swept across the posing classmates. Look in the attic, it’s probably up there. Want a laugh? Look for me in the front row sitting down in the Western Junior High School class photo from 1968.
We have photos of us as kids skating on the frozen over Trum Field in the 60’s. We have black and white photos of our first holy communion at St. Clement’s, St. Anne’s, St. Catherine’s and St. Polycarp’s. I was the dork who wore brown shoes with my white communion suit. That image is sadly preserved forever in a photo.
We have shots of ourselves in little league uniforms, and prom tuxes (and gowns). We laugh when we look at photos of our 5th birthday party, and the one mom took when we lost our front tooth. We can’t believe our parents dressed us in such lame outfits. Hideous suit jackets, and embarrassing hats and ties. Don’t you love that picture of you proudly standing in front of that tank of a car you used to have? Don’t you wish you still had that car? I wish I still had the people that were in my life at that time. Alas, often all we have are our precious photographs to remind us of old times, old places, old friends, and loved ones that we miss so much.
At the time some of my old photos were taken, I remember being critical of the way I looked. I thought I looked old, chubby, and I didn’t like the way my hair looked. Man do I wish I looked that way now!
So, keep those valuable photos in a safe place so you can enjoy them forever.