When my grandma Gertrude passed away a few years ago, my parents sent me home with several old photo albums they’d found in her apartment. As the professional photographer in the family, I was entrusted to figure out what to do with them and keep them safe… no pressure. The photographs inside, though often out of focus, were mostly in excellent condition and showed a glimpse into her family and their life in Philadelphia almost 80 years ago. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a born and bred Philly girl, and I wasn’t kidding! My mom had often pointed out where her grandfather’s tailor and dry cleaning business was, where her mother had grown up, and now here were the pictures! I found one of my grandma and her twin sister, Ida, as little girls, and a few of them on their 21st birthday posing in Rittenhouse Square. But the ones I loved the most showed the family hanging out on Locust Street, in front of buildings that are now hair salons, doctors’ offices, and restaurants.
I really miss my grandma. I wish I’d asked her more questions, learned more about who she was before I knew her, and I mourn the connection with her generation that I lost when she died. But looking at these pictures gave me a chance to peek a little at her life when she was young. And so, for what would have been her 96th birthday, I packed everything up and headed over to take the photos back to where they’d started. There were a few of Ida and Gertrude, and my great-grandparents, and then my grandfather Milton makes an appearance, looking so dapper getting ready to take grandma riding in Fairmount Park. It was a lot of fun trying to match up the buildings at 12th and Locust, and more than a little challenging to get these shots in the middle of all the construction and traffic down there. At one point my son wandered into my shot, snacks in hand, and at the time I figured I just wouldn’t use that one. But going through them tonight, I cried a little seeing my little boy in a photo with his great-great-grandmother. I’m so grateful to have these photographs and so many more that our family has taken over the years, and to one day be able to introduce my kids to this part of their family history.
What are the memories you want to keep forever, that your kids will show their kids one day? Please be in touch to tell me how I can help tell your family’s story.
And to see how another Philadelphia area photographer preserves her family’s moments, continue on in the “This Is Us” Blog Circle =)