On Valentine’s Day, my dad died in 1975 in a private plane crash in Nebraska. He was the pilot. He, two friends and our pastor all perished after the plane hit a butte during an unexpected snowstorm. At least seven of us lost our dads and one boy lost his mom that day. I was five years old and my sister was two. My mom became a widow at the age of 30.
My Dad was “hands on” and I have some fond memories of him. However, I don’t remember that much about him because I was so young when died. Now that my mom has passed away, I have the many musty boxes of photographic slides that he took when he was alive. Going through these slides has helped me learn more about who he was as a person.
Today, most of us have smart phones and take pictures freely of things that we like: our kids, pets, food, friends, etc. If I disappeared now and somebody looked at the pictures on my iPhone, they would surmise that I loved my dogs, being outdoors, playing tennis, my sweet nephews, my loving husband and delicious food.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, nobody had a smart phone. And taking photos cost money. One had to buy film, flash bulbs and have the photos developed. But my dad had his camera and took photos more liberally than I do today.
My dad’s slides are no longer in my mom’s basement. Instead, they sit on a bed in our basement guest bedroom (see above picture). When I first began going through the slides, I thought it would be a fairly easy task to get them organized. I would divide them into three piles: keep all, keep some and discard. I bought a small slide viewer and got to work. I would digitize what should be kept, give the unwanted slides to his siblings or even (gasp) throw some away.
If only it were that easy. As I looked at samplings of the slides from various reels, I realized that while I don’t have his journals or videos of my dad, I have a photo diary of his experiences. Because he’s the photographer, most of the photos don’t include him. But I know that he’s behind the camera, deciding what to photograph and how to do so. His photos show me what captured his attention. He was a keen observer of life. He also treasured people and historic sights.
I don’t know exactly how to proceed with all of his slides. Usually, in the middle of a project I know where I’m going and how to get there. That’s not the case here! But I will keep working on it. I have a feeling this effort may lead to more blog posts and perhaps some posting of particularly interesting slides that I discover. I’m grateful that his passion has left behind so many clues as to who he was.