May 9, 2013

Found Slides, A Life Remembered - Update

Below is the entire story about how the Found Slides saga unfolded. I hope you enjoy it; it is an interesting read.

I was contacted by Jennifer Cisney, Kodak's Chief Blogger & Sr. Social Media Manager, who asked me to write a blog post for their official corporate blog about the Found Slides story, from start to finish. It's an entertaining read if I do say so myself, longer than I expected despite my attempts to streamline the narrative. If you are interested in reading how the story unfolded, sit back with your favorite beverage, and enjoy. To see the original blog post with the slides, click HERE.

I asked Jennifer if it was possible to find a Kodak Carousel slide projector that I can give to the Forsythes; they have no projector with which to view these wonderful images, and to my amazement she and her team managed to find one, and send it to me from Rochester New York. She said the search for it "got got our crew all a-buzz hunting for it."   So, huge thanks to Jennifer and to Kodak for this gift. I'm sure the Forsythes will really appreciate it. I will bring it to them myself once I receive it.

Update: the Forsythes were surprised and appreciative of this gift from Kodak; they had worked at Kodak in Rochester. I put some of the slides into the tray and we had a pleasant evening looking at some of them. A moment I'll treasure. Thanks again, Kodak!

Finding The Projector

It all started with the file cabinets.

Central Avenue in St. Petersburg dozed in the morning sun. The broad two lane street was almost entirely devoid of cars, its sidewalks sparsely populated and not even the homeless population had begun making their rounds. Central Avenue had seen better days, and was lined with empty storefronts, but was undergoing a slow revival. Funky shops, thrift stores and a new condo development were slowly breathing life back into the long city street that led to Tampa Bay.

My wife Deb and I were in both our cars, me in my Mustang and Deb in the Mitsubishi Spyder convertible. We had picked up three file cabinets of the type found in office cubicle work stations, heavy but well constructed, and perfect for the home office Deb and I were setting up. One was wedged into the cramped confines of the Mustang's back seat, and two sat in the even smaller back seat of the Spyder.

The broad street was awash in new sunlight and almost completely deserted. An abandon lot dotted the strip here and there, and closed storefronts outnumbered open ones. The thrift store we pulled into had a collection of used furniture on the sidewalk, looking like a lonely outpost of activity on a long ribbon of sidewalk. Having just bought a house, we were drawn to thrift stores to see what we could bring home. While Deb perused the furniture, I ducked inside.

The store was large, relatively new, and empty. A sleepy silence filled the air. There were the predictable racks of clothes beside shelves filled with dishware, utensils, appliances and various odds and ends. Against the right hand wall were racks of mens' suits, and in the corner, placed indifferently and almost concealed, was a vintage slide projector which immediately caught my eye.

I went over and looked at it. It was a twelve by fourteen inch cube with a caramel colored case that enclosed the whole projector. The wood showed through several rips in the case covering. I pulled it out and squatted before it, removing the cover. It was a TDC Vivid slide projector, attached to a wooden base in which were two small drawers. It had a brown crinkly finish and Art Deco lines around the side and on top, typical of an age when industrial design was an art form, unlike the bland, uninspiring designs cranked out today by companies with little imagination and no motivation to create anything that would last longer than a couple of years. I estimated it had been made in the late forties, maybe early fifties.

I opened the drawers; they were for slides and were filled with them, four racks of color Kodachrome in all. There were probably close to a hundred slides. A nice bonus, even if they were in bad shape. Overall, the projector was in pretty good condition, probably dragged out a couple of times a year when the in-laws and family gathered at the house during holidays so that everyone could dutifully admire the photos taken by the father intent of showcasing his photographic prowess before attacking the bean dip on the coffee table.

I had actually had a slide projector in my collection similar to this one, but it had been blue. In Vermont, while Deb and I were seeing each other, I had had a very retro bachelor pad, with framed Art Deco prints on the walls, vintage appliances and collectibles, even a 1950s hair drying chair from a hair salon, complete with clear plastic head bowl dryer. I also had a nice collection of antique cameras and projectors, most of them gotten for free in my years of working at a camera store in New York. They were beautiful to look at, but when Deb and I moved to Florida in an RV, I had to sell them. Now that we had a new house, and I had a studio, I had some room to acquire some more retro treasures.

I took the projector over to the counter where a bored looking woman was making notes in a little book and looked as excited as a thrift store clerk on an empty street would look on a Saturday morning.

The tag says twenty-five; would you take twenty for this?” I asked.

She didn't glace up as she continued her entries. “As long as you don't mind paying the sales tax.”

I got out my wallet and after paying, carted my new toy outside where Deb was waiting. She rolled her eyes with a smile as I hoisted the projector and put it in the front seat. 

The Slides

My studio had been a bedroom once, before Deb and I bought the house, but was now the place where I would be launching my business, creating art, and photography, and painting. Deb's studio space was the other, slightly smaller bedroom across the hall. My easel stood in one corner with the painting I was currently working on covered by an old sheet. Beside it was my drawing table with the inset light box and a tray for my pens, brushes and other drawing tools. In the other corner was my computer workstation, a huge desk with hutch and secretary return that fit into the corner, where I kept my scanner and other computer equipment.

After unloading the filing cabinets I cracked open a cold beer and sat down at my drawing table, turned the light box under it on, and put some of the slides from the projector on it, using my loupe to get a good view.

They were all cardboard mounted Kodachrome slides, and all of them in color. The first one looked like it had been taken yesterday, the colors were that vivid. It showed a man standing in a driveway in front of a black, early 1950s Chevrolet that looked as if he had brought it home from the showroom that morning. The man was shirtless, and had a cigar corked confidently in his mouth, his eyes narrowed to slits in the sun. He had a slight paunch, as men of his age usually had, and his hair was cut short and neatly trimmed, showing a slight reflection of hair cream, Vitalis, perhaps. The Chevy was parked in a driveway beside a white house with red trim, with large trees framing the background. It looked like one of thousands of quiet neighborhoods you would find all over the country in the 1950s.

The next slide, grabbed at random, was just as vivid. It was a little boy looking into the camera with an apprehensive expression on his face. He looked to be about five, and was wearing a straw cowboy hat fastened with a string under his chin. He wore a blue and white striped shirt and was holding a leash or rope that was attached to something off frame. The mint condition Chevrolet was parked behind him, with a license plate that said HUGHIE on it. Beyond the car was a yellow STOP sign and a large house across the street.

Whoa, Deb you have to see these slides!” I called out. “They're incredible!”

The slides were filled with one family, maybe two, in the early 1950s in what appeared to be a working class neighborhood, and almost all of them were in remarkable condition, the colors vivid and sharp, the images crisp and focused. There were backyard snapshots of kids posing in front of brand new 1950s-era cars, images of Christmas mornings in a typical house filled with period decor, family snapshots taken on front steps, and even pictures of a beautiful wooden boat on a river somewhere, moored at a building called Trenton Cold Storage.

These were not staged Hollywood images, these were snapshots of real families living real lives, a glimpse of what life was like in that era. They were probably among the coolest slides I had ever encountered and I was completely mesmerized.

But what was I going to do with them?

It would seem wrong to just throw in a drawer and forget about them. After a couple of days of looking at them through my loupe, I decided to scan them and put them onto my blog. I teach cartooning and drawing, and for the past four years I have maintained a blog for my students onto which I put drawing tips, links to artists, cartoon-based websites and art-related events. My blog seemed like a good place to let others see these slides.

As I put each image onto my blog I wrote a short description, trying to guess what each person in the picture was like. Of course, I would never find out who these people were, or find out anything about them, but it was fun to take some guesses, and fill in the blanks, even if I was wildly off base. As I worked I listened to David Darling's Lady Child's Dream, a relaxingly melancholy composition that I will always identify with these pictures (listen to it HERE). It became my soundtrack to these images and the story they told.

The Detective Work

And then the world of Star Wars got involved.

I'm a member of a group called the 501st Legion, a global Star Wars costuming group whose members have movie-accurate Star Wars costumes. There are over six thousand members around the world, and have a garrison in almost each country on earth, with a garrison in almost every state in the United States. The Florida Garrison is one of the biggest garrisons in the Legion with the exception of Germany and England. Members spend a huge amount of time, as well as money, creating and maintaining their costumes, and in addition to marching through Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios every year in the Star Wars Weekends parades, members participated in fundraisers, charity events and other goodwill activities, raising money and supporting a variety of causes. I myself organized an event each year called Trooping For the Troops, in which members visited soldiers at VA hospitals to thank our veterans for their service to their country.

On a whim, I put a link to my blog on the Off Topic board on the Legion's Internet message boards:

I thought I'd share this with you guys; I had an incredible find this weekend. In a vintage slide projector I bought this weekend, there were lots of color slides taken in the 1950s of an unknown family. It's like going back in time. I don't know who any of these people are, but these pictures have given me a window into their lives, a life that no longer exists, gone with the passage of time. I wish I knew what their names were, and who they really were, and what the story was behind each of these pictures.

The responses from members began, and began a chain of events that gave me hope that I previously did not have, that I might actually have a chance of finding out who these families might actually be:

Wolfie wrote, Those were really cool to look through, thanks for posting them! Hope you are able to find something out about them. Maybe someone will see them online someday and recognize someone!

Grunt, the Florida Garrison Public Relations Officer had his thoughts: Awesome find! A note about these pics that may lead you to some information; both cars in the picture picture below have the same from license a "group" or "club". Maybe there is some info out there on what "Hughie" was back then?

Ajax407 did some digging: This one is in Trenton, Ontario Canada ; I Googled 'Trenton Cold Storage' and found that the company is still in business. I know it's the same one because of this photo.

And Girlscout, who is not a 501st member but who's husband was currently in the process of becoming a member, tackled the task of identifying the location in the pictures with a gusto. I would be at work and would get a few emails a day from Girlscout with her discoveries:

  • A bunch of the photos that you have here are in the New England, tri-state, Ontario Canada area. if you are interested in this family, which it appears that you are, there are a number of ways of finding them and either returning the photos or seeing if they want them. a lot of times, the children from the pictures, want them to remember parents....

  • Where did you find this tray of slides? Anywhere near Merittville? The Merittville Speedway goes back to July 1, 1952. Driver Hughie Tripp, as well as many other notables, made their way through the gates to attend their reunion event in 1998. it might be a shot. it looks like those cars were a prized part of the family history... more about Tripp can be found at the Merittville Speedway site on their reunion page. its wall-to-text and my brain wont let me read it, but its got some good leads.

  • You said you knew that Carol was the name of the woman in red from another one of the photos. Is it a letter jacket? do you have a better picture? I bet we can find out where Carol is from. And sorry for hijacking your thread. this is my absolute favorite kind of scavenger hunt.

The license plates which said HUGHIE were a big clue. Hughie could refer to the race car driver Hughie Tripp, or it could be the name of a car dealership called Hughie, as in Hughie Chevrolet. I did some on-line research into Hughie Trip and concluded that since Tripp won his championship in 1965, the man in the photos would have been too old to be racing by that date, considering when the pictures were taken. My search of the New York area for a dealer called Hughie similarly turned up nothing as well.

Xrayted, a female member, pointed out that the two boats in the pictures were the same, and had a registration number of 8 B 500, but records for the New York and Canadian maritime registration agencies did not go back far enough to track the owner of the man standing in the boat.

At this point Wolfie posted, Awesome that this is going somewhere!!! I cant wait to see if the Tripp family is right LOL More exciting than anything else I'm reading online right now for sure!

It became a team effort undertaken by the 501st Legion, with members doing research and posting their theories and observations on the boards, which slowly fleshed out the details of this time period and gave us a bit more insight into the lives these people lived. The more I found out, the more curious I became about these families. Scott Will, the garrison's merchandising officer and prop builder, found an interesting detail in one of the Christmas pictures:

One of the opened presents in this photo is a "Lasso 'Em Bill" cowboy costume. I can't find a date for when the costume was made/sold, but the company that made it was Kenton Hardware Company. They went out of business in 1952. So assuming the toy was new at the time it was given, the photos may predate the 50s. How old it the car?

So far we had been able to determine the following
  • One of the women in the pictures wearing the red varsity jacket was named Carol
  • The photos were taken between 1949-1952 and were in the upper New York area, judging from the bottle of Genessee beer in one of the pictures.
  • There was a river nearby on which they knew someone who owned a boat
  • The boat owner either worked at Trenton Cold Storage, or at least did business there, as they obviously visited the company
  • The man in the picture was either a big fan of someone named Hughie, or his name was Hughie
  • One of the children wore a tee-shirt referencing Sampson Air Force Base, which was located in upstate New York, near Lake Ontario, so a member of one of the families was either in the military or a veteran
  • 501st Legion member Grunt did some research on the toy school bus in one picture and discovered the whole production history of that particular toy, quite an impressive feat

At this point it was a relatively safe bet that the river in the pictures was the Genessee River, and the big body of water Lake Ontario. At Wolfie's suggestion, I contacted the Garrison Excelsior of the 501st Legion, which operates in the Rochester New York area, and asked if they would help us our research. I applied for access to their member boards and sent the following message:

Hi all! My name is Magnum, I'm the executive officer of the Tampa Bay Squad down here in the sunny FL Garrison, and I've asked for access to your boards because I would like to see if you may be able to help us with a kind of exciting project. If this is the wrong forum for this please let me know. Thanks!

Last Saturday in St. Petersburg I bought a vintage slide projector. In the base of the projector were two racks of color Kodachrome slides, over 80 in all. The slides show a couple of families from the early 1950s. I scanned them and put them onto my blog, and shared the link with the Florida Garrison. We've had a great time trying to figure out who these people might be, so that we can contact the family and offer the slides to them, and learn about their stories. We've narrowed the location to the upstate NY area. Here's where you can help. Here's what we know:

We know that the majority of the photos were taken in Rochester, NY between 1950-1953, with a few shots taken on the Genessee River and Lake Ontario; one picture shows the Trenton Cold Storage building, which is still in business today. One of the houses is is numbered 69. One of the men in the photos has two cars with the license plate "HUGHIE" on each car, most probably a reference to race car driver Hughie Tripp, who won the Merritville Speedway championship in 1965. I don't think this man is Hughie Tripp; he would have been too old to race in 1965, but maybe he is Hughie's son, or a fan of Hughie Tripp. Additionally, there are pictures of a Brownie troop #236, and there is such a troop that operates in the Rochester area. There is also a couple of pictures of an amusement park which is what we think is Dreamland aka Glen Haven, now known as Seabreeze Amusement Park. One picture has a child wearing a tee-shirt that references Sampson Air Force base.

So, my fellow, 501st Legion members, I ask for your help. Can you take a look at the photos, see if you recognize any of the people or locations, and let me know? The people in these pictures look like good people living good lives, and I would love to be able to meet the family and learn their stories (if they'll share them with me), and give them these wonderful slides.

The pictures are at this link:

Thank you for letting me visit your forums, and hopefully you can help us in our quest!

I received responses from the Garrison Excelsior, the most from Doc_Bev, whose name was Nicky, who would provide some tips on which amusement park might be the ones in the pictures. Nicky responded,

What an exciting project! Thanks for offering us the chance to help!
I'm in awe of the time and consideration you put into the presentation and commentary.

Sadly, none of the photos ring a bell of familiarity with me (being born in 1976), but I can post the link on some local boards here in Rochester and perhaps come up with some more leads.

I also placed an ad in Craig's list for Rochester New York, and received even more responses, including one person contacted by Nicky:

  • Nicky, I love this whole thing! You sending out a what's up with a link, and your friend "magnum arts" for scanning and putting together such a cool web blog about it. My friend and I (both lifetime natives) were pouring over the pictures trying to get some reference regarding specific locations that had not already been no avail. Having been here for the blizzard of '66 I think the one lone shoveler picture is from that event. My friend and I thought it might be a good idea to contact one of the local news stations, it seems to me that this would be a very heartwarming human interest story that could help the cause, especially because the target audience who could shed light on who, what, and where is for the most part a bit less than internet savvy. Thank you for more sunshine on a (rare) sunny day in Rochchacha!

  • Hi there! Just saw your website and love that you're trying to get these slides back to their original owner!!! You have been an incredible detective and I think you're probably close to finding the family! I'm from Rochester and recognize some of the areas....I've posted on my Facebook wall about this website and asked others to repost to help you find the owner. You should contact the local newspaper The Democrat and Chronicle and see if they'd pick up this story!!! Hope this helps!

  • Donna, a woman with whom I would generate a long distance friendship, contacted me to say, “Your note and blog came through to me this morning via an inter-office note at [redacted] where I work. I've since posted it on my Facebook wall, hoping it'd get around some that way. So I was glad to see it posted on Craigslist just now. What you are doing, trying to find the family, is so commendable and I'd probably do the same. People like us "get it". I hang onto my many great memories growing up in the '50's and '60's, it was the best time to be a kid. If someone found some of my family's lost pics, I'd be so grateful to get them back and I'm sure this family will be too.

  • Another woman named Kathy and I became long distance friends as well, and she reached out: “Hi, I've been looking over your pictures over the past few days. I can't tell you how hooked on this I am. I live in Rochester NY and have lived here my entire life. You have a treasure. I have commented a couple times. I know that in the city of Rochester, Ben Franklin is the only one with school colors of red and white. In the suburbs, I know Fairport is red and white. So, maybe Carol went to one of those 2 schools. I showed this to my mother and she said that it looks like the guy in the picture could have worked at Rochester Products, or Delco. They produced Chevy parts, so maybe he was proud of his workmanship and bought his brand new Chevy. If that's the case, Those 2 factories are located on the west side of Rochester. Lexington Avenue area. The houses in the pictures look like city houses to me. I have a friend who lives literally right next to the Jackrabbit. It's the wooden Roller Coaster at Sea Breeze. I don't think Ontario Beach Park ever had an amusement park, but they do have a carousel.

At night, after work, I would come home and read the emails I received from people living in Rochester, listen to David Darling's Lady Child's Dream and update my blog, all the while looking at their faces, wondering what they were really like. What were they doing now? A couple of the people I was very curious about, such as the woman named Carol wearing the red varsity jacket, and her friend posing in front of the 1952 Cadillac, the woman with the expressive eyes, eyes that looked as if they have seen maybe a touch too much disappointment, the young mother and her mother sitting on the front steps pf the number ninety-six house. I wondered what they had seen during the time these pictures had been taken, and how different their lives were then compared to what life was like now.

At this point I didn't think I'd be able to find out exactly who they were; I expected the leads to peter out until everyone moved on, leaving the mystery unsolved.

And then the media discovered the story.

The Story Hits The News

I received an e-mail from YNN News in Rochester, New York in response to an e-mail I had sent them about the story; they wanted to interview me about my efforts to identify the families in the slides. A reporter named Scott Patterson called me at work, and I stepped over to an empty cubicle to do the interview, with Patterson telling me the story would air tonight on YNN News in Rochester, and oh, by the way, do you have a photo of yourself you can send me?

The only photos I had on my work computer were of Deb's and my wedding; we had gotten married at the house we lived in, and had gone with a tiki theme, with everyone wearing leis. The only decent picture I had of myself was of me wearing a white Hawaiian shirt, white straw fedora and a lei, so that is what I sent Patterson.

The story hit the TV station that evening with the headline Florida Man Tries To Find Family In Photos. I e-mailed the link to the video segment the next day with my department. Everyone wanted to see it, and I knew when they had gotten to the part where my picture appeared on screen because of the laughter. The thought of people in Rochester seeing the picture of myself looking like I just stepped onto Fantasy Island was utterly hilarious, and everyone got a good laugh out of it.

The news story led to a flood of new emails and hits on my blog. Messages came pouring in, all of them supportive of my desire to identify the families in the slides. Donna and Kathy, the two ladies in Rochester I was in regular email contact with, told me everyone in their respective offices were talking about the segment. Apparently it was a big story in Rochester.

It was attracting attention in Florida as well. Adam Freeman, a reporter for a local station in St. Petersburg, Florida, e-mailed me to ask if I was willing to do an on-camera interview. He came over to the house the next day with an intern and set the camera up in my studio, filming me bending over my light table, along with shots of the slides, and the projector. St. Pete thrift shop purchase leads to NY mystery, the title of the segment proclaimed.

Before I knew what was happening, a third television station e-mailed me, this one in Rochester, asking for yet another interview. Ted Fioraliso from WHEC in Rochester ran the story on May 22nd with the headline A history mystery: Do you know the people in these photos?

A big break came from Amanda, the woman who lived in one of the houses in the photographs, the number ninety-six house. On May 17th she sent me an e-mail titled Your house!!! that read,

I just stepped into the Twilight Zone!

I was watching a local news cast and saw what looked my house on TV. Your blog made a story for the news.....after looking at your pictures I am so amazed at what I saw...MY HOUSE!!! My family bought it 30 years ago and not to much has changed 96 [redacted] Rochester, NY. Please feel free to contact me, I may have the records of previous owners. I am in shock, utter shock. I am so filled with excitement to see all of these pictures of who was here before us. Please do not post my address for privacy reasons on your blog, but feel free to contact me maybe I could help find the people you are looking for.

What an adventure!

People were sitting up and taking notice, apparently. At work, people in my department were marveling at how big the story had become, no one more than myself. I had never expected the level of attention this endeavor would generate. Fortunately, all of the responses and e-mails I was receiving were uniformly positive, and the media coverage was providing me with valuable leads, which I dutifully added to my blog post. My friend Joey Two Hats, another member of the 501st Legion, called me to tell me he and his friend were spending hours on my blog, doing research and trying to construct a family history based on what they had uncovered. Joey had become obsessed with this mystery and was devoting almost all of his spare (and not so spare) time to solving it.

And then the story broke wide open, and there were a couple more twists yet to play out.

Cracking The Case

On the evening of May 23rd after work, I was updating the blog, and reading the e-mails I had received, when Joey Two Hats called me on the phone. “Dude, are you sitting down?” he asked me, in his ultra deep voice that I could imitate perfectly (and did every time we got together).

I sat down. “I am now. What's up?”

I know who the shirtless man is in the pictures. What's more, I know where his son is living now.”

I gripped the phone a little tighter and sat there with no thoughts going through my head. “Talk to me.”

Joey spoke slowly, savoring the words the way a gourmet savored a particularly good piece of prime rib. “The shirtless man standing in front of the 1952 Chevrolet is Hugh Forsythe. His wife was Grace Forsythe.”

Hughie,” I breathed. It all made sense.

Hugh Forsythe had four children: Etta, Judith, Guy, and...are you ready for this? Hugh Forsythe Junior. Hugh Forsythe passed away in 1998. Grace Forsythe passed away last month in Florida. I found her obituary, with notes from Guy and Hugh Forsythe Jr.”

That must be how the projector ended up in that thrift store,” I surmised. “No one even knew the slides were in it.”

But dude, why would they leave the slides?”

Maybe they didn't even know they were there. It's possible that Hugh Jr. hired a crew to clean out his mother's house, and the crew didn't even bother to look at it closely.”

Makes sense. Do you want Hugh Forsythe's address? He lives right here in St. Petersburg.”

You have his address?”

I could hear the glee in his deep voice. “You know it, dude. Are you going to go over to his house?”

I didn't answer. I had been so focused on trying to find out who the families were that I had given no thought to how I would approach them once I found out. I had no idea how they would react to this situation, which by now was being followed by a large number of people. I felt a protective instinct toward the slides, and the people in them. I had tried to preserve the dignity and privacy of the families by keeping last names, addresses and other identifying details off the blog until I knew how the families would feel about this situation. If I approached them, it would have to be with a fair amount of diplomacy and tact. Which would be more appropriate, writing a letter, making a phone call, or a personal visit?

As it turned out, the decision was made for me.

On May 24th, Ken Moore was at home watching the YNN News in Rochester when Scott Patterson's piece about the slides was broadcast. Just about falling out of his chair, he recognized the young women in the pictures on TV as his sisters, Carole and Barbara. He reached for the phone and called his sister.

Carole, have you seen the news? Either your picture is on TV, or you and Barbara have exact doubles out there! There are pictures of you on the news!”

After ending his phone call with his sister, Ken posted a comment on my blog, and contacted YNN News to let them know he was one of the family members of the women in the pictures. Carole then posted a comment on the blog as well, along with her e-mail address.

Scott Patterson, the YNN reporter who interviewed me, received word that the people and houses in the pictures had been identified, and in the news station's daily meeting, received the go ahead from the studio's executive producer to send a TV truck to the number ninety-six house the next morning to interview Barbara, Carole, and Ken Moore.

The executive producer, meanwhile, went home at the end of the day, and the next morning, while getting ready for work, she glanced out her window to see a YNN TV truck parked across the street. Wondering what was going on, she stepped outside to find Barbara and Carole Moore, holding a photo album, talking to Amanda in the house across the street. It was then that the executive producer found out something that left her thunderstruck: the house she owned was the very same house the Moores grew up in. Her house was part of the story. It was the talk of the newsroom that day.

Amanda had been taking out her trash that morning when she saw Carole and Barbara walking up the front walk, and realized that these were two of the women in the pictures. They went through their photo album, marveling at how little the neighborhood has changed, followed by Scott Patterson and his news crew.

From this several mysteries were immediately solved; that the “Carol” wearing the red varsity jacket was actually Barbara, who often borrowed her sister's clothes (and the name was misspelled on the jacket anyway; Carole's name has an “e”), and it was Carole in the white prom dress in one of the pictures. Also, we learned that the Forsythes and Moores were close family friends for much of the 1950s, and that the projector most likely belonged to Grace Forsythe, the mother in some of the pictures who had moved to Florida in 1969.

All of this was unknown to me until Amanda sent me an e-mail I received at work describing what was happening way up in Rochester. I called Scott Patterson, the YNN reporter, on his cell phone right away.

Looks like your mystery is solved,” Scott said. He had the confident, clipped voice that TV anchors had which spoke of softball games, July 4th fireworks and apple pie. “It's been a pretty exciting morning up here.”

So I heard! You're going to broadcast the story tonight?”

It'll be on the the air on tonight's news. I'll send you a link as soon as it hits our website. It's too bad you couldn't be up here.”

Scott do you know if the Forsythe family down here is aware of this situation yet?”

That I couldn't tell you. I have no idea.”

Well if they're not aware of this situation now, they will be very soon. I'd rather they found out from me rather than having a TV truck pull up in front of their house.”

I hear you. Are you going to head over there?” I told him right after work, and he asked, “Are you going to return the slides?”

That's the plan. They belong with the families, not me.” I explained that I didn't have the slides with me, that I would have to bring them another time, but my main goal was to inform them of what was happening.

Let me know how it works out. I'd like to cover the return of the slides to the family. Bay News 9 is our affiliate down there.”

Well that's up to the Forsythes. I'll have to see how they feel about it first. Whatever they decide, that's what's going to happen.”

It was time to meet the Forsythes.

The Meeting

The Forsythes lived on a quiet street in an older part of St. Petersburg that was surrounded by tidy, well kept houses, old growth trees and and a deep, early evening silence. The Forsythe's house was a one story affair of dark woods, a large two car garage and a generous and well maintained front yard. There were two cars parked in the driveway.

I pulled up to the Forsythe home, seeing two people sitting in the threshold of the open garage, enjoying a quiet summer evening. There was a classic car in the garage covered by a car cover, and the garage was arrayed with artifacts indicating a man who loves cars and airplanes. I got out of my car and went up to them. I was nervous; I had no idea what their reaction would be to this situation, and it called for diplomacy.

"Mr Forsythe?" I asked. He said he was, and looked curious but not the least bit distrustful or wary. He was an elderly gentleman, thin, wearing a white cap. He had deep set eyes that had the suggestion of a twinkle in them. His wife sat beside him. She was thin as well, dressed in comfortable looking summer clothes.

"You don't know me, sir, but I think I have found something that rightfully belongs to your family, and I have been doing some detective work to find out which family it belongs to. My trail has led me here." He and his wife looked intrigued, and I described the slides I had found. "I've been able to narrow the pictures down to Rochester, New York, and I believe the people in the pictures are of the Forsythe and Moore families."

"Really!" he said. "Why don't you have a seat?" He got up and got another plastic chair and set it down before them, and I sat down and told them the whole story, how I had found the slides in the projector, put the pictures on line, and how I began receiving tips, and how it became bigger and bigger, and how eventually the news began covering the story and the events that transpired today up in Rochester with the Moores. The executive producer living in the Moore house gave them a good chuckle.

"The thing I want to emphasize to you is that the pictures of your family have lifted the spirits of a lot of people, people who have reached out to me telling me what good memories they triggered, and how much it meant to them. This is a gift your family has given without your even being aware of it. The country is not doing so well these days; there's a lot of bad news, and people need something to feel good about. I think that's why so many people have been following this; it makes them feel good. That's a gift your family has given people." I explained that my objective was to return the slides to them.

Mr. Forsythe leaned forward and smiled. "Well, do you want to keep them?"

Mr. Forsythe had an honest, down to earth air about him that made me smile. "They're really not mine to keep, sir, they should be with your family. I'm sure some of your family has never seen them. I don't have them with me, because I came right from work, but I can get them to you. If you have the Internet, I can show them to you."

Mr. and Mrs Forsythe were receptive and fascinated by what I had found, and they invited me inside, where we went into his den, where his computer was. After getting permission to use it, I pulled up the blog, and for the next hour we went through the pictures, one by one, and they told me who most of the people were, instantly recognizing them.

It was a very exciting evening; I had finally come to the end of my quest, and as Hugh and Donna Forsythe looked at the pictures on my blog they were able to identify almost all of them. Finally, I was learning about the people in these pictures, and I was as close to being giddy as I ever became.

After they had seen them all we went into their living room to exchange contact information, and I told them Bay News 9 wanted to cover the return of the slides. “This is entirely up to you. If you are okay with it I'll let them know, but if you prefer not, then that is just the way it will be. It's completely your call. And I'll tell them not to broadcast the outside of your house or your address.”

Donna and Hugh Forsythe thought about it, and Donna glanced at Hugh and said, “It'd be a way for your friends in Rochester to see you.” She looked at me. “There's a big family reunion with the Moores and the Forsythes in August. They have it every year, but we're not going to be able to make it this year.”

Hugh Forsythe nodded thoughtfully. “I guess it's okay.” 

Conclusion – The Return of the Slides

On Thursday afternoon Josh Rojas, the reporter from Bay News 9 called me and explained he had been contacted by Scott Patterson and would like to cover the story. I told him what the address was, and when I would be there, and asked that the house exterior not be broadcast, nor the Forsythe address.

Well, we don't usually agree to any restrictions to a story,” Rojas drawled. “Who's making the request.”

Irked now, I answered, “I am. The Forsythes are under no obligation to allow this to be covered by the news; in fact they don't even have to talk to me at all.”

Well like I said we usually don't agree to any restrictions.”

I felt my neck tighten. “Look, Mr. Rojas. I introduced them to the situation, and they've been very gracious in talking to me and allowing this story to be broadcast. They quite understandably want to avoid having a lot of cars driving by their house taking pictures. I don't think this is an unreasonable request.”

Ok, it's not like this is Lady Gaga or anything, so I think it'll be okay.” It sounded like a generous concession where he was. It sounded like bluster where I was.

The TV truck was parked in front of the Forsythes when I arrived after work. Rojas came over to me and shook my hand while his camera man filmed me getting out of the Mustang and coming over. I explained once again that we were here at the discretion of the Forsythes, who were being gracious enough to allow this to be broadcast.

We went inside, and I could tell Mr. Forsythe was unused to the attention. He was a World War 2 veteran, from a different era where a man was not fussed over, but Rojas and his camera man were extremely polite and the interview went well. Rojas filmed me showing the Forsythes the slides, which I had put into slide sleeves in a three ring binder, and their thoughts about having them returned.

Donna Forsythe explained to the camera, "We have really enjoyed going through the slides because these are pictures from so long ago. My husband's sisters were just tiny and his brother was very small."

"I'm just grateful that we have them," Hugh Forsythe added. "It feels great and I'm glad that Mike took the time to return them."

The interview took a half hour, and Rojas, the camera man and I left; I could tell Mr. Forsythe, a private person, was ready to have his house back. On the drive home I felt bittersweet bout the mystery being solved. Gratified that it had had the best possible ending, but a little wistful that the mystery was solved and the case was now closed.

All in about three weeks.

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