Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk


Antique and Secondhand shops have always been my favourite places to visit. Whilst apple pie is comfort food for some, these little shops filled to the brim with old memories are the equivalent for me.  I love to browse through the crowded forests of cedar, silky-oak and pine tables, cupboards and chairs.  I let my eyes wander across shelves arranged with an assortment of bric-a-brac and am mesmerized by the soft glistening jewels kept in glass cases.  Whilst I inhale that wonderful musty smell of old, I wonder about the faces that stare at me from their sepia resting places on the walls.

Two years ago whilst wandering through an antique shop in Bendigo, I stumbled upon an entire album of photographs, including wedding photos.  The black and white images depicted the life of a family in the 1950’s.  It fills me with sadness that these ancestors have become unwanted and discarded like orphans.  Perhaps the previous custodian had no living relatives to leave them to?  I considered buying the album just so the faces had a place to call home, however I considered the asking price of $70.00 too high.

Many questions went through my head.  How did it end up in an antique shop?  Who were the people in the photos?  Was there no family left to claim them?  They were beautiful photographs, better than the average family snaps.  Obviously that the album had been someone’s prize possession.

I am so thankful that I have inherited my Great Grandparents’ belongings.  What would have happened to them otherwise?  The boxes from the house might still be sitting in someone’s shed and then what?  Dumped?  The dilemma for me is who will want them when I am gone?

A few years ago, I found this poem in a scrapbooking magazine. It provides some food for thought.

The Strangers In The Box

Come, look with me inside this drawer
In this box I’ve often seen
At the pictures, black and white
Faces proud, still and serene.

I wish I knew the people
These strangers in the box
Their names and all their memories
Are lost among the socks.

I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I’ll never know their ways.

If only someone would have taken time,
To tell who, what, and when,
Those faces of my heritage
Would come to life again.

Could this become the fate
Of the pictures we take today?
The faces and the memories
Someday to be tossed away.

Make time to save your pictures
Seize the opportunity when it knocks
Or someday you and yours could be
The strangers in the box.

Author: Pam Harazim


Perhaps it is worth considering who the beneficiary of your precious photos and memories should be.  It is far better that they be passed down the family line, than ending up in a dumpster or in secondhand shop.  I have been compiling memories for many years.  My shelves are brimming with scrapbooks, the fruits of my labours.  I would hate to see them discarded when I am no longer here to protect them from such a fate.  It is so important that our memories are kept alive.  Otherwise, what is the point of our lives at all?

4 thoughts on “Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

  1. Kim – I, too, often wonder what will become of all the research and writing I have done on my family history. Sooooo much work. But in the end, the fate of our efforts is at the mercy of those left behind. I recently learned that a cousin who had boxes of photos and old records for my family threw, all of it away when she moved the last time because she got tired of moving it and had no where to keep it all. Gone. All of it. I guess we have to make sure our stuff ends up with the right person.


    • Denise, as I replied to the following comment, my Mother in Law was about to throw her entire collection of photos that she kept in an old suitcase. I was horrified and of course rescued it. It contained photos of my husband and his siblings as children, school report cards etc. My Mother in Law was not a sentimental person and to her, it was just old stuff to throw out. I have a collection of old photos from a family who lived on the neighbouring farm to my parents. There were two brothers and a sister who never married and lived on the family farm until their deaths. The family had four brothers and two sisters. Only one of the girls married and she had no children. So once they all died, there was no one left. My family who were also good friends of this family, inherited the farm and the house full of memories. A couple of years ago I was looking in the old laundry where “the old cupboards” are stored and found a couple of suitcases full of photos. They belonged to that family. Many were ravaged by vermin and the elements, however I have managed to rescue most and have stored them in archival bags. It occurred to me that no one will remember those people down the track, so I intend to document my memories of them in a book/album. They lived in a real old house which I found fascinating as a child. It was dark and cavernous with no electricity and the old wood stove was always burning. They built a new house eventually, but found the transition really difficult and didn’t complete the move for a few years.

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  2. You have written about concerns I have and have touched on in my blog. The one thing we all can do is to condense our holdings of records and photographs. One way to do this is by placing it into book form which today is much easier to do than in the past. I have gone to many estate sales with stacks of photo albums for sale, because the family did not want them. Perhaps also we could try and find someone in the family who is willing to take our holdings. Also a local genealogy society or historical society would be interested in all or part of our collection.


    • Yes, I have been considering who I will leave my collection of old photos to, and especially my collection of military memorabilia left behind by my Great Grandfather. I was talking to a friend yesterday about this and she suggested that the local university has a collection of military memorabilia and books. So they would be a possibility as they would ensure that everything is stored in a safe archival way. Also, the RSL Clubs have libraries. A few years ago, my Mother in Law was moving into a retirement home and was going to throw away a suitcase full of family photos. I was horrified and of course rescued it before it ended up at the dump. It contained her entire collection of photos, including childhood photos of my husband which I had never seen. To her, it was just old stuff. I guess she was not the only person who thinks like that.


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