About a year and a half ago I started the process of scanning my grandparent’s slide collection. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift for my older sister and brother for year 2012. Then my scanner broke and I was no where near to being finished. So after I got my scanner repaired, I started the project again and now it would be a gift for 2013. Then it happened again. The scanner broke and I was crushed. I was halfway done with the project, and I did not want to settle for only half of the slides scanned. It needed to be all of them. Fortunately for me, my husband while shopping for gifts spotted a slide scanner device at Kohls, so I took a chance and bought the device and it worked fine.
This series of blogs is about that wonderful journey of rediscovering the memories that my grandparents created using slide film. My grandparents both immigrated from Europe. My Grandfather was from Germany, and my Grandmother was from Switzerland. They both came with portions of their family and they all went to night school and learned English and eventually studied to obtain their citizenship. During this period of time there were no government programs that handed out citizenship to just anyone. My grandparents both worked at menial jobs and went to night school to learn English. That’s just the way it was back then. And I have to say that I am very proud of them and their ability to make changes to start a new life. I don’t recall how they met, but they had similar language backgrounds. Grandpa spoke German and my Grandma spoke Romansch, which is Swiss, and Swiss German which is a mixture of Romansch and German. Switzerland basically has four languages due to their central location in the alps between France, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Italy. They both arrived to the United States after World War I and before World War II.
My Grandfather and Grandmother often took jobs as caretakers for estate properties or as housekeepers and gardeners. They moved around a lot due to my Grandfather’s health. He had bad allergies and asthma, which was probably a big signal that the U.S. was not an ideal location for him. My Grandfather studied and learned the Latin names for all the plants that he worked with as a gardener and also had other hobbies such as fishing, hunting, and photography. Photography was a big artistic outlet for him. At one point he had a dark room in the basement setup and he developed his own black and white film. He often took photos of my Mom and my Grandmother as well as various landscape scenes.
I think as color film became more readily available, the lure of taking slides and being able to share their images on a large viewing screen appealed to him, so I think the black and white photography took a back seat afterwards as he explored other aspects of film, not to mention that these materials were very expensive. One has to realize that during the 40s to the 60’s that not everyone had a color TV in their home and generally it was only one set per household, so sharing color slides was enjoyable despite what the Baby Boomer generation may make jokes about now. Slides are now a dead form of media. We can show digital libraries on a wide screen HD Television or a computer monitor, so the idea of creating a special piece of film that would have light projected through it to make it show up on a white wall is archaic. No one really does this anymore and there are probably millions of wonderful images on slide media that are rotting away or just getting dusty somewhere. So saving this part of my family history was really important to me.
In my family the mindset was that one actually had to own at least two 35mm cameras if one was going to take slides and pictures. One camera would have the slide film, which was a special kind, and the other would have the normal printable film. The reasoning behind this was that film was expensive to buy and it was expensive to have developed, so a roll of slide film could be used to document a whole year of events and the regular camera could do this as well, so two cameras each with different types of film would allow for this planning. It is the addition of a new camera to my Grandfather’s use that I believe is the reason for the earlier sets to be blurry at times. Traditional 35mm cameras required skill to use – knowledge of how to focus the lens, read the light meter, use of the right kind of film speed, and filters not to mention the complexities of loading and unloading the film without ruining it.
The first batch of slides were taken mostly around the Lake Tahoe area. My grandparents lived in Homewood just north of a popular snowboarders ski hill. At that time there was no such thing as snowboarding. The area has changed so much since January 1959 not to mention the wonderful documentation of fashion and automobile design within the family archive. The lake looks so pristine and clear as I remember it as a child. Unfortunately, the clarity of the water is not what it used to be.
Within this blog I will share some of the more notable or more interesting slide photos. Hopefully, if you have family slides collecting dust somewhere, you will be encouraged to protect your own treasure of family memories. Until the next batch of treasured images from the past…