Every since our father, Robert William Bergeson, died in 2006, my sisters and I have wondered what became of our parents’ photo albums. I have all of Dad’s slides and have begun digitizing them for easier retrieval and sharing, but the photo albums have been a giant mystery. I’ve been certain that one of my sisters had them and didn’t know it, but I learned recently that they thought I had them as I’m the family historian.
Since our retirement last fall, my wife and I have been searching for items in the house that we no longer need. We’re making regular trips to the thrift shops and the county waste site in an effort to share or dispose of unwanted stuff. Although this process is tedious, it sometimes produces unexpected surprises and it’s immensely satisfying to offload things we’ve been looking at for years without seeing!
There is a room in the lower level of a small addition to the original house that is unfinished and unheated. We call it the Tank Room because there’s a large storage tank there for when the furnace was an oil burner. It’s dank and dark down there, but useful for stashing things that don’t fit anywhere else. It’s also easy to put things in the Tank Room and completely lose track of their existence. That’s what happened with the box I mentioned in the title of this post.
One day I was looking in the Tank Room for things to add to my load for the county dump when I noticed an oversized box with no written clues on the outside that would identify its contents. It proved to be quite heavy and I barely managed to get it outside into the sunlight without dropping it on my feet. When I opened it up, I discovered that it was full of large books. Not only were all of our parents’ photo albums in this box, but those of my mother’s parents, Hiram and Mary Femrite, as well!
The musty smell was quite strong and several of the album covers were beginning to show signs of mold. That box had been in the Tank Room for somewhere between 13 and 15 years by my count! The photos, however, are in perfect condition. I gently used a little 409 on the worst spots and dusted the covers inside and out with baking soda. Then I left the albums outside in the shade for several hours and that seemed to cut the odors pretty well. After that, of course, I spent a long time looking through them.
There was an additional surprise in the box, an envelope that our grandfather Ragnvald’s sister, Olufina Duesund Andvik, had sent to our dad in 1983. It was filled with studio photographs and snapshots of Dad’s family. Many of them I already had copies of, but there were several pictures of Ragnvald that I had never seen, including a picture of baby Ragnvald (1893), the earliest picture of him that I have.
What a lucky break this discovery was! Moral of the story: look carefully inside every box before disposing. You just never know!