Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: The Small Photos

When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, then they often become items that are tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and memories so your treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.

Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories:

The Small Photos

On my post of Nov. 13th, The Little Weather House, I mentioned punch boards – a prize-type game where you pay money to punch a number to win a prize. It made me remember all the small photos I have that came from mama’s camera she won on a punch board. She doesn’t remember know what happened to the camera, but she saved the photos.

Naturally I made a phone call to my mother asking question after question until she said, “I guess if I had kept a diary when I was young, then you would have all your questions answered.” And my answer, “yes that would have been perfect!”

Mama was about fourteen when she won the small camera on a punch board. The board wasn’t in a store – it was a board she must have written away for; if you sold all the punches on the board – sent the money in – then you were sent the camera.

She took the board to town on Saturday’s, selling to anyone she could talk into buying a punch – which was most of her daddy’s friends who hung around the local, and only, filling station where her father went on Saturday. I don’t think I can ask her anymore questions on this – but I still have one more question; how did she send the money to the company?

I’m sure mama was a happy girl when her package arrived with that camera; she told me how she and her best girlfriend, Willie Mae, took off up the dirt road taking pictures of themselves being silly. They thought they were a big wheel having a camera in 1944. As I don’t have many photographs, I might assume it came with only one roll of film. They are about 1 1/2 inches in size. After they finished, mama took the film to Johnson’s Pharmacy in town for developing; I’m sure granddaddy told her no more pictures would he pay for. He was a very frugal man and paying for useless photographs of two girls running up and down the road snapping pictures was not something he was interested in. But I’m thankful she won that camera as when I sat down and took another close-up look at each of those small pictures, and their backgrounds, I discovered a treasure I might have missed.


Mama sitting on the narrow dirt road leading to the farm

I find myself sometimes often not looking at the subject in old photographs, but becoming swallowed up in the background objects. In the background of one of those small pictures of her best friend, Willie Mae (Walker) Sisson, was something that caught my eye. There was one of granddaddy’s barns, way up on the hill. I have no photographs of his barns, only what’s in my mind – but now I can see one of them again, because of mama’s small photos. Life is good!

Willie Mae was mama’s friend for over eighty years; Willie died earlier this year. They were best friends from the moment they met in first grade – they both looked at each other and said “I don’t think I’m going to like it here.” From that day forward, they did everything together, fought over boys, literally fighting sometimes, shared clothes and married men who were best friends.Thank You mama for just the right angle in taking this photograph. See, you did know how to take a picture!

As I looked at this photograph, the building way in the right background caught my eye – and as I enlarged it – there it was – granddaddy’s barn!


I can’t tell if she stripped down to her undies in this photo or it’s a bathing or sun suit. But she loved posing in these photos.


Mama standing in front of one of the pine trees. You can read Riding the Pines for the story. In picture on right, looks like she’s actually in the tree Riding the Pine branch! Another Aha Moment in looking closer at the small photos – never noticed before that she actually was straddling the pine tree branch.


Mama pointing to her brother Leroy’s name. This wall of names was on the courthouse lawn in Greensboro, GA. I believe it was a list of all the Greene Co. boys who fought in the war. Later it was replaced with a stone listing only the ones who died; Leroy’s name was listed.


And here’s mama going  over that barb wire fence. But the angle didn’t show granddaddy’s barn in this photo. Cotton growing in the field behind her.


And when she was finished with all her posing, I guess she saved a few pictures for other places…



In looking closer at the background here – I can see the car shed with the opening up top; also see chickens in the background and the fence leading up to the chicken coop. I am loving the behind the scenes in the  background I’m discovering.

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Love those shoes! I will have to play detective and figure out where this was taken. I’m told it’s the entrance to Hawthorne Heights in Union Point, GA.



Mama sitting on top of the “rat hole” in Union Point, GA. This is a walkway tunnel under the train tracks; train can be seen in the background. The tunnel was built so the workers could come to work at the mill, even when the train was on the tracks.

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I love this picture; probably taken on the steps at Greensboro High School. But I can’t quite be sure if mama took the photo or if she’s in it. I’m thinking she is on the right in the second set of two girls from the front of photo.

So you know what granddaddy, I’m happy you paid for these photographs – they are priceless to me!

Click Friday Night Family Heirlooms to read more stories…

Family Heirloom Bloggers:

I started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join me in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Writing the stories of the family heirlooms I’ve been entrusted with, has been on my mind for a long time; the time is now and I plan to write their stories on a weekly basis.

Please check out the weekly Family Heirloom stories of…

Blogger: Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Blogger: Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Blogger: Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Blogger: Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Blogger:  Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
Blogger: True Lewis at Notes to Myself
Blogger: Vera Marie Badertscher at Ancestors in Aprons                              Blogger: Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Blogger: Kathy Rice at
Blogger: Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog
Blogger: Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Check out her Blog at –  52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap  for links to more Heirloom posts.

© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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