Film Rescue International

Earlier this year, I sent in a roll of film we found in an old Kodak Vest Pocket Autographic camera to Film Rescue International for their cycle starting April 1, 2014.  The camera was in my grandfather’s office and was presumably my great grand uncle Herb’s at some point.  Herb probably took it off to war with him and after he passed away, my grandfather kept the camera since he was quite the shutterbug.  As far as turn-around time goes, I had a link to the scans in my inbox on May 16th.  It ended up costing $34 for 5 images which is steep, but I’m not sure I would’ve trusted film that was over 30 years old to just anyone.  Even though Kodak Verichrome Pan is more stable than other films, it could have been anywhere between 30-50 years old, and the possibility of some lackey at a lab not familiar with developing old film screwing up what may have been priceless photos was just too much of a risk to take.  As it turns out, there was nothing really precious on the roll, but it’s great to know for sure, rather than sit around wondering what the heck is on there.  I am VERY happy with the level of communication and the extra care they take to manage expectations.  Expired and old film is a real crapshoot and sometimes you win big, sometimes you lose big.  I opted to download the free scans (at 532×864, 300 dpi), but if I wanted quality copies, I could’ve purchased the full resolution download for $.99 each with a 20% discount if I placed an order in the first two weeks.  The images are available on their website for a full year.  They mailed me the developed negatives in plastic sleeves along with the original spool and backing paper.

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The images are below, and that first image is the one I shot out of the front door of grandpa’s old house when I realized there was still live film inside.  Clearly, I’ve got some practicing to do if I want to use the camera again, but it appears to be light leak free which is a plus!  The next three shots are of grandpa’s junkyard in the snow which helps me date them to somewhere in the 1970s probably and the last one is the view from great grandma Olga’s house.  It’s a view that shows up over and over again in photos, so it’s one I’m very familiar with, even if the house no longer exists.

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Sepia Saturday 241: Writing and Letters

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Nellie Gasparri

I went back and forth on this week’s theme since I have plenty of letters, but very few pictures to go along with them.  The letter is written to Nellie Gasparri in the photo on the left (b. 9 May 1924, Dysart, Cambria County, PA, USA, d. 9 Oct 2007, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, PA, USA), my first cousin, once removed, or my mom’s first cousin (her mother’s sister’s daughter).  It was written by Angelina Guerrini who is Nellie’s Aunt (her father’s sister).  From what I know from living family members, Nellie never learned to read or write in Italian, but had a friend who read/wrote back letters for her.  This particular letter was one in a series of letters written to Nellie that she saved for many, many years.  After her death, relatives found them and didn’t know what to do with them, so they ended up with my mother somehow who fairly recently found them in a drawer while cleaning and passed them on to me.  I had studied Italian at University as well as taking a semester abroad, so about 12 years ago, I was just about fluent.  It’s faded a lot since then, so in order to translate these, it’s quite a process.  First, I try to figure out what was written and type that up – it can be a struggle between the handwriting and spelling/grammar issues, but fortunately it’s just about the same region where I took my semester abroad, so that helps!  Then, I run the translation through Google Translate to see what it comes up with, correcting the Italian side to fix spelling issues.  Finally, I go through and do my own translation on top to fix odd phrasing that Google doesn’t really translate well and make it sound more like it was written in English.  Some of the phrases don’t translate well from Italian to English, and I tend to go for a more literal than flowery approach in terms of translation.  I’m always open to correction, so if you happen to be Italian and want to help me out, please leave a comment!

If you’re interested in the other letters, they can be found here:
A Letter to Great Grandma
Searching for a Son
Angelina’s First Letter

San Valentino, 6 April 1947
After several days of delays, I have come to respond to your dear letter that I received with much pleasure, to hear that you remember me with much affection and that you are in good health as are your brothers.

As for me, always little is well, but nothing is so serious, just a little bit of organic deterioration.  My husband and my daughters are doing well.  My husband is 60 years old, and I’m 50.  Grandmother is also well, she is 84 years old.  I haven’t had the courage to tell her the news of the death of her son, and I think that’s because my brother has found a wife so cruel that the old woman could not ever see her and stay in good health.  They have a 4 year old daughter and live quietly, but I ought to say very little to you about the awful things they did to this poor old woman.

If you send something to grandma, send it to me or write it to me because she doesn’t know how to read or write and she’s deaf such that to have her understand, it takes time, and even when you repeat it, she substitutes whatever she wants.

Dear Niece, I am happy to hear you explain in your letter so many things that I wanted to hear about you and your brothers.  Now all that remains is the desire to have a little written also from him and I’d even like to have a photograph, but first we must send you ours.  I would like to know about the brother that isn’t in the army.  Your aunt told me he works – what does he do?
I received the letter from your aunt with the photo of your father.  It made me happy and at the same time a little sad that he isn’t around anymore.  I don’t know how to find peace.  You tell me that you work in an office. I’m happy to hear that, and I hope you enjoy it.

I’m sad that I can’t give you any help being so far away.  You sent us the package and you said you can send another but what can I send you?  Do you want anything that I could send to you?  Tell me please!  Let me know if you read my letters yourself or if you have someone read them to you the way I do the with your greetings to me, your friend Gina Canali.

Thousands and thousands of dear greetings and kisses from us that you will pass on also to your brothers, your aunt, and even these coming days I’ll write more to you.
Many dear kisses from me, your aunt, Angelina Guerrini.

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Great Grandma’s Photo Album

This was another find from grandpa’s house, and times like these are when I’m SO SO SO glad he kept everything.  This is the photo album of Olga (Powis) Kitko (b. 27 Aug 1900, d. 29 July 1987) who lived in Clearfield County, PA.  She’s my great grandmother, and I know I’ve blogged about her before on here, but just in case you’re new, that’s her.  My grandpa was her son, born to Olga and Joseph Kitko (b. 9 Dec 1905 in Madera, PA and d. 11 Oct 1978 in Xenia Ohio)  in 1933.  Joseph skipped town shortly after and went to Ohio, leaving my great grandma with a young child and a lot of anger.  I’m not here to get into the drama and personal background, but it helps to support the rest of the story.  As a genealogist, my main focus is on the facts, trying to stay as far away from the personal drama that surrounds them – what happened, happened, and I can’t change it now, so getting upset and dwelling on it does no one any good.  The facts are that Joseph left, moved to Ohio, remarried twice.  My great grandma was reportedly very angry, and I’m told she tore up every photo of him that she ever had (there are a few spots in the album were photos were obviously torn from the pages).  I think I *may* have a few existing photos of him in this album, but no way to confirm that since none of the photos are labelled.  The album itself has a paperboard cover and is tied together with a string.  The pages feel basically like black, heavyish construction paper, and the photos are all glued to the pages, 33 sides filled with a bunch of blanks at the back.  This drives me absolutely crazy and brings me to a conundrum.  Salvage the pictures from the album or leave the album intact as a unit?  Which is best for preservation of this neat little album?  Thoughts?  Anyway, on to the photos! albumcover page1 On this page, top left, looks to be a photo of the Creber family, perhaps on a visit to their home.  Olga’s aunt Mary Jane Battin married John Samuel Creber and moved from England to Canada.  Top right is what looks to be Olga’s Aunt Kate Battin and George Thomas Rowe who stayed in England.  Bottom right is Olga Powis.  Bottom Left is a really neat photo since it lifted out of the album fairly easily and had something written on the back.  Written on the back is, “Left to right, Anna Shranko, Goldie Powis, Helen Somerville, Kathleen Troland, and Mary Shranko. The Shranko sisters are from Osceola Mills, PA. Four Budds and one bloom from Williamsport, PA. Taken May 15, 1932”  Goldie (Patchin) Powis was Olga’s oldest brother’s wife.  Alfred Herbert Powis died relatively young, allegedly of an illness he brought back with him from WWI.  They had one child together who died in infancy.  After “Herb” died, Goldie never remarried, but apparently remained close friends with Olga and the family.  Three of the ladies, Mary, Helen, and Kathleen, show up on the 1930 census living in Williamsport, PA together with Bertha Johnson.  All the ladies were employed in various jobs from Machine Operator at a Rubber Factory to Sales Lady at a Five & Ten, and Stenographer, and in their early twenties.  Pretty neat to see industrious gals striking out on their own! page2 Yet another page – I picked out two of my favorites just to show you what kind of stuff is in here.  Top L to R: Olga Powis on the left and a friend, Olga Powis on the left and a friend, unknown woman in a car, Olga Powis on the right and a man who I believe to be Joseph Kitko.  That same car appears in other photos that are labelled as, “Me and Joe’s Car,” so I have to believe that at some point, “Me and Joe,” were standing in front of that car, the me here being Olga.  On the bottom row L to R, unknown woman and Olga (in front of Joe’s car, this photo is duplicated and appears in the collection of loose photos as well), unknown woman in front of a car, and a photo that I believe is of Joseph Kitko and his son Leon (my grandpa).  This is the same man as the above far right photo, but there’s no label to prove my hunch.

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Finally, we have just this single photo which was the only one on its page, and the glue had pretty well loosened so that it was falling out of the album.  In the back standing up is Olga Powis who was a teacher briefly at a local school in Rosebud, PA.  The date on the chalkboard up front is 1919 which means she would’ve been 19 when this was taken.  Check out the boy in the front right with the hole in his stockings!  I really REALLY love these old school photos and need to put together a separate post on them some day.

The lesson I’m taking away from all this work with old photos?  LABEL YOUR PHOTOS.  Label them, all of them, use acid-free/lignin-free storage methods and use a pencil to label.  You just never know who might be looking at them 100 years later wondering who’s in that photo.

Italian Letter 16 Feb 1947

So, it might seem a little odd that I’m posting these letters to the public.  Two of the people referenced in the letter (Angelina’s daughters) may still be alive and what a thrill it would be to have the internet somehow connect us.  You hear that Thia Guerrini, Rina Guerrini?  If you’re reading this, I would absolutely love to hear from you.  We’re related by marriage, and my cousins would get a real kick out of hearing from long-lost cousins in Italy.  If they were alive, they’d be in their 80s this year (2014).  It’s a long shot, but hey, you never know.

Moving on!  The letters are also interesting for their historical information.  Nellie Gasparri, (my first cousin, once removed) apparently sent a package along with her letter to her aunt Angelina.  The reply letter from Angelina is what I’ve got posted here – she enclosed a separate, smaller piece of paper thanking Nellie very specifically for the coffee since, she explains, it was something they hadn’t seen in Italy for many years since the war.  She also mentions that they’re missing many things, and that her daughters appreciated the clothes Nellie sent.  Basic living supplies seem to have been pretty scarce in San Valentino (Sorano).  There’s also mention of Nellie’s Aunt who I can assume is her mother’s sister, my grandmother, Norma Innocenti.  Just like the last letter, the same grammatical/spelling errors persist (penziero instead of pensiero, “ai” and “o” instead of hai and ho for the verb avere, and a couple various misspellings).  It’s slowly making these easier to read since the handwriting is becoming more familiar.  At the end, Angelina writes a little blurb to also thank the friend (of Nellie’s I assume?) who wrote the letter, Gina Canali.  In my translation, I added some punctuation to help with flow and took a few liberties with some of the not-easily-translated Italian phrases.  I love perfectly literal translations, but it never flows well.  Without further babble, here’s the translation, and images of the letter.  Click any image to enlarge.


February 16, 1947.
Dearest Niece,
Days ago I received your letter and even the package that you sent. I just received it and it was delivered in good condition. I can only thank you for the thought that you had for us. Your cousins Thia and Rina thank you for the clothes that we really needed because in Italy we are lacking clothes and many other things after the war. Your cousins are ages Thia 18 and Rina 17.
Dear Niece, if it’s easier for you to write American, write that way since there is someone who reads to me. As for the letter that I wrote to your aunt, I hope that she has received it and my greetings and if she writes to me again it would make me happy. I’m glad that you are in good health. As for us, my daughters and my husband are well, but for a while I haven’t felt well but don’t worry that it’s serious.
Dear Nellie I would like to know so much about you all. Make your brothers write to me too and tell me how you’re doing now that you’re left without your father. I have so much sorrow for you all. We are far away and I cannot give you any comfort. I would like to have a memory of my brother if it’s possible (a photograph of yours); it would be much appreciated. For this time, I can only greet you and kiss you, united to my family. I tell you that your aunt thinks of you always,
Angelina Guerrini.

Don’t ever forget that my address is only this:
S. Valentino di Sorano
Pro di Grosseto
Only So
Do you understand?
Greetings again to your friend that wrote the letter,
Gina Canali

(enclosure, on green paper)
Dear Niece,
I thank you so much for the coffee, here it’s been many years and you don’t see it any more and I tell you again there are many things we’re lacking here in Italy. Nellie in as much as I remember your address it’s not as it was before. Did you move? It’s been a while since your aunti wrote to me the other time where she is. I want to tell you many other things and ask you many things but I’m afraid I’ll bore you. Write to me at length and tell me many things. Again, many kisses, your aunt,
Angelina Guerrini

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