Who’s in that picture?

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I find it interesting that everyone has a cellphone that can take pictures these days, but we haven’t solved a problem that has been around since the days of Brownie cameras.

Many of us have photo albums that show us and our family members and friends at different stages of growing up and at various celebrations and events. The photos show the good times, the bad times and our lives from day to day.

We love looking at and reminiscing over these photos because of they remind us of shared experiences with people we care about. Each photo is a nostalgic trip back in time.

But there’s a problem these photos share with the ones we take today on our cellphones. For the most part, none of these images reveal the identity of the individuals in them!

I’ve talked to many people whose parents have passed on and among their belongings were photo albums and individual photographs covering decades of family history. Unfortunately, not many of our ancestors took the time to write down the names of those in the photos.

Sadly, these images lose a lot of their meaning without those identifications. Many of them end up in boxes that gather dust for decades and are eventually tossed out because later generations have no idea who is in them.

I urge you to take some of the extra time the lockdown has afforded us to review your photos and the photos of your ancestors and identify as many of the people in them as you can. Write in the margins of the books or on the backs of the individual photos, or use sticky notes. You can do the same with the photos in your phone by downloading the keepers and using the file name to identify who is in each.

Fortunately, James Arvia has done more than many others to enrich our memories of the Roseland community and its Pullman and Kensington neighborhoods. His three “Famiglia” photo books have accomplished much in the way of keeping alive our Italian heritage.

The Famiglia books have captions for almost all of the photos, which are a really great nostalgic lift. One thing that warmed my heart when I began writing the Petals from Roseland column and became reacquainted with my roots was the fact that the names I recalled from my childhood came flooding back.

As a member of the St. Anthony Parish, attending the school and various events, being part of processions, patronizing local businesses, last names were mentioned more than first names and those names are what Arvia’s books bring to mind.

The photos are of days gone by, but the people in the photos are part of our current memory bank! We revel in the familiarity of those names, which draw us back to days before our adulthood and all that encompasses.

James Arvia has given us an example of what we should all find the time to do: create captions and identities for all the photos we have.

To buy James’ books, email him at arvia2010@inbox.com.

Copies of “Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman and Kensington Neighborhoods” are available with prompt first-class delivery at $20 + $5 s&h. More than 600 copies have been sold since it became available a year ago. Roselandites who have bought my book are very excited to have their memories brought to life. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have provided so many fond memories of Roseland.

Contact me by writing to 11403 S. Saint Lawrence Ave., Chicago, IL 60628; calling me at 773-701-6756; or emailing petalsfromroseland@gmail.com.



About Paul Basile

Paul Basile has been the editor of Fra Noi for a quarter of a century. Over that period, he and his dedicated family of staff members and correspondents have transformed a quaint little community newspaper into a gorgeous glossy magazine that is read and admired across the nation. They also maintain a cluster of national and local websites and are helping other major metropolitan areas launch their own versions of Fra Noi.

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