Then and now…
I have several boxes of old family photos, from both sides of the family. A few date to the late 19th century, but most of the photos that interest me now are from the first half of the 20th century.
In a sense, we all think that the world began around the time when we became aware of it. Of course, we know that isn’t literally true. But subjectively, what’s real to us is what we can remember. Everything that pre-dates our own memory is just history.
Lately, I’ve been most interested in the years just before I was born and the generation that has been called “The Greatest Generation.” As years go on and this generation slips away, I find myself more and more intrigued by their world, the one that gave birth to the world as I have known it.
Old photos provide a window into their world.
I recently came across a couple of 70 year-old photos of my father, Steve Sardella, and a buddy of his, Joe Laurino, both first-generation Italian-Americans. They are standing in front of Joe’s family’s house in Wakefield, Massachusetts in 1937, when they were both about 16 years old.
My father and Joe are both dressed in suits. In one photo, they are posing on the concrete steps going up to the front porch, smoking cigars. In the other, they are standing side-by-side in the yard off to the side of the porch. Joe has his arm around my father’s shoulder.
On the back of one of the photos, in addition to the date, someone wrote “Chestnut St.” I happen to own an old Wakefield Street List from the 1930s, and I already knew that my father’s family lived on Richardson Street back then. So I looked up the name “Laurino,” and found Peter, a tailor, and Josephine, a housewife, listed at 31 Chestnut Street in 1936. I decided to go by 31 Chestnut Street and see what the house looks like today.
The house has changed, but not all that much. It is still easily recognizable as the same house it was 70 years ago. There has certainly been work done, but some of the features remain, especially the front porch with the stairs framed by sloping concrete enclosures. Some shrubs have been added on either side of those steps where the boys posed for one picture, smoking cigars in their “drape” style suits.
I took some photos of the house as it looks today, and posted them side by side with the 1937 photos on my Flickr site. There’s something about seeing these then and now photos — looking at the house as it is today, and then looking at the photo from 70 years ago–that is almost like time travel.
Seeing that the house, the yard and the very steps are still there where my father and Joe Laurino stood mugging for the camera, provides a literally concrete connection to 1937 – a narrow window to imagine what they might have been thinking on that day as 16 year-old boys, with World War II on the horizon and their whole lives ahead of them.
Filed under: Columns & Essays, Community, Family, History, Wakefield | 2 Comments
Tags: 1930s, 1937, Chestnut Street, Daily Item, Italian-Americans, Italians, Joe Laurino, Steve Sardella, Wakefield, Wakefield Daily Item, Wakefield Item, Wakefield MA, Wakefield Massachusetts, Wakefield news, Wakefield newspaper, Wakefield newspapers