More than 30 years ago, I took the photo above. At least I think I did – doesn’t matter. It shows many of the people who were my second family after I joined the Navy. I was stationed on Whidbey Island, Washington. At the time, I knew nothing of the world, but knew I wanted to go places I’d never been.
Photos have the power to change lives; even ones you think are inconsequential. In 1979 I was stationed in Millington, Tennessee, attending technical school, when I saw a small 3×5 photo of mountains filled with pine trees taped to my roommate’s locker door. When I asked about it, he said that was where he grew up – near Seattle, Washington. A few weeks later, we were asked to fill out our “dream sheet” of where we wanted to be stationed when we finished school. I chose Whidbey Island, just based on that one photo. To my surprise, I got it.
Family is an interesting concept. You’re born with it, but if you’re lucky, friends can become family. My best friend Mike, shown above with the Zapata mustache and crouching in the center of the table, became like my brother, and still is to this day. All because of a 3×5” snapshot taped to a locker.
Yesterday, Mike and I went to revisit some of our old haunts on Whidbey (we both still live in the Seattle area). We visited Toby’s Tavern, in Coupeville, where Mike (and others) once got thrown into Puget Sound, where we shot darts, and where our friend Boone once said “You know, I’ve never walked away from a fight” when someone insulted his wife – and one punch later the offending jerk was on the floor.
After Toby’s we headed to Oak Harbor, where the Navy base was (is) and visited the Oak Harbor Tavern, where we attended quarter-beer night almost every week.
That’s when we received the surprise of the day.
On the wall were two photos – the one above and the one below. Both faded, neither technically very good, but man, did the memories come flooding back. There was Murph, who was like a second father to me when mine died shortly after I arrived at Whidbey. Whitey, who was once handed a written reprimand by the Navy for swearing too much and responded with “What the fuck is this?”. Dave, Katie, both Brad’s, and more. Each recognition was followed by stories, memories and laughs.
Next to it was the photo below, not sepia-toned, but turned brown by years of cigarette smoke (now banned) and stapled to the wall. That’s Murph in the hat, me in the striped shirt with my back to the camera, Chuck writing something, and Kelly the bartender, who’s still running the place. I think this one was taken a bit later judging by my hair length. Likely mid-80’s after I was out of the Navy. Photographer unknown.
The emotions that were evoked by these photos were palpable yesterday as we were transported to good times years ago. Those feelings are rare and precious…and all happened because of a 3×5 photo of some trees taped to a locker.
30 years from now, RAW converters may be a relic from the past, but the memories that you capture and print now will endure. Go. Print.
Like desert seeds awakened by a first rain, the memories will come back to life and it will be as if they never left.