Cambrian: Opinion

Viewing personal history through the lens of snapshots past

Snow on the hills behind Cambria, circa 2006.
Snow on the hills behind Cambria, circa 2006. Special to The Cambrian

The Cambria Historical Society has it easy. OK, so the financing, the upkeep of the museum, the staffing of the place, the overall managing is a crazy challenge, and I admire them all greatly for keeping such a jewel running in our village. Thank you.

You see, I just went down the rabbit hole of photos in my house. I’ve a new special scanner with which I hope to earn a little rent money by scanning paper photos to digital. But, I haven’t even hit my own stack of boxes of those yet. These are just discs of electronic memories tucked everywhere.

In preparation for the visit of my new daughter-in-law and my favorite cousin and his wife, who are all coming to help beforehand and to enjoy my 29th annual summer bash this weekend, I decided to clean house. Really clean. Why now? Who knows.

“Oh, the turntable would be better suited on this bookshelf, so I’ll just move these books and baskets of CDs, get rid of these … which ones to get rid of?”

Being ruthless. Ouch. Then there are the photos. This is where I say the Historical Society has it easier — just imagine what it’s going to be like for historians in the future to go through endless files of photos to see what is really meaningful?

How grateful I am there are those wonderful shots of folks in front of the old Bianchini House, in the regalia of the day, to see how … well, I usually hesitate to say “see how far we’ve come,” but certainly, “see how much we’ve changed!” I know what an effort it was to make even one photographic plate and print it out back then at the turn of the last century.

Heck, even until the advent of the digital camera, one really considered their shots — subject matter, composition, lighting. It wasn’t affordable to everyone to buy film and then process it. Or, consider how most people were just busy BEING THERE! Nowadays, we click away higglety pigglety, knowing we can just hit the delete button or Photoshop our way to the perfect portrait or scene. If we get around to it. That’s where I’m going.

It’s bad enough clearing through magazines, clips of this and that bit of information that surely you’ll get back around to referencing down the road. But, photos — that’s another story. “Who are these people?” That could possibly be some kind of benchmark but, guilt hangs heavy in the room when trying to decide “who stays and who goes.” OK, I’m sure the Historical Society has to deal with that somewhat.

But, this is the here-and-now, more or less. I don’t know, maybe some historian is going to thank me for saving a shot of the dilapidated old cabin that my son, Miles, was born in or kids playing in the dunes up the coast that are now off-limits to house the elephant seal colony? Or, just people. People who may be known as “Cambria Characters”… at least to some of us. Or not.

The blurry shots, the dark shots, the unflattering shots — sure, I can get rid of those. But, there’s Omar Catalan making goofy faces on the fifth-grade trip to Yosemite and now I just saw him tending bar at the Pub and Steak House. I mean, who can let those go?

When our dear friend, Sheri Odenwald, passed away a couple of years ago, the family kindly put out at her memorial, boxes of all the hundreds of photos she’d amassed of all her friends here in town. Wow, what a story those things told.

But, which ones are meaningful and to whom? Who is going to listen or recall that story in 30 years, 10 years … tomorrow? What a curse. I’d enjoy it more if I only had the time! Can you say “big boxes stashed in the shed?”

Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian. Visit her website at Email her at