The following article by David Strange originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 18 Dec 2013. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
Memories come in so many forms.
Some of them can be found in solid things, such as a particular toy, a tombstone, a photograph, or a friend. Some memories survive only in the heart, lost to everyone else when that one precious soul fades away.
Recently, some of us at the Bullitt County History Museum had the great pleasure to be part of a grand reunion of memories, when a family photo album, "lost" for nearly sixty years, was found. Even better, a friendship was restored, hearts were reunited, when the original album owner and her long-lost friend who had protected it all those years, found one another again.
Precious memories came flooding in wonderful abundance that day.
In early November, 2013, a woman named Terrie showed up on some Shepherdsville-related Facebook internet sites. She said that she had never been to the area, lived in Louisiana, but she had a large photo album of pictures that indicated they were from Shepherdsville, taken in the 1950's. In fact, she said, she had held onto this album since she was a little girl around 1956. At that time, there was a 17 year old girl who babysat her and her sisters. Terrie fondly remembered the kindness of the babysitter and how she painted the little girls' fingernails and fixed their hair like grown-ups.....and that she wore red lipstick. She remembered that young woman as "Jeanie Rhodes or Rhoderer." Terrie had the name spelling wrong, as it turns out, but the memory of the name was pretty good for a girl who was only about six or seven years old at the time.
Terrie, Theresa Henderson Mulligan, wrote that she had held onto an album of photographs that had belonged to her babysitter and friend for all these years, from 1957 to 2013, since they were separated by distance, contact, and time. Despite many opportunities to just get rid of someone else's long-lost album, Terrie somehow just held on to it year after year.
So as I say, Terrie decided to try the internet. She knew the odds were slim. She was not sure of "Jeanie's" last name, and the name had surely changed over all those years with marriage.
And the span of time. It was quite possible that Jeanie, along with her memories, had passed on and been forgotten long ago. Terrie only knew that Jeanie was from Shepherdsville, and had gone back there suddenly when her father became ill, leaving the album behind. Terrie asked if perhaps someone remembered a Jeanie, but of course the odds were so slim, but at least maybe someone in Shepherdsville would want the photos.
The query was noticed by Jim Griffis on Facebook, and he referred her to me. Terrie and I wrote to one another and resolved that she would mail the album to the museum.
Now here's the really cool part. The day I opened the package with the album, I looked through the many dozens of old photographs, and found a few with names, some of which were marked, "Jeanie" and some others of Shepherdsville High School. While at Country Cupboard restaurant in Shepherdsville for lunch that same day, I mentioned the story to owner Kit Parker and showed one of the photos to her. Kit, a SHS alum from close to the same time period, quickly said that she thought she might know who "Jeanie" might be. That night, while posting a few pictures from the album on the Shepherdsville High School Facebook page to see if I could get any response, I received a call from Kit at home. "I think I found Jeanie!" she said. "I just now called her, she lives in Mt. Washington, and here is her number."
I called the number right away. It was Norma Jean "Jeanie" Roederer Compton. At first, as anyone would be, I think she was a little skeptical of my call. You can imagine, some strange guy calling about a photo album that had been lost some FIFTY-EIGHT years ago.
Then her response was something like, "Yes. I lost an album back then. Have always wished I had it...wait...You HAVE that album?! What time tomorrow can I come see it?!"
The next day (Thursday, November 14) Jeanie and her husband, Jesse Compton, came by the museum office, and there was her album. I think her knees nearly buckled. We sat her down at the round table, and she started going through the pages. There was her long-lost dad, her sister, her friends. There were even photos of her husband Jesse as a teenager; a time when Jeanie and Jesse barely knew one another. And there were photos of friend Joyce Tinnell as a young girl; Joyce, who Jeanie had just been with a short time ago when she passed away. It was all a bit overwhelming for Jeanie and for all of us. After nearly sixty years of being lost, the album of photo memories had come home, nearly intact, thanks to a little six year old girl who had protected them all that time from time, family moves, and even a hurricane.
It was so great to see. On top of that, we had arranged for a speakerphone call from Terrie from her home in Louisiana! Terrie and Jeanie started right away talking as old friends, checking on one another's life stories and families and lives since they had last seen one another back around 1956. Clearly, they had both loved one another way back then...and still did. One of Terrie's last questions for Jeanie: "Do you still wear red lipstick?"
Now how amazing is that? Terrie and Jeanie exchanged contact information and have talked often since then. I suspect that Terrie and Jeanie will get together real soon.
Many, many thanks to Jim Griffis, Kit Parker, and especially Terrie Mulligan, for making this reunion of memories happen. The last I saw Jeanie, she was happily walking down the hall from our museum office, clinging tightly with both arms to her large red album of memories.
Jeanie tells me that she couldn't sleep for the first three days; she kept getting up in the middle of the night to look again through the photos, reliving the precious memories that each photograph brought back. The friends and memories that were almost lost, except in her heart.
And now there are new friends, new precious memories, for me as well.
Copyright 2013 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.