With every photo of a beaming child, a glamorous adult or a shiny muscle car, the mystery deepens.
A woman sits at a bar in a strapless white gown, red heels and gloves with a champagne coupe in her right hand. In another picture, four children sit on the roof of one of three classic cars parked on a lush green field.
In another one, two girls playfully run – with matching wide smiles, red tops and black shorts.
The photos are among a treasure trove of slides Kristie Baeumert found last month on a projector she bought at her local Goodwill store in North Georgia.
The photos left her with many questions. Who are the people? What did they do? And, most importantly, how can she find them and return their pictures?
“The more I looked at them, the more I wanted to know their story,” said Baeumert, who lives in Fairburn, Georgia. “These pictures are part of their family’s story. They should have these memories to pass down and tell their story.”
The memories cost $14.97
Baeumert was at the Goodwill store looking for items to add in a vintage camper she’s restoring.
The Argus 300 Model III slide projector on the electronics aisle caught her attention.
“The outside of the case looked like a vintage item, so I opened it up to peek,” she said. “I actually discovered the slides when the cashier opened the box when I was paying.”
When she got home and looked at the slides, she was so fascinated by the family photos, she invited her friends over to look at them.
The projector and slides cost $14.97, and she’s hoping the photos will unlock priceless memories for a family.
Baeumert’s original Facebook post asking for help finding the family has been shared thousands of times.
The family may have had military ties
The photos don’t have names or locations – but they leave behind subtle clues.
One picture of a long plane with the words ‘Wake Island’ inscribed on the slide appears to point to a military family. The tiny speck of an island in the Pacific Ocean is mostly known for its role in World War II and its namesake 1942 film.
The island, owned by the US, is mostly home to military and civilian contractors, with more than 400 military aircraft stopping there to refuel every year.
Wake Island was the site of the first unsuccessful attack by Japanese forces in December 1941, said the Defense Department.
The children were ahead of their time
While most of the children in the photos are black, there are white children pictured with them in some photos. The slides don’t have dates and locations, but the cars in them tell their own story.
One of the photos features a DeSoto and a Chevy from the mid-to-late 1950s, said Greg Morrison, an automotive journalist at Bumper2BumperTV.com. During that period, such cars cost about $2,000 and were owned by middle-and-upper-income families.
If the photos were taken in the United States, this was around the time of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 ruling that led to desegregation in schools.
The family had style – and places to go
The women wore gowns and party dresses, minks and pearls. The children dressed formally and alike most times – even when they played outside or went to the beach.
And, the children were loved. One photo has ‘Perfect Pic, the best of my baby’ scribbled on the slide of a little girl standing outside a house.
It’s not always easy to return treasured items
There’s nothing that narrows down where the photos were taken or the person who donated them. The projector’s box had one word scribbled on it: Kansas.
Adding to the mystery, North Georgia’s Goodwill has 60 stores and almost as many donation centers. It collects about 2.8 million donations a year, said Summer Dunham, a Goodwill spokeswoman for the region.
The item was likely from any of the regional stores or donation centers. And, while the company tries to reconnect people with treasured items they mistakenly donate, it’s not always easy, Dunham said.