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Photo album find brings many questions

Joanne Cunningham wasn’t looking for a picture album, large or small, or anything special.

She was just browsing.

But when she saw the little green album on the table at the Goodwill store on Jake Alexander Boulevard, she couldn’t help herself.

“It looked pretty nice,” she says, “so I bought it for a dollar. It had pictures in it. A lot of pictures.”

But at first that didn’t matter to her. She didn’t know who any of the people in the pictures were, but she couldn’t stop looking at them.

“I was planning to put some of my own pictures in the album, but I couldn’t seem to make myself take the pictures that were in it out.”

It had to belong to someone in Hazel Madlung’s family because there were so many Madlungs — Ella and Herman and Walter and Eric and Herbert, not to mention just as many Rathers or maybe more. Hazel and John and Carl and Lawrence and Beatrice, not even counting all those Adamses and Leaders and …

Oh, well, it was obvious it belonged to Hazel Madlung’s family. The first picture is probably the oldest. On the back, someone had written “Carol’s grandparents” and the names, Herman and Bertha Madlung.

They looked like a newly married couple, both of them dressed in the fine clothes of 100 years ago, give or take some years, Joanne Cunningham says as she opens it to the first page and holds it out for me to see.

“The first picture is probably the oldest,” she thinks, “and on the back it says, “Carol’s grandparents, Herman and Bertha Madlung, nee Ette.”

The picture has turned brown, but he’s wearing a white bowtie; she, a fine embroidered blouse.

The next is a woman with white hair identified as Bertha Madlung, Hazel’s mother.

And then the pictures seem to hurry through the years gone by. The first, dated 1915, shows a woman holding a small baby being admired by a tall man, and the caption says, “Baby Hazel C. Rather.”

In the next picture the baby is a bit older.

“Me and my mother, Bertha, and Hazel Madlung,” the caption says. Then comes “Uncle Herbie Madlung, Hazel’s brother,” in a small carriage being pulled by a goat.

And you quickly realize the pictures spell the years — and life.

Here’s a smiling portrait of Hazel C. Rather in 1934 at age 19, and next a man, a mother, her daughter no doubt, two children, Jack at 6 and a half months old in 1938, and a girl, and Jack and Carol in summer and Jack and Carol in winter, 1942.

And an older man holding a baby girl with a growing boy, children riding trikes, posing on the front steps, standing by the Christmas tree, two men on a golf course in knickers, John and Hazel in front of a new 1959 car, Grampa (Jack), Gramma (Hazel), and Pat Krauss, 6 and a half months old at the dinner table, stretched out in a lawn chair, at the lake, walking the dog, with the baby on the porch.

Pictures, names, dates, relatives, friends, dress-up occasions like Jack Rather’s confirmation, four dressed up great-aunts, petting a horse, a man and woman loving up on four dachshunds …

Joanne Cunningham couldn’t throw those pictures away, and if she didn’t, how would there be any room for more?

Besides, whoever these pictures belong to might want them, might not realize they’ve been lost.

“So,” she says, “I thought maybe I would come up to the Post and see if you could find some way to get in touch with these people. They seemed like nice people. You can’t go back and get pictures like that for a keepsake. If they burn up they’re gone, and I don’t want to throw them away. If anybody out there recognizes them, they can have the pictures.

“I’ll just hold on to them just like this for the time being. I’m not going to throw them away. I’d hate to see them get destroyed. If anybody knows them, give me a call, and they can have them.

“If anyone recognizes any of the names — Hazel Madlung, Ella Harnett, Herman Madlung, Walter Madlung, Clara Heidemann, Bertha Schuylz, Eric Madlung, Carl Rather, John Rather, Beatrice Adams, Lawrence Rather, Doris Leader …

“There’s not a Rather in the phone book,” Joanne says, but there are a lot of pictures in her album. “There might be some grandkids who’ve got different names now … ”

Oh, such a lot of pictures …

If it had been her album to begin with and she’d lost all those family pictures, oh, she’d be so hurt.

So if someone out there is related to any of those people and wants to see what their relatives used to look like, just call her at 704-645-8896 or drop in at her home at 1714 N. Long St. That’s right before North Long enters the East Spencer city limits.

“I have two daughters,” she says, “and eight grands and three greats, and I’d hate to lose an album with their pictures in it. Or an album full of pictures of older relatives who are long gone now.”

But probably not forever.

There’s just no telling who you might find that Joanne Cunningham has found and wants to give back to you.

So if you think she might be looking for you, you can find out. Just call her up. She’s a generous lady.

Contact Rose Post at 704-797-4251 or rpost@salisburypost.com.

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