Photographs and Memories

Several members of Carl G. Matsuda's family at Punchbowl Cemetry. Circa 1949.

In the last few days, I’ve been enthralled by old family photographs. My brother’s post, Raised on Radio, was the inspiration. His references to World War II and our mother's older brother, Carl, who was killed in Italy, led me to a box of old photos, just in time for Memorial Day. I took pictures of a few worn photos and sent them via text messages to my 84 year old mother (pictured in the foreground, extreme right) and then my questions streamed.

“Ask dad what kind of car that is.”

He says it’s a ’38 Chevy.”

“Who are the ladies over your left shoulder, all in black?”

"The old ladies gossiping? I don't know them...could be a bunch of ladies who came each time Dad visited, for Dharma chatter."

"Ahh...his fans: Dharma Damsels! Did Reverend Hunt speak Japanese?” And on and on.

Some of the pictures I have were considered old when I was in grade school. I used to giggle while comparing my uncles and aunts with images of them twenty to thirty years younger. Many have passed away and my memories of them are a collage, pasted over these images and juxtaposed with the stories I've been told.

Uncle Ray!!

My mother’s oldest brother, Tadashi Matsuda, was the one with the spiffy camera who took most of the snapshots I now use to recall my childhood. For the picture above, he trustingly handed his camera over to someone to capture him in front of his other prized possession, a 1958 Chevrolet Impala (verified once again by my dad). Uncle Ray, as we called him, had to drive several miles to drop his rolls of film off and wait at least a week (I’m guessing) before making the drive back up north to pick up the prints.

If our modern tendency to photograph everything we see and do dulls our memory, I wonder how it will affect the photographed, those growing up with thousands of pictures and videos documenting their lives. Not having so many, should I be envious?


I cherish the photos I have of a single day at my uncle's house. He and my aunt had four children who were already in high school and my grandparents also lived there, so it was an active place. I don't have any recollection of posing for this but I do remember my pair of beige corduroy pants.

I don't recall if I ever made a basket but it looks as though I would not give up the ball.

 I don't remember who took the photo of my brother Mel and me (still possessing the ball) sitting with Uncle Ray, but I do remember that we adored Ray. We loved riding with him in his old Jeep, if only to the post office. 

I often have to fill in the blank spaces, those years and events with no photos. Two more brothers were born, I became the one who drove to the post office, and no one took pictures with as much passion as Uncle Ray. Yet, as I look at the photos I do have, I remember a happy childhood. That's worth a thousand pictures.

I do know this, if I was any good at basketball when I was young, my muscles have no memory of it. It's been over fifty years since those pictures were taken and I'm slowly learning to make  three shots in a row.