There’s no way to know how the box was lost, but it was found weatherworn and waterlogged in an abandoned showerhouse. It was 1992, and Rich Davisson was cleaning out the old Piney Wood RV Park in Post Falls after buying the place. Inside the box he saw a family history in photographs — a wedding, a Christmas morning, a child’s birthday party, a baby’s bath in the kitchen sink. Some of the photographs were damaged by water, but dozens were miraculously preserved.
“I can’t throw these away,” he thought. “This is somebody’s family.”
So, for the past 20 years, the box of photographs has been in Davisson’s basement. He’s moved it a few times, and each time he looks at the box and wonders whether it’s time to just get rid of it, and each time he can’t bring himself to do it.
All that time, he has never sifted through all the contents. “I felt like I was kind of snooping through the stuff, even looking through it,” he says.
There are posed school photos, a framed portrait and stacks of candid Polaroids. Those same Polaroids are being casually held by anonymous hands in some of the other shots, frozen at the gray moment before they first developed into existence.
And there are clues: references to Manitoba on some accompanying papers, a newspaper clipping of baby contest winners, handwritten dates from 1976 and 1977, names written by the same hand — Art, Alice, Paula, Melvin, Rodney and Danielle, so many of the baby Danielle — and a last name that comes up again and again, Coutu.
In some ways the world has gotten smaller since 1992, or 1977, and Davisson recently posted some of the photographs on Craigslist.
“I thought, if that was my family, it would be pretty cool to get them back after all those years,” he says.
He hopes that now, maybe 35 years after the box was lost, someone will still recognize that smiling baby, or that sunny afternoon on the beach, and come to claim the memories.