She curled her bangs and dazzled the camera with her smile. He wore his Dixie cup sailor’s hat at a gravity-defying angle and his arm curled around her waist.
But who were they, and who so lovingly documented their romance in a vintage album containing hundreds of photographs?
They’re questions Mountain View Police Department investigators hope members of the public can help answer so that they may reunite the found World War II-era album with its rightful owner.
“We’d like to think that somebody who put all the time and effort ... to essentially record a life in photos would know not to just toss this away,” said Katie Nelson, the department’s public information officer.
But someone did toss it away. Sgt. Wahed Magee of the agency’s Neighborhood Event Services department and Community Outreach Officer Mike Taber found the album Aug. 28 as they assisted Caltrans with a homeless encampment cleanup at the interchange of highways 85 and 237. Days earlier, the officers had distributed assistance literature and informed the camp’s occupants they had to vacate; so much trash had accumulated at the location that it threatened to spill into and contaminate Stevens Creek.
Upon the officers’ return Aug. 28, Magee investigated the contents of an abandoned tent. Zipped up inside, he discovered a tiny black kitten. Just outside the tent, he found the photo album, its cover open to reveal the photographic treasure trove contained within. A muddy footprint had discolored one album page, but the overall pristine condition of the photos suggested the collection had not been exposed to the elements for long.
“You just knew it wasn’t meant to be out there,” Magee said.
The album photos span decades, evolving from black-and-white to color prints. Many feature the same dimple-cheeked young woman and her grinning paramour, a sailor sporting a WWII naval uniform in several shots. There’s a page of pics documenting the couple playing tennis. Another series shows them cruising on the water in a small motorboat. Each photo is carefully affixed to its crumbling black background with adhesive mounting corners, and some scenes are labeled with names and locations – many in the Bay Area – in neat handwriting.
Magee said those names and locations will serve as a type of “serial number” to help investigators ensure the album is claimed by the owner or the owner’s family and not by a collector who simply wants to pocket some vintage shots.
“Those are priceless to someone, especially when you realize they’re probably not digitally documented,” Magee said.
A possible theory explaining the album’s detour to a homeless encampment is that it was looted in a burglary.
“We don’t know where it came from,” Nelson said. “Our concern is that it was taken, but we don’t know if it was thrown away – either on purpose or on accident – or if somebody gave it away.”
As of last week, no credible claimants had come forward, but a police department Facebook post about the discovery was gaining traction with more than 380 shares, 20 comments and 190 likes. Users suggested the police department contact organizations including the American Legion, Moffett Field and Veterans Affairs and post information about the album on other social media outlets such as Reddit, Flickr and Nextdoor.
“We’re hoping, with everybody who’s shown interest in this that somebody somewhere realizes this is a family member or maybe even their parents, and they want to reclaim it,” Nelson said.
The kitten discovered in the tent also awaits a permanent home. A Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA) officer collected the cat from Taber and Magee and took it to the agency’s Santa Clara location. Employees there named him Raven, and they estimate he is approximately 2 months old.
“He is an adorable, curious, domestic medium-hair kitten,” wrote Janet Alexander, SVACA outreach coordinator, in an email. “He seems pretty healthy so far.”
SVACA employees will attempt to locate Raven’s owner through the agency’s Project Reunite program. If that fails, he likely will enter its foster care program and eventually be put up for adoption, Alexander wrote.