My family is planning a mini-reunion this summer, with my aunts, uncles, and cousins getting together. In anticipation, I’ve been scanning old family photos borrowed from an uncle. Some of these photos I’ve seen before and some of these I’ve never seen before. I’ve even found my grandma Yvonne Sumner Konzen’s high school yearbook. Who knew that they had yearbooks in small-town Minnesota in 1937!? I had no idea that my grandma was in the Drama club or that her high school nickname was Bonnie.
The above photo of my grandparents has always been one of my favorites. I found some new photos of my great grandparents Ella Pauline Kuske and John Charles Konzen. Ella and John’s son Karl (my great-uncle) was a solder in WWII, but I found some photos that my great-aunt Kay says were from his last furlough before he was sent to Europe. They’re great photos, but after I looked at them for a while I realized that there was a deeper meaning to the photos. It would’ve been the last time my great-uncle Karl saw his dad because John died in November 1942 and the photos were taken in August 1942. They also are the last photos taken of John that I have.
I’m having lots of fun scanning these photos and identifying people in them, but I’ve come to realize these photos also tell a story just as much as any document. I’ve always been told that my grandparents first settled in Bozeman when they came to Montana from Minnesota. And only later did they move to Billings. That’s actually not the truth. According to a photo they lived in Billings in October 1942, then they moved to Bozeman, and later they moved back to Billings.
Some photos are not as much fun. On the back of a photo of my great-uncle Karl during WWII he wrote “‘Don’t Fence Me In!’ At that time we were joking but now it’s no laughing matter cause we are fenced in.” He never spoke about the war with me, so it wasn’t until this year that I found some information on him being at Omaha Beach and in the Battle of the Bulge during the war. It must have been painful for him to talk about because I went to Omaha Beach when I was in high school. Before I went I asked him if there was anyone buried there that he wanted me to pay my respects to and he never said anything.
My grandpa loved taking photos and I’m going to assume my grandma enjoyed it, too, since they had so many photos. Considering how expensive photos and cameras used to be, it’s hard to believe how many photos they have. I’m thankful that they enjoyed taking photos so much. To me, photos are worth more than a thousand words.
All photos courtesy of the Randy Konzen Collection.