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John Martini | profile | all galleries >> The Battered Suitcase and the Sad-eyed Flapper tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The Battered Suitcase and the Sad-eyed Flapper

A wonderful thing happened to me in the spring of 2012. A trove of family photos that I thought was lost forever was returned to me.

Some background: When my father died in 1986 his only surviving family were his widow, his step-mother and me, his only child. Not long after his death my step-grandmother and I had a falling out (these things happen in families) and she ended up leaving all her possessions to a neighbor who had been her part-time caregiver. This included all the furniture, family papers, heirlooms, photos, etc. I figured they were gone forever.

In early 2012 I was called by the caregiver's husband. He said he wanted to return a cache of Martini family documents and photos his wife had inherited when my step-grandma died. I met him at the Cliff House in San Francisco and he handed me a ragged suitcase filled with family memorabilia.

I was floored when I opened it; I'd never seen any of the contents before. Among the priceless (to me) photos were my parents' wedding pictures, snapshots of my dad during WWII, and formal portraits of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and even my great-great grandparents, all taken by long-ago San Francisco studio photographers.

Perhaps the most important find was a photograph of my natural grandmother. She had given birth to my dad at age 18 and died of peritonitis only eight months later. I'd never seen a photo of her before, and what astounded me was the family resemblance between the sad-eyed teenage flapper, my dad, and me.

If you go no further in this gallery, just check out the first three photos: my grandmother Gertrude Rick-Martini at about age 18, her son Robert Martini on his high school graduation day in 1941, and her grandson John in 2006.

Final note: after looking at the century-old portraits, I now know where my round face comes from!

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Gertrude Rick-Martini, c1923. She died about a year later.
Gertrude Rick-Martini, c1923. She died about a year later.
Robert Martini, Sacred Heart graduation portrait, 1941
Robert Martini, Sacred Heart graduation portrait, 1941
John Martini, book signing event, 2006
John Martini, book signing event, 2006
The suitcase. First view. Note the missing handles and rusted latches.
The suitcase. First view. Note the missing handles and rusted latches.
Suitcase contents. The wine glass was a critical tool while going through the photos.
Suitcase contents. The wine glass was a critical tool while going through the photos.
Suitcase contents. A decaying album full of cabinet cards. Unfortunately, the album itself was too far gone to save.
Suitcase contents. A decaying album full of cabinet cards. Unfortunately, the album itself was too far gone to save.
Franc J. Nicklaus. Immigrant from Prussia. My great-great-grandfather.
Franc J. Nicklaus. Immigrant from Prussia. My great-great-grandfather.
Franc J. Nicklaus, many years later.
Franc J. Nicklaus, many years later.
Barbara Nicklaus? This is probably my great-great-grandmother.
Barbara Nicklaus? This is probably my great-great-grandmother.
Barbara Nicklaus in later years?
Barbara Nicklaus in later years?
Marguerite Nicklaus, c1885. My great-grandmother as a teenager.
Marguerite Nicklaus, c1885. My great-grandmother as a teenager.
Marguerite Nicklaus c1898. My great-grandmother.
Marguerite Nicklaus c1898. My great-grandmother.
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