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When Our Grandparents Were Cool

Nostalgia can be simultaneously full of emotion but also empty of shared meaning


When my grandparents passed away in 2010 and 2012, I heard stories about their earlier days from distant relatives, uncovered previously unseen possessions and understood more about who they were as people. My father is their only living child, so the opportunities to learn about their lives before us were rare. My favorite photo of them discovered during that time is a candid shot taken from a day out at an airshow they spent together as newlyweds.

My grandparents in the 1940s, watching planes together. They had hard lives but this photo reminds me they were once young and carefree. from r/OldSchoolCool

As I get older, the stories and photos like these of their younger, more vibrant selves are beginning to displace my memories of them in their final years. Fading from memory are the hospital visits, shaky hands and failing cognition of their eighties, and in their place is a feeling of deeper appreciation and understanding of who they were long before I knew them as grandparents.

Inspired by Their Experiences

Like many who came of age during the Depression era, my grandparents did not have an easy life. Now, the tragedies they faced are the things that give them dimension and inspire me as I face my own challenges in life. In short, I see my grandparents differently than I used to. I see them less as the molasses cookie-baking grandmother and fishing boat-dwelling grandfather. I see them more as real people whose experiences and memories are now a source of strength and inspiration as I proceed through adulthood.

While it has already been several years since their passing, I want to share the stories of the grandparents for whom I have a newfound nostalgia and with whom I share a new connection. It turns out, I am not alone. One day I stumbled on a Reddit community called “Old School Cool” where people of all ages share their photos and memories from bygone days.

A man gives a woman a helping hand as she takes a flying leap over a large puddle on the pavement, 1960. from OldSchoolCool

Sharing Stories of the Past

Whether it is an image of a grandfather looking particularly dapper or a sweet moment between lovebirds, this community allows people like me to share the lives of our loved ones as they were, as well as how they are now. (Note: See some of my recent favorite photos from other submitters below.) It is a helpful reminder that our loved ones had lives, interests and dreams long before we arrived — and those experiences helped shape the people we personally knew.

Nostalgia is a strange feeling; it can be simultaneously full of emotion, while empty of shared meaning. But this Reddit community has given me the needed space to share the lives of my grandparents with an audience who welcomes their story; a place where we can catch a glimpse of people’s lives before they became identified as “father” or “grandmother.”

Whether it is a wedding, a sweet moment or a funny snapshot, their nostalgia and their memories somehow enrich my own. In so doing, I have realized that our relationships with loved ones do not end when those people pass on. Even in death, the connections we have to our loved ones continue to evolve when we grow and change as well.

My grandparents at an Army event, late 1950’s from OldSchoolCool

My Grandfathers band in 1946- “Four Jacks and a Jill” from OldSchoolCool

My late grandma(left) and her best friend Zippy(right), Baltimore Maryland, 1951 from OldSchoolCool

What are your “Old School Cool” photos and stories? Share them with our community on Facebook.

Bryce Kirchoff
By Bryce Kirchoff
Bryce Kirchoff has produced web and social media campaigns for organizations at all levels of the media industry and also has experience launching community engagement initiatives, building websites and crafting social campaigns. He holds a master’s of science degree in New Media Management from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and lives in Los Angeles.@bckirchoff

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