It wasn’t until after Kristie Baeumert had purchased the old Argus projector that she realized that there were already some slides in the case. Curious, she loaded them up and began to browse through the collection. The pictures that appeared all seemed to be of one family, perhaps photographed in the 1960s. Here, for example, was the matriarch dressed for a night out. There were the young girls running around outside. Looking at the images, Baeumert knew two things almost at once: she loved this family, and she had to find them.
It was no accident that Baeumert had been shopping in the Goodwill in Tyrone, Georgia, around June 2018. After all, the mother of five is based in Fairburn, which is little more than eight miles north of Tyrone. And with five kids to clothe, Baeumert frequently pops into this thrift store for new threads.
Yet on this particular visit it wasn’t clothes that caught Baeumert’s eye. Rather, it was the vintage form of an Argus 300 Model III projector. Baeumert had been handed down some old slides from her grandmother, you see, and she figured the projector might just be the thing she needed to view them.
Baeumert soon realized, however, that she’d gotten more than she’d bargained for when she’d purchased the projector. The case in which the thing came in had been inscribed with the word “Kansas,” for one thing. And hidden underneath the kit was a box of slides, for another.
Out of curiosity, Baeumert inserted the slides into the projector and took a closer look. “I was instantly obsessed,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) in July 2018. “I made my whole family look at them. My friends came over, and I was like, ‘We’re going to look at these slides!’”
Baeumert later shared 15 images from the slides on Facebook. In the accompanying caption, Baeumert explained that she had “kind of [fallen] in love with this beautiful family.” She also related the story of how she’d come into possession of someone else’s treasured memories.
Looking at the images, it isn’t hard to understand why Baeumert had been so enthralled by them. In one arresting photograph, for instance, a woman poses in a glamorous dress, clearly preparing for a big night out. The style of dress and the furnishings behind her scream of a bygone era.
Elsewhere, a photo shows three old-school classic cars, including a Pontiac from 1953 and a Buick from 1955, lined up side by side. Four young girls sit and stand on the car in the center, apparently relaxing or enjoying a day out. One of the cars in the pictures also sports a tantalizing clue: it has a Colorado plate.
In yet another image, two girls in matching outfits run down a street laughing. Japan’s Nagasaki Peace Park also makes an appearance in one of the pictures. Other images reveal a shot of a beach and one clearly a location with a warm climate. And a further one is labeled as being from “Wake Island,” an apparently mostly military area.
All the images naturally raise more questions than answers. What kind of family are we seeing here? Were they rich or poor? Did they like to travel a lot – hence the exotic locations – or were they a military family? Perhaps understandably, Baeumert wanted to find out more.
This curiosity was what led her to post the selection of images on Facebook. And by the time AJC ran its piece a month later, Baeumert’s album had been shared about 160 times. But no one seemed to know anything further. “I was kind of sad about that,” Baeumert told AJC. “If this was my family, I would want these.”
Things soon started to change, however. Because when AJC posted its article online, it also sent out a tweet with some details and images. That single post was then retweeted at least 20,000 times. A guy named Jules Ruiz even took the time to Photoshop some of the pictures in an attempt to make them clearer.
Yet even this amount of frenzied activity didn’t initially lead anywhere. One thing that did happen, though, was that Baeumert’s story began to get a lot of coverage in the media. CBS News, for instance, ran a segment on the pictures on July 16, 2018. And then there was an almost immediate breakthrough.
It turned out that within minutes of CBS airing its story, a person watching at home reached out to Baeumert. This person was in fact a member of the family in the photos. But while the images had gotten themselves on television, it seemed that the family they belonged to wanted to stay out of the limelight.
Baeumert updated her original Facebook post to inform any interested parties. “I spoke with a very lovely woman who asked that the photographs be turned over privately with no media attention. I plan to respect her wishes,” she wrote. Fortunately for us, however, that wasn’t quite the end of the story.
On July 25, 2018, CBS broadcast a follow-up to their initial story. In footage from the segment, Baeumert finally comes face to face with 88-year-old Theda Robertson and her kids Deborah and Treva. “It is so very nice to meet you!” says Baeumert when they first meet. The group then share a warm embrace.
Baeumert later sat down with Theda, Deborah and Treva – as well as the news crew – and showed them the images that they hadn’t laid eyes on in two decades. Suffice to say, the Robertsons were blown away. “It brings back all the memories that we had as children,” exclaimed Deborah.
It turned out that the Robertsons were indeed a military family, and they had lived in places all over the globe. The projector with these precious pictures, however, went missing years ago. “[Baeumert] purchased a projector and then found our life’s treasures inside,” Treva said. She didn’t hesitate to give profound thanks to Baeumert either.
For her part, Baeumert was just happy to help. “[The Robertsons] are just as happy and joyful, and it’s such a great story just the way I thought it would be,” she told CBS. Before she could leave, though, the Robertsons had just one more request to ask of her.
“Can we buy [the projector] back from you?” Theda asked Baeumert during the interview. “I absolutely want you to have this,” replied Baeumert. Soon afterwards, then, the Robertsons got to take the projector and their much-missed memories home. And as for Baeumert? Well, she headed back to Goodwill to begin her next adventure.