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Folsom thrift shop bargain prompts search for family

By: Bill Sullivan, Associate Publisher
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Buying vintage cameras is a regular activity for local collector Josh Bohart. However, his most recent purchase yielded much more than another gem to his collection and has sent him searching for an unknown family.

Born and raised in Folsom, 18-year-old Bohart is a business and film major at Folsom Lake College. In his spare time, he visits area thrift stores, purchasing vintage cameras for his collection that has grown to nearly 30 cameras. His most recent purchase was a classic Argus C3 at the Folsom Goodwill store. The C3 was produced from 1939 until 1966 and was a favorite for film photographers.

Already excited about his find, Bohart was inspecting his newest treasure when he discovered much more. Inside, was a vintage roll of Kodak film. 

According to Bohart, finding film in an old camera isn’t rare; often times one will have a newer roll of film in it from someone who was testing the unit. However, this time was different as it was a very old roll of Kodak Tri-X film.

“I'm not really interested in newer looking used rolls of film, but this one had all the signs of being a vintage, untouched roll of film that had been sitting in the camera for 60 plus years,” he said. “I noticed the vintage Kodak logo and my imagination went wild. I knew I had to get it developed right away.”

After sending the film to The Darkroom located in Southern California, which specializes in processing vintage images, Bohart received a set of images back that tugged at his heart strings.  They were classic photos of a young, African American family in what is believed to be the 1960s.

“I was in shock that most of the images looked like they had just been taken a few years back,” Bohart said. “I was astonished by the quality that was still showing after 60 years of sitting in a camera that had experienced different temperatures and environments.”

While he was intrigued by the technical aspects of the images that were so perfect after several decades, Bohart began to look closely at the images. He then decided that he wanted to do everything possible to find the people in the photos or their family members. It was then that he reached out to his camera colleagues and was told to contact the Folsom Telegraph.

“I belong to a vintage camera group online with about 20,000 members,” Bohart said. “Unfortunately, most of the members are in Europe or other parts of the world, so they can't offer a whole lot of help, but they were the ones that advised me to reach out to the local newspaper for help.”

Bohart’s images don’t show any significant landmarks or locations that are immediately identifiable. In one of the photos a small boy is standing on a sidewalk with what appears to be a school or an office building behind him. According the Bohart, after several locals viewed the photos, along with the Telegaph's staff, it appeared they were taken in an area where suburban farming was common. 

“It could be Davis, Orangevale or the outskirts of Folsom,” Bohart said. “It could be anywhere close or somewhere far away. It’s really hard to say.”

Bohart returned to the Folsom Goodwill store to speak to them about the images. However, the organization has many regional locations and thousands of donors, there is no way to track where the camera was donated from and it could very well have come from another store location, nearby or far away.

Despite the challenges of finding who the images belong to and how to get them to their owners, Bohart is determined to accomplish the task. He is hoping that the exposure in the Telegraph of the images will assist him as well as through social media, in which he hopes the community will share his story to broaden the reach well beyond Folsom.

“It is my goal to get these photos to their rightful owners,” Bohart said. “If I lived in a time where film was the only way of saving memories, and these memories had been stored in a camera for 60 years, I would surely want to eventually see them.”

Bohart is asking the community for their input. If anyone thinks they know the people or places in his photographs that are featured with this article, to please share their thoughts and information by contacting the Folsom Telegraph at folsomtelegraph@goldcountrymedia.com.  The newspaper staff will forward all submissions to Bohart and hopes to have a happy ending to this story by getting the vintage prints into the proper hands.

“These kinds of family pictures are typically developed and framed,” Bohart said. “But I guess these ones didn't have the same fate, until now. Hopefully people can spread the word.”