Hometown Secrets: LaPorte cafe a storehouse of photos from another time
By Kristin Bien, WSBT-TV Reporter
Back before you could use your phone to snap a quick picture and see photos in an instant, photographs were a luxury. Inside a century-old building in LaPorte there are thousands of old photographs that were left behind and at one time nearly forgotten.
There are a pile of boxes sitting in a corner inside LaPorte's B&J American Cafe. They don't seem particularly fascinating, but the worn boxes contain thousands of memories — photographs from decades past.
"The latest estimate is about 15 thousand," says John Pappas. Pappas owns the restaurant and inherited the pictures.
Above the business, which has been family owned since the 30's, there used to be a photography studio. The photographer operated his business for about 40 years, retired in the 70s and left everything behind.
"We went up there to see what they had up there — To maybe clean it out and we found just boxes and boxes and boxes of pictures," says Pappas.
Pappas was tempted to throw all the pictures away but decided not to.
"There was just too much history there to get rid of. We came close to getting a dumpster then we said there might be some people who might have some stories that would bring back memories or it would be something they would like to see," says Pappas.
And it was — his customers have been fascinated. How could you not be? 15 thousand different faces from another time.
"It was a time when, of course, there were no digital camera and taking a picture was a special time," says Pappas.
There are family photos, baby photos, high school head shots, business head shots, wedding pictures, and military farewells. Sometimes people recognize the faces and while many of these people are long gone, their faces, cloths and styles bring back memories. Over the years, antique dealers have offered to take the pictures, but Pappas feels this historic treasure is better off where it can be appreciated.
"As a whole, as a collection, it is like the history of the LaPorte area. But scattered apart it is just a lot of old pictures. We felt keeping them together, as many as we could, and trying to get them into the hands of people who would really appreciate them was worth doing," says Pappas.
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Photo courtesy of B&J's American Cafe