Where are you Kathleen Laino?

kathleen laino
A photo of a girl identified as Kathleen Laino, taken by my father in 1952.

Update: Found! Thanks to Facebook, I just discovered that Miss Laino is still alive and still living in Springfield.

I labor under a kind of curse — one where I see a vintage photograph of someone or some place, and I obsess over its history. At right I’ve posted a photograph taken by my father in 1952 of a ten-year-old girl who lived in his neighborhood. On the back of the photo, someone — presumably my father — writes:

“Kathleen Laino, 10 years old, 26 Crosby Street [Springfield, Massachusetts], 3 little kittens, April, 1952”

This photo came in a small booklet with another four images of the same girl in the same setting. I give credit to my father for bothering to jot down even those precious details. Most of us couldn’t be bothered to pen a simple date. My mother’s photo archive holds hundreds of pictures of people who’s identity I may never know.

Not having spoken much with my father while he still lived, I know little else about the image. My father grew up on Crosby Street and in that year, he would marry my mother and move to Three Rivers, Massachusetts. As a confirmed shutterbug, I suspect my father took these photos simply to advance his interest. I do not know if Kathleen ever saw these photos, but I doubt she did.

These days, I try to make it my mission to share such photos with the subjects that appear in them. I think all of us of a certain age and older have accumulated dozens and dozens of images taken in our youths of people we probably haven’t seen since we snapped that shutter. I can only wonder how many such pictures of me exist out there, but on the few occasions that they come back to me, it always strikes me in a way that often sends a tingle down my spine. Did I really look like that? Why did I think I wasn’t good looking? Why in the world did I think I was fat?

We can get too caught up in a moment long-since-past. After that twinge of initial bliss, we waste time dwelling on it. The moment now sits irretrievable in a temporal amber.

So far, my search for this Kathleen Laino has come up empty. If I  had to speculate about Kathleen’s life from this point, I’d guess that she graduated from a Springfield high school, worked a few years in the area, and got married in her early twenties. Her family probably moved out of the neighborhood soon after her graduation, as Crosby Street lay on the wrong side of the red-lining that the banks imposed on older, inner-city neighborhoods at the time.

By the end of the 1960s, most of the Italian immigrants that lived in that neighborhood had moved out to make room for the next wave of immigrants, most of whom did not enjoy an expanding industrial base. Today, you would not want to walk those streets in the daytime, much less at night. You will today find an empty lot in place of Kathleen’s old house.

Kathleen, if still alive, would be seventy years old today, and if she or a friend or relative does a search for her, hopefully this page will come up. Such is the wonder (and the curse) of the internet.