Family films mistakenly sold at B.C. garage sale find way back home 10 years later

Wendy Robinson and Chris Wallinger look on as the tapes are returned to Marion Baker. (Greg Sakaki/News Staff)Wendy Robinson and Chris Wallinger look on as the tapes are returned to Marion Baker. (Greg Sakaki/News Staff)
Marion Baker (right) says she couldn’t believe the kindness of Chris Wallinger and Wendy Robinson (left). (Greg Sakaki/News Staff)Marion Baker (right) says she couldn’t believe the kindness of Chris Wallinger and Wendy Robinson (left). (Greg Sakaki/News Staff)

The world feels a little bit smaller for one Vancouver Island resident after 13 family films were returned to their rightful owner a decade after they were accidentally sold during a yard sale in Kelowna.

Chris Wallinger was at his parents’ house for Mother’s Day and learned of a box of old Super 8 reels. The recordings, with the name Thompson and a Victoria address written on them, were included in a projector box that Wallinger’s grandmother bought “10 or 11 years ago” at a garage sale in Kelowna. And, while the Wallinger family had always wanted to return the films, they never had the chance.

“Because of quarantine life right now and having some extra time, [my mom] started going through boxes and that jogged her memory,” Chris Wallinger says.

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Wallinger snapped a couple of photos and posted his story on Reddit, where a someone quickly suggest he post it in a Facebook group called Old Victoria.

These Super8 Tapes have been in the hands of the Wallinger family for the past decade after they were purchased with a projector at a yard sale in Kelowna. (Courtesy of Chris Wallinger)

“I put it on Facebook at 1:30 p.m. on Monday and it just kind of blew up from there,” he says. “By 7 p.m. I was talking to two of the [daughters] of the parents who owned these tapes originally.”

Taryn Jones, an archivist involved in genealogy research for almost 20 years, saw the post and thought, “I’ll just take a look and see if I can find anything.”

Within half an hour, Jones found the death registration of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson. Through Ancestry.com, Jones tracked down a relative who put Wallinger in contact with the family members on the Island.

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“I just think about if someone had film from my family and they were trying to track me down, how I would feel if they contacted me,” Jones says. “So it was really exciting to confirm it was the right people and they were interested and that the films could go back.”

Marion Baker was one of those family members. Her parent’s names were on the tapes and she says she was amazed to get the call from Wallinger.

“I just couldn’t believe that somebody would go to that much trouble to get them back to us and I’m so thankful,” says Baker.

On Wednesday evening, outside of Wallinger’s parents’ home in north Nanaimo, both families met to hand back the films.

Baker’s parents were living in Enderby when her mother died in 1990. In the years following, her father moved back to Victoria but sold several items at a garage sale before his move. The recordings, which have videos of family vacations, Christmases and weddings from 1967 to 1981, are even more special to Baker as a lot of her family photos were lost to a fire at her sister’s house.

“I’m excited because I know one of my sister’s wedding is on there and I missed it because we weren’t in the country at the time and one of my sister’s graduation and all these family trips that we heard about but had never seen any of the pictures,” says Baker.

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What makes this story even more unbelievable, is the cousin who Jones found on Ancestry.com, lives in Winnipeg and was doing his own research.

“[Our] cousin — we just discovered, or he discovered us — about 10 years ago,” says Baker. “He had all this [family information] on Ancestry or we would have never have been found because none of us has the Thompson name anymore, we’re all girls.”

Baker says her son is working on tracking down a Super 8 projector so the family can view the films before meeting with her other sister who lives on the Island as well. She says she can’t wait to share the films were her three other sisters, who live in Vernon.

“We’re sort of cursing this virus that’s going around right now or I’d probably be on my way to Vernon,” she says. “It’s a very small world when it comes down to it.”



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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