CHICAGO — The man whose decades-old bar mitzvah photo album was found in an Andersonville Jewel has been found
— and he’ll soon get his book back.
Jenni Spinner, a freelance writer and editor, found the thick, 63-year-old album last week at the Andersonville Jewel, 5516 N. Clark St. It was sitting atop a stack of craft beer, and no one knew how it got there — or where it should go.
She used clues from the photos and help from the internet to track down Bill London, the now-76-year-old man whose bar mitzvah was being celebrated in the album’s photos.
Spinner’s been in touch with London’s family, who still live in Chicago, and plans to return the album to them as soon as possible.
The photo album saga started Thursday when Spinner saw what she thought was a pile of promotional calendars on top of a stack of Lagunitas beer. Once she picked it up she realized the calendars were actually a decades-old photo album showing a boy’s bar mitzvah party.
Store employees didn’t know who the album belonged to and said it’d been there for some time, so Spinner put her detective cap on and decided to find the owner.
“I happened upon a mystery and I’m playing ‘Harriet the Spy,’ and I kind of want to see how the mystery plays out,” Spinner said. “There’s a whole bunch of questions. Why did somebody bring this photo album into a liquor department? Why did they put it kind of high up on top of a bunch of 12-packs of craft beer? Where did it come from?”
Spinner posted about the album on Facebook, including photos of a few of the snapshots. Commenters left her tips, encouraging her to reach out to a synagogue near the Jewel.
Step two: Spinner and her wife looked through the photos for clues and started talking to local Jewish organizations.
Clue No. 1: One photo includes a letterboard that says “Shoreland Hotel” and “Feb. 20, 1955”
Clue No. 2: The name “William” appears to be frosted onto a cake in one photo
Clue No. 3: A band called “Don Fernando” can be seen playing in a picture
Spinner used the clues to help narrow the search for the bar mitzvah boy, and people eventually recognized him and his family in the photos and helped Spinner reach London and his younger sister, Gail.
On Friday, Spinner said she was passionate about finding the owner because of “plain, good ol’ fashioned curiosity” and because the book appeared to have been beloved.
“It’s a photo album and here we are in the age of people just casually snapping pictures with their phones, posting on Facebook and then forgetting about it,” Spinner said. “This is an album of several dozen pictures that have all been carefully taken and … developed and printed, mounted on some very nice cardstock and then lovingly put in the album with the plastic and a piece of paper in between each page so they don’t stick.
“Somebody at one point cared enough to put this together so carefully, and it seems like something that might be valuable and important to somebody else, whether it’s him or his family.”
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