Romance found on the back of an old lunch counter photograph from the 1950s
Video: Follow along as I discover the lipstick kiss on the back of the vintage photograph
I recently bought this vintage photograph that was sold in a tacky modern frame. I decided to remove the matting and frame to get a better look at the print itself.
The problem of the cellophane tape
Unfortunately, whoever made the bad decision to put this into a frame also decided to use cellophane tape — Never use cellophane tape on photographs! it’s not archival. I removed all the tape except one little piece, which was pulling up some of the lipstick as I lifted it.
Sealed with a kiss
When I began disassembling the frame, I found a surprise! On the back of the badly aged cardboard mount, I discovered a lipstick impression from a kiss — the pink was as vivid as the day it was placed there. . . but when was that?
Most of the antique photos I purchase and study are mysteries, but this lipstick presented a whole new set of questions that added to the mystery of this one.
I don’t know anything about this photograph — the people in it — the location where it was made — or even when it was taken — although I’m guessing the time frame at late 1940s to sometime in the 1950s. This hearkens back to the era when teenagers spent time at lunch counters and soda fountains.
I love finding handwriting on the back of old photos because it really makes a personal connection to someone from the past — but seeing the impression of a woman’s lips on the back makes it seem even more intimate.
How long has that lipstick been there?
Was the kiss for someone shown in the photo? Was it one of the eager young fellows seated at the counter? Was the kiss placed there one of the women shown behind the counter?
Note a few details in the photograph
- There are two bare light bulbs over head, dangling from braided electrical wires.
- On the countertop there’s a jar of sugar, a can of Pet brand condensed milk, a box of toothpicks
- Up high there’s a cookie jar but it looks like it may have can of snuff tobacco — or maybe it’s candy.
- On the left side of the countertop is some kind of game. It says “try your skill” and it gives ratings and what those ratings mean. It features a cartoon figure of a football player in a football uniform — he’s got a leather helmet like players wore in the 1920s and ’30s, but this photo was certainly later than that.
Who are these people?
I purchased this photograph in a small town in Tennessee, a short distance from the Alabama state line, but there’s no reason to assume the photograph was taken in that region. Sadly, unless a viewer recognizes this place or someone in the photograph, I’ll never know anything about the photograph, but I hope the kiss meant that someone found true love and lived happily ever after.