NEWORLEANS- Karen and Johnny Jones from Kentwood walked into the Amtrak station with a box of treasures for famed New Orleans musician Pete Fountain. They opened the box to reveal a stack of pictures from throughout Pete's life and career.
The first one showed Pete at age 12, in his school uniform, holding his clarinet, a picture he wanted to send to his grandmother.
'To see this, this is unbelievable, thank you,' Pete said, overwhelmed at seeing pictures long thought lost.
'You're welcome. It's our pleasure,' Karen said.
Like so many people, Pete lost everything when Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home. But by a lucky chance, Johnny and Karen, who own the Paris Flea Market in Kentwood, went to an auction of abandoned storage units.
'We made a bid on these units, and that's where they were,' said Johnny. 'It amazed me.'
'I find family pictures all the time, but I'm like, wait a minute, I know who this is,' said Karen.
There are no clues to why the pictures were in the storage unit, or who left them there. But that didn't matter to Pete, who found a copy of his wedding picture from 1951, then his parents on their 50th anniversary, and Pete spending time with his dad on the day he retired.
'This is the one, my favorite,' said Karen. Pete responded: 'That was my daddy. Yeah, that's my dad.'
'Oh this is a very touching moment, very, very special,' said Pete's son-in-law and manager, Benny Harrell.
'My old car, look at that, yeah,' Pete grinned, looking at the photo of the vintage sports car.
Karen wanted to make sure Pete got the pictures back. She's a dining car manager on Amtrak's City of New Orleans train. One of her coworkers sent me a Facebook message asking me to get in touch with Pete. No one had any idea how important those pictures would be to Pete and his family.
There were photos of Pete at the very beginning of his career and playing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in Jackson Square, and Pete in military formation with other members of the Louisiana National Guard band, when he was given special permission to keep his trademark goatee.
'You can see, I had a, they let me wear my,' Pete said, fascinated by the rare picture of him in military uniform.
Karen responded: 'You were the only one.'
'Some of them are very rare,' said Benny. 'Some of them I've seen today for the first time, and some of them I've seen copies of that were lost in the storm.'
There was Pete with actor and movie star Phil Harris, and the early television band leader who was Pete's boss, Lawrence Welk.
But it was the picture of Welk's band meeting FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1957 that drew laughs, as Pete described on the back of the picture why he tried to hide from the famed G-Man.
'That's me behind Welk with just my eye peeking out,' said Benny, reading the inscription on then back of the photo. 'I was hiding, I wasn't taking any chances.
'Thank you,' Pete said to Karen, and she answered: 'You're welcome. I feel like I've known you my whole life, isn't that amazing.'
There were Mardi Gras Day memories, with the Half Fast Walking Club, and his family, one family restoring the memories of a lifetime to another.