Family stunned as old photo found in USA shows grandparents standing in front of Exmouth home bought 50 years later by grandson
PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 January 2018
When pensioner Paul Wastell, of Bovey Tracey, visited his 84-year-old sister in Ohio, USA, for a family wedding earlier this year, he never imagined he would come face-to-face with his son's home back in Exmouth.
A photograph of Exmouth hidden away in America for more than 50 years has left a family spookily stunned.
When pensioner Paul Wastell, of Bovey Tracey, visited his 84-year-old sister in Ohio, USA, for a family wedding earlier this year, he never imagined he would come face-to-face with his son’s home back in Exmouth.
Paul’s sister, Margaret, pulled out an old black and white photo of their mother and father on holiday in Exmouth some 78 years ago – which showed the couple standing in front of a property now owned by Rob Wastell – Paul’s son.
Paul, now aged 75, said: “Whilst visiting my sister for a family wedding in August this year we had a chance for reminiscing and looking through old photographs.
“She produced an old black and white photo of my mother and father, seemingly on holiday. They were walking along a street pushing a pushchair with my sister and brother in it.
“Time moves on and my son Robert, now 47-years-old, moved in with his partner, Mel, to a ground-floor flat in Alexandra Terrace, Exmouth. They still own the flat but have since bought a house in Philips Avenue and have three children.
“Knowing my son has always been interested in family history, my sister said to give Robert this small photo.
“Before I gave Robert the photo, I looked at it more closely and thought, ‘that looks as if it had been taken virtually opposite their flat some 78 years ago’ - how about that for coincidence.
“Alexandra Terrace hasn’t changed a lot in this time. One notable difference now is that the ironwork on top of the small front garden wall was taken for the war effort.”
The family estimate the date of the old photo to be in the summer of 1939.
The image shows Paul Wastell’s mother and father ‘seemingly on holiday’, walking along a street pushing a pushchair carrying Paul’s sister and brother.
“My mother and father were brought up and raised in Birmingham. When my father retired they wanted to live by the sea,” said Paul.
“I was 19 and drove them on two consecutive weekends from Bournemouth to Land’s End, and from Weston Super Mare to Land’s End.
“They decided to buy a bungalow at Holcombe, between Teignmouth and Dawlish. I moved with them and began a totally different, and life-changing, life.”
Paul’s son Robert Westell, aged 47, of Phillips Avenue, Exmouth, said: “The photo has been in Ohio USA for over 50 years, but was actually taken directly outside a property in Exmouth circa 1940, now owned by myself.
“The photograph is taken mid-way along Alexandra Terrace Exmouth, close to the seafront. Being a building surveyor by trade, I was able to play detective and identify the moulding on the low-level wall, the detailing on the bay windows and the trees at the entrance to Manor Gardens in the background.
Paul, a married dad-of-three, added: “My aunty Margaret, now living in Ohio, USA, is in the front of the pram.
“She is now 83 and dug out the photo last month and passed it to my dad whilst he was visiting her on holiday; my uncle John, Dad’s brother, now deceased, is to the rear of the pram.
“Dad was born in 1942, approximately two years after the photo was taken.
“The family were living in Birmingham at the time, so the trek down to Exmouth must have been quite a journey back in the day.
“None of the elaborate cast iron railings still exist - they were stripped for the war effort. But an earlier photograph from 1906 clearly shows the same railings.
“Note also the buckets and spades in the very front of the pram, another clue as to the location.”