TEMPLE TERRACE – You’ve surely heard the phrase “It’s a small world,” at least a hundred times. But this story proves it.
For almost 45 years Temple Terrace resident Tom Allison has been collecting old photographs. His database detailing the 150,000 items he’s amassed throughout the decades is proof of his passion for seeking and saving family photos and albums dating from the 1860s to the 1970s.
In June of 2012 he took a road trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. with a 20-by-24 inch framed four-generational composite containing tintype and carte de viste photographs (the French term for calling card-size photos) he’d purchased for $60 at an antiques store in 2007.
His motive was to have it appraised by experts at the “Antiques Roadshow,” a TV program that travels to cities across the country and airs on PBS. Little did he know he’d be among the select few in the crowd chosen to appear with his piece alongside an appraiser for a taping of the show that ran in March.
“The host, who was an expert in photographs, was interested because the collage contained so much history, telling a whole family story in one image,” Allison said.
By utter coincidence the “family” is that of Tom Buntin, who also lives in Temple Terrace and is acquainted with Allison.
It was also by sheer happenstance that Buntin, who with his lunch in hand, was flipping through the TV channels in search of something sports related and thought he saw Allison on the screen. He called in his wife, who confirmed it was him.
What he saw next seemed almost surreal.
“I said to my wife, ‘that’s my family in that collage,’” said Buntin, who in turn relayed that very message to Allison when he spoke with him following his return home from Myrtle Beach.
While the photography expert at the show had valued the titled “Family Record” at about $1,400, Allison had no intention of selling the piece but offered to let Buntin borrow it for a month so show family members living nearby.
His nephew Tommy Buntin, a Brandon resident, said he heard about the piece from a fellow church member who’d watched the popular show even before his uncle notified him.
“A lady in our church said she saw a man who looks like me, but I don’t know the guy’s actual relationship to me,” Tommy Buntin said.
At the month’s end of having the piece in his temporary possession, yet another surprise was in store.
Without forking over one dime John Buntin became the collage’s proud new owner.
Allison, who admittedly is very protective of his collections, donated the “Family Record” to the person he believes was meant to have it.
“I’m excited about it because it kind of broke my feeling of keeping these pieces to myself,” Allison said.
John Buntin is appreciative of his generosity.
“This piece has opened a whole new world,” said Buntin, noting that much of his family’s history had been either lost over time or left untold.
Allison, 69, said plans are in the works for him to showcase many of his “pieces of art” photograph collections at Temple Terrace Community Church where he is a member.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]