Winning Essay

By Glenda Popielarski

When I started watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman in the early 1990s, I had no idea how much this show would eventually change my life. One show was particularly influential. That show was called "Portraits." Let me explain....

You see, I have always loved the Victorian era. Often, while attending local antique shows and flea markets, I would be drawn to the many 19th-century photographs that were stacked in boxes and scattered here and there on display shelves.. As I viewed these antique photos, I was fascinated by the extremes of this period in America . These old photos vividly showed the contrast between the opulent lifestyles of the large East Coast cities and the spartan lifestyles of those adventurous individuals who settled in the West. I saw babies in long white christening gowns, women wearing long dresses with painfully tight corsets, Civil War soldiers, horse-drawn carriages, old log homes and highly ornamented city houses....and all of these old photos had a story to tell. Holding each of them was like holding a little bit of history in my hands!

Then along came Kenny Rogers playing a diabetic traveling photographer in an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman called "Portraits." While confronting blindness caused by his diabetes, he took one of his last photographs -- a photograph of the reluctant townspeople of Colorado Springs. This photograph was symbolic in that it was a unifying factor in bringing a diverse group of people together (Swedish immigrants, Native Americans, blacks, etc.) for the first time. After seeing "Portraits", I realized that, like music, photographs can help people relate and connect with each other in positive ways. A peacemaker by nature, I wondered out loud if they could in some small way help to create a more tolerant and peaceful world too. After watching this episode, I was immediately inspired to 'do something' with those old photos at antique shows that I was so drawn to.

Immediately after seeing "Portraits," I first decided to collect the old photos at the antique shows that I adored so much. I always loved collecting things, and vintage photos were now my newest passion! Many of my weekends and vacations were now spent searching for that perfect but elusive photo, especially those that reminded me of the sepia photo taken of the townspeople in "Portraits."

Later, after years of collecting literally thousands of old photos, I decided to downsize my collection to a more manageable level by keeping my favorites and selling the rest. To do this, I helped to design my first website for selling the photos I considered to be extras in my large collection. This new website would be a wonderful place for sharing my personal favorites with others too. This was my very first website and I did not have any specialized training in this area. You can imagine how stunned I was when my website was submitted for the Golden Web Award by a Microsoft employee, and then won three years in a row!

Shortly after creating my website, I decided to convert my vintage photo-collecting hobby into a small business called Recycled Relatives. Some of Dr. Michaela Quinn's "can do" attitude had finally rubbed off on me! As the sole proprietor and owner of this small but successful business, I have met so many gracious and knowledgeable people that helped me to grow both personally and professionally. I attribute all of this good fortune to one TV show -- my all-time favorite TV show -- Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

My latest hobby, collecting Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman memorabilia, is another way that this wonderful show has touched my life. Recently, I was lucky enough to win an online auction for the old photo Brian had of his biological father, Ethan, on the show. This prop from my favorite show is perhaps the most cherished item in my collection. Searching for the various items relating to this show has been a fun, rewarding hobby that has kept me entertained (and broke!) for days on end.

As you can see, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman has profoundly changed my life, both personally and professionally. In hindsight, I now realize that the thought-provoking "Portraits" episode was one of the important catalysts for these changes. That particular episode motivated me to start an antique photo collection and a Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman memorabilia collection. It was also the motivation that led me to create my first award-winning website. Finally, and most importantly, it was the inspiration I got from Dr. Michaela Quinn that led to my latest decision to start my own business, something I have always dreamed of doing.

I would like to say a sincere thank you to all of the people involved in the production of this wonderful, wonderful show. I will never forget your hard work!