Old cameras and film photos

By Mary Ellen Shaw

I met some friends for lunch recently and one of them brought some old photos from the 80s…90s. Among them were photos from events showing people we had worked with. You know that a considerable amount of time has passed without you recognizing certain people! We all worked on remembering names and eventually figured out who everyone was.

I have to say it was nice to pass around an actual photo instead of a phone with digital images. We were given some of the photos to take home and because I have old habits I put them in my trusty photo album.

Seeing images that weren’t as sharp as today showed us just how far technology has come.

Most of us used a Brownie camera back then. They were made by Kodak and were affordable. They were available in a small, compact design that was easy to carry. To take pictures, you had to load a roll of film onto a spool and roll it until you saw the number “1” appear. That meant you were ready to take your first shot. There was a place to attach a flash bulb which was needed for interior shots.

Out of curiosity, I researched the history of Brownie cameras and was surprised to learn that they had been around since 1900. Kodak had children in mind when they offered some of their promotions. One of them was the Brownie Camera Club where kids could enter photos they had taken and win prizes for their snaps.

Once you run out of your roll of film, you remove it from the camera and take it to a store to be developed. My dad used to bring ours to the Wilson Sports Store on Center Street. An advertisement in the Rutland Directory from 1952 states that they sell “photographic apparatus and supplies”. I remember there was a very comprehensive photography department within Wilson Sports. It’s not a suit you’ll find in today’s sporting goods stores.

One thing I remember about old cameras is that unless you took enough pictures to use the roll of film fast enough you would have Christmas pictures and summer beach pictures on the same roll of film. I also remember you had the wrong photos with the right ones. It was always interesting to see how they turned out. For me, that usually meant finding blurry objects, severed heads, and off-center objects. You paid for the number of prints developed, but you never knew what you would find in the paper envelope that contained your prints.

Luckily, my dad was very good at writing the year, people’s names, and location on just about every photo he took. Some of our photos from the 50s arrived in a small spiral booklet. It was easy to go from photo to photo and write the information on the back.

Our first family photos from the 40s and 50s were put in a photo album with paper pages. You can stick self-adhesive photo corners on the pages and slide the images into the four corners. I still have these photo albums and the photos have not moved at all from where they were placed over 70 years ago! Over time, our albums had vinyl sheets that you peel off in order to place the photos on a page with an adhesive surface. These photos also stayed in place but the surface has yellowed over time. However, the pictures still look great.

Newer photo albums have individual vinyl openings that match the size of the print. Just drop the photos in and they stay put forever!

For me, photos are like books and newspapers. I want to hold them in my hands because I get a lot more pleasure from them that way. Guess I’m just a “senior” struggling to break some old habits!

About Debra D. Johnson

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