Wednesday, March 04, 2009


For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to take pictures. I was always fascinated by photographs, that magic way to capture a moment in time. Unfortunately, growing up poor in the Fifties didn’t offer the financial resources for such a hobby. Growing up in the Fifties in Downingtown, Pennsylvania my family was like many other families, poor. We lived in a two bedroom rented second floor apartment at 120 Washington Avenue in the white trash section of town (it still is by the way.)

My Mother knew how much I was interested in photography so one Christmas Santa gave me a Kodak Brownie camera. Oh what a treasure that was. Not only because it was one of the few Christmases that Santa gave to me only, but because it was a present that I wanted and I got. “Santa” had a bad habit of giving Christmas presents to me and my two brothers with the proviso it was for “all of us.” I can remember one painful Christmas that me and the bros got a much wanted Lionel train set. Mom told us “Santa said this is for all of you.” I think that’s what I stopped believing there was a Santa Claus because I thought Santa would know better than to give ONE electric train set to three boys, especially brothers who were only a year apart in age. It didn’t work. Being the oldest, I got the engine. My middle brother Isaac; got the two middle cars and my youngest brother John; got the caboose. No one was happy. But I digress.

The Christmas I received the Kodak Brownie camera I was 11 years old, 1955. Now I had a new problem. I didn't have the money to buy and process the film of the pictures I was about to start taking. Fortunately for me I had recently secured a newspaper delivery job. I didn’t make a lot of money (about $5.00 a week), but I sometimes did have enough money left over at the end of the week (after buying candy and comic books) to buy a role of black and white Kodak film. Thus began Ron's Wonderful Adventure of taking pictures.

Taking pictures and getting them developed back in the Fifties was quite an ordeal. Once I took my pictures, I would take them to the Charles newsstand for processing. This was before the 1-hour processing; take it for granted, photo-processing days of many years later. Oh no, when one took film to be processed at Sam Charles (he owned the newsstand – we never called it the “Charles Newstand”), one waited at least a week until the film came back from some unknown mysterious location where they processed the film. I can still remember the butterflies in my stomach the magical day would approach when I could pick up my pictures. Sometimes I could hardly wait until I got home until I opened the enveloped and witness the miracle of capturing these Moments in History.

Now fast forward to today. Almost everyone has a digital camera or a camera phone. We can see our pictures almost instantly after they’re processed. Film that one has to thread in a camera is but a memory of the past. Now we download our digital images into our computers. It doesn’t cost us anything. No more trips to the local photography processing store to wait for the film to be processed. If we want a print we can either do it ourselves on our own printer or go to the local Wal-Mart and have it in an hour. Instant gratification.

What about my old black and white pictures that I took back in the Fifties? Those pictures I lovingly secured them with those pyramid shaped glued photo corners in those photo albums with black pages. Then I put those photo ablums in a closet, never to be seen again.

Later, in the 70’s, the miracle of color photography arrived. Now I had more money and I could take more pictures. Yet, I still had to take them to the local Camera Shop for processing. These photos I secured in plastic paged photo albums. I also put those in the same closet, never to be seen again except, by the administrator of my estate after I die.

Over the years I went through periods of taking a lot of pictures, and then years of not taking any pictures. I don’t know why I did this other than I preoccupied with the different transitions in my life and just didn’t have the time to take pictures nor the money for processing the prints. One such period was when I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after I got out of the Army in January of 1963. I have no pictures of that important period of my life.

Another regret I have is that I didn’t take many pictures of people. Back then I was quite shy and reluctant to shove my camera into someone’s face to take their pictures (I have since gotten over that shyness as many of my friends and relatives can now attest.) I also didn’t have many pictures taken of myself. Again, I think my inherit shyness was the cause. And again, I have gotten over that shyness. I now have a lot of pictures taken of myself. Unfortunately, I am in my advanced years now and the subject matter of my face isn’t quite as appealing (if it ever was) but that is a subject for another blog posting.

One of my big goals in my retirement was to scan all my old photographs into my computer for permanent storage and history. The past two years I have scanned some of my old photos into my computer but only on an individual basis of a particular photo that was of some interest. This morning I changed that. I scanned my first whole photo album into my computer. It took me about three hours but it was worth it. I will put those pictures into several photo albums on my Facebook account for friends and relatives to enjoy (and copy if they wish.)

Scanning my old photos into my computer this morning brought back many fond memories of a more innocent time. And then I thought, that’s why we take photos, to bring back fond memories and remember a time that is long gone. It is also to remember those we know and love that are no longer with us. Were they the “good old days” as is so often referred? Maybe not but they were a time and a place which will never happen again.

During my genealogy research, I often request old photographs from my relatives so I can scan them into my computer for a permanent record and for future generations to look back on and wonder how life was back in the “good old days.” I may not write that book about my life that I have planned all my life, but I will leave this rich treasury of photos that I have accumulated during my lifetime. That is my legacy.


  1. Ron,

    Ah, we got the same type camera about the same time. It seemed so great, just like when I got my first typewriter. But I sure wouldn't trade my digital camera and computer for them now.

    You would buy a roll of film, which is about what I could afford at a time. You had to place it on wheels intide and carefully unroll a portion to thread theought guides and then fasten a tab at the end through a slot on a spindle, which sometimes resisted threading.

    You only got 12 shots. It didn't take long to use up a roll.

    Then wind the used roll to the end before opening the camera, somewhat fearful it would catch or you would open and the film hadn't completely wound and you would ruin it by exposure to light.

    I don't remember if those Browies wound all the way forward ot if you had to rewind the roll. I knowI have had cameras where the file would rip on winding and the roll was trapped or it would get stuck.

    You would open the camera in some dark area to prevent possible exposure, and then offfor developing. I always took mine to Hutchinsons drugstore. Yes, you would wait a week, then how often some disappointment at a under or over exposed print, a totally black or totally white one. Or perhaps streaks and splotchs on the face or you camera cord cross the shot.

    Ah yes, the good ol' days.


  2. Yes indeed, "The Good Old Days." I never took mine to Hutchinson's probably because I had to stop in Sam Charle's to pick up my newspapers for delivery. I do remember how special it was to develop a whole roll of film. A Big Deal in those days. I just wish I had taken a lot more pictures, especially of people. So many opportunities missed. I'm making up for it now though.

  3. Great post. So many similarities except my first camera was an Ansco, the Brownie was too expensive.
    This brought back many memories.
    See you Saturday to peruse these old albums from my previous life before I destroy them forever.

    Thanks for this post.

  4. See me in the back of the pickup truck? My father got a perverse pleasure in embarassing me by making me ride in the back of his new truck. Actually, me and my brothers. One of my brothers took this picture of me with all the hair. My embarassment only added to my low self esteem at that time. I considered myself suffering from terminal dorkdom. From my father telling me my nose was too big and being to tall for my age (and skinny.) Looking back at The Dork now, I think I look sort of cute. What do you think? BTW, I had bags under my eyes then too. Had'em all my life. Nothing new for me.

  5. Ron,

    Boy, we both looked kind of dorky at that age, didn't we? Funny, I use to ride in the back of my dad's pickup, but I enjoyed it. Rich and I would often ride in the back of his pickup. This is probably illegal now with our over-protective nanny state. Of course, my dad had other way of embarrassing me.


  6. I probably wouldn't have minded riding in back of the pickup truck except for my Dad making a point of humiliating me. I knew he was buying a new "car" and I was all excited about it. Then when he told me he got a pickup truck "and you boys are going to have to ride in back", he seemed to get a perverse pleasure in humiliating me. Of course back then I was very embarassed about my "hillbilly" roots (not so now, I'm proud of them)and he took every opportunity to remind me that I was "half a hillbilly." Can't say as I blame him now. Ironically, he didn't keep the pickup truck that long. It wasn't practical. We got a car. He found other ways to humiliate me. That is another thing we had in common....dads who made a point of alienating their sons. He did a good job but he finally came around to accepting me for the person I am. I think he wanted an exact replica of himself. He didn't get that. He got three individuals for sons. Father son relationships, always an interesting subject.


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