24 December 2002
I had this great idea to talk about an old production of "A Christmas Carol,"
and went looking for pix--I have a marvelous picture of Tom as Tiny Tim (and another great
one of Ned, age 10, in bald pate, as Scrooge). Alas,
I cannot find my "Show Biz #1" scrapbook. I found the other four, but not
#1. I remember looking for that book before and have been frustrated for a long time.
Peggy bought my first digital camera for me several months before she arrived for a
visit in 2000. I was immediately hooked on digital photography and I have not spent one
penny in film or developing since it arrived. In fact, my old camera (I'm not sure where
it is) has an unfinished roll of film on it, the last pictures of which were taken as I
left the Houston airport about four years ago.
This is nothing short of miraculous.
For years--perhaps most of my married life--"photography" was one of our
biggest expenses each month. Whether film or developing or scrapbooks or scrapbooking
supplies--it all adds up very quickly and over the years I have spent a fortune or two.
In fact, my very first huge debt was to a photo shop in Berkeley, before I was married.
I ran up such a big debt that I had to borrow money from my mother to pay it off.
Photography has been a real addiction for me.
It started when I was 10 and got the first camera which was all my own. Prior to that
there was a family camera--the 1950s version of a disposable camera. It was a cardboard
box with a lens in front of it and film already loaded inside. It had a wire loop that pulled
up out of the box and was used as a viewfinder. The button to release the shutter was on
the side and then you would advance the film to the next picture--being careful to watch the
numbers in the tiny little window so you didn't wind it too far and end up with a double
When the film was finished, you cut a slit in the top of the box, pushed money inside
and stuck the whole thing in the mailbox. A week later, you received your (black and
white) prints back. All very primitive.
I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when for Christmas in 1953 I received a Brownie
box camera. A square plastic cube with film that you threaded onto a spool. The flash
attachment (this was high tech--flash!) was removable and used flash bulbs which exploded
and turned milky white and disformed after the flash. You licked them before putting them
in the flash holder so as to improve the contact (I don't know if that really worked, or
if I just liked the taste of the flash bulb!)
No color film available at that time, so I took a lot of black and white film (it was
with that camera that I took a photo of Judy Garland when she was checking in to the
Fairmont Hotel in 1960).
I don't remember what my next camera was, but I could now do color. I never looked
back. As I sit here, I am surrounded by photo albums, now kind of disintegrating--the
paper on those pages wasn't quite as sturdy as it looked when I bought them. Many of the
photos are badly faded (it wasn't until 5 years ago that I learned of the nasty things
that acid in paper does to photographs)
Despite the fact that the first albums are from my grammar school days, I can still
look up and know without looking in them what most of those albums contain. I have,
through the years, spent a lot of time going through them for one reason or
There were years when it seemed that every moment of our children's lives were recorded
on film. I remember standing on a hill overlooking a beach near Mendocino, taking movies
as the kids and other adults played on the sand. A wave came and knocked David (who was
pretty small at that time) down and started dragging him out to sea. Walt raced down the
hill to pull him out of the water and I kept filming. My friend Char told me that I would
probably end up filming the kids' deaths. (Alas, no--they did that alone).
So when I go through these books, as I have been lately, looking for "photos of
the day" (figuring that I'd concentrate on ghosts of Christmases past for this
month), it's a bittersweet experience. So many memories. So many happy times. Big smiles.
Laughs. Everyone tumbling together, standing together, playing together. They bring happy
memories, but they also bring sad memories, looking at Paul and David and realizing how
few years they had left when the photos were taken.
I've decided that I'm going to stop posting a "Photo of the Day" and trying
to remain current with photos. I'm going to start posting "Yesterday's Photo"
and saving some of the better fading photos, covering the years of our children's lives
and perhaps in the process, learning to enjoy the photos again for the joy that they
represent and not just for the sadness that they portend.