Column, Looking Back

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 pictures of events showing people we had worked with. You know that a vast amount of time has passed when you don’t recognize some of the people! All of us worked on recalling the names and eventually we figured out who everyone was.

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

Seeing pictures that were not sharp like today told us how far technology has come.

Most of us used a Brownie camera back in the day. They were made by Kodak and were affordable. They were available in a small compact model that was easy to carry around. In order to take pictures you needed 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 picture. There was a place to attach a flash bulb that was needed for indoor pictures.

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 came up with some of their promotions. One of those was the Brownie Camera Club where children could enter photographs that they took and win prizes for their snapshots.

Once you had used up your roll of film you removed it from the camera and took it to a store to be developed. My father used to bring ours to Wilson Sports Store on Center Street. An ad in the 1952 Rutland Directory states that they sell “photographic apparatus and supplies.” I remember that there was a very extensive photo department within Wilson Sports. That is not a combination you would find in today’s sporting good stores.

One thing I remember about the old time cameras is that unless you took enough pictures to use up the roll of film rather quickly you would have Christmas pictures and summer beach pictures on the same roll of film. I also recall that you got the bad photos along with the good ones. It was always interesting to see how they turned out. For me that usually meant finding some fuzzy ones, heads cut off and off-center objects. You paid for the number of prints that were developed but you never knew what you would find within the paper envelope that contained your prints.

Thankfully my father was very good about writing the year, the names of the people and the location on just about every photo that he took. Some of our pictures from the ’50s came in a little spiral booklet. It was easy to flip from photo to photo and write the information on the back.

Our earliest family pictures from the ’40s and ’50s were put into a photo album with paper pages. You could stick self-adhesive photo corners on the pages and slide the pictures into the four corners. I still have those photo albums and the pictures haven’t moved at all from where they were placed over 70 years ago! As time advanced our albums had vinyl sheets that you pulled back in order to place the photos on a page with an adhesive surface. Those pictures have also stayed in place well but the surface has yellowed over time. However, the pictures still look great.

The more recent photo albums have individual vinyl openings that match the size of the print. You just slide the photos into them and they stay put for all time!

For me photos are like books and newspapers. I want to hold them in my hands as I get much more enjoyment from them that way. I guess I am just a “senior” who finds some old habits hard to break!

Mountain Times Newsletter

Sign up below to receive the weekly newsletter, which also includes top trending stories and what all the locals are talking about!