Monday, June 1, 2015

Brownie 616

NWHPC has an upcoming monthly competition for photographs taken in an antique store. Since I stayed home from the studio today I have been looking through old hard drives and came across this photo taken at Historic Cypress Top Station a few years ago.

My interest in this photo is the Brownie Target 616—the same model as the camera that Mother let me carry to school for the first time when I was in the third grade. She had become interested in photography while attending Southwest Normal Institute in Weatherford Oklahoma and had earned school money working in Owl Photo Lab. Like me, her passion for photography lasted a lifetime. Although, not being of means, her photography was limited to pictures of family and friends. She couldn’t afford to waste film on less important things.

During WWII cameras were not easy to get. Dad worked in the motor pool at Shepherd Hill Army Base and we had a couple of houses that we rented to servicemen with families. One of their military friends offered to get Mother a Brownie Target 616 from the base PX. It became her pride and joy. I am still surprised that I was ever allowed to carry it to school.

I know I have told this story till everyone is blue in the face but I’m going to do it again. Mother dutifully showed me how to load the camera the day before. I had been allowed to take photos, with supervision, in the past but to be taught how to load the camera and advance the film made me feel like a full fledged photographer. She explained that there were only four pictures on the roll so when I got to four I was supposed to stop.

Miss Jewel Reed, my third grade teacher took the class out in front of the school and lined everyone up so I could take a ‘class photo.’ I was feeling pretty important. During recess I finished off the remaining three photos of friends on the playground. But I have never been one to quit even when I should. I was talking to my best friend Jimmy Huffaker explaining how much I knew about cameras. To illustrate I decided to ‘unload’ the camera to back up my claims. After all I reasoned in my third grade mind that unloading had to be just the opposite of loading. Right? I knew how to load so I must know how to unload.

Well as most know, there were generally eight, ten or twelve photos on roll film. On the Brownie 616 there were eight and I had been given permission to use half of the roll—but not told that it was only half the roll. Mother had not wanted me to use all of her precious film and she knew I would so she had done a very motherly thing and blatantly and outright lied to her youngest child about the number of photos available. Neither had she given me instructions on how to unload the film—because, again, she knew I would before the roll was finished.

I slid out the stops, gingerly unscrewed and lifted the pin that held the carrying strap, the last prevention to keep the back from accidentally sliding off. As soon as I pulled the camera apart, I saw raw film and frankly scarlet I knew enough to know that meant that right then and there I was in major trouble. I quickly shoved the two parts of the camera back together and locked it down. This was all done in bright Texas sunlight in the middle of the playground.

I know that I didn’t tell Mother that I opened the camera because she had the film processed and she wouldn’t if she had known. Of course, to my credit I don’t believe that I recall her asking. Although, knowing me, I would have said, “No” even if she had asked—I would never have made a good Catholic; confessional is not my thing. My parents always let me get by with fibbing. Any fool can tell the truth; it takes a man of some learning to know how to lie well, and I always thought I was really good at it. Truthfully I know they knew or at least they suspected because I really wasn’t that good. I am convinced I will spend the vast majority of eternity in an effort to atone for my misspent childhood—and most, if not all, of my adult life.

I love the tag by the camera that the  Brownie started the Kodak Kraze. Not exactly true, althought it did start mine. The craze started long before Kodak introduced the Brownie.

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