It’s summer time. Do you know where your vacation photos are? If you’re like many people, they’re probably still in the camera. If you’re like me, even your pictures from last summer are still in the camera. Let me explain.
When I was growing up (a process many who know me will say has yet to happen), one of the long-running jokes in our family was that Dad’s uber-sophisticated 35mm Pentax camera had ever had only had one roll of film in it. No matter how many holidays came and went, how many vacations our family experienced, how many anniversaries, birthdays or graduations we documented – the same roll of film was used for each event.
It had to have been. After all, we rarely saw any actual pictures that had been taken with that heavy silver and black camera of his. Then another Christmas would come around and at least one family member would inevitably say, “Did we ever get those last pictures developed? I never saw them.” Who knows? Maybe the joke was on us and my Dad never actually had film in the thing.
I just know that, as soon as I could drive and had a camera of my own, I was a frequent customer at the old Fotomat kiosk out in the Thrifty parking lot on Foothill Boulevard. Almost as soon as the counter on my camera hit 36, I’d rewind the film into its compact metal canister, pop open the camera back and hop into the car to head for that bright blue and yellow kiosk – an island of images and memories waiting in a sea of black asphalt. In the 1970s, the Fotomat chain represented state-of-the-art photo processing technology. Just drive up to the window, honk your horn to wake up the mind-numbed, near-comatose gum-popping employee (remember, these were pre-iPod, pre-Walkman, pre-any-personal-entertainment-but-a-book days!) and hand over your roll of film.
Next, in what passed for blinding speed back then, you waited 24 hours and came back to pick up an envelope stuffed with glossy, 4X6-inch prints of over- or underexposed, out-of-focus, vaguely recognizable, um … er, … people. I think. And scenery. Lots of scenery. Often of places nobody in the family could ever remember going. Out of every roll of 36 exposures, in fact, we’d be thrilled in those days to wind up with a handful of photos that we could pass around and show off to friends and family members who honestly couldn’t have cared less, but nevertheless oooh’d and aaah’d appropriately and feigned as much interest as humanly possible. Good times.
Alas, technology marched onward (as it is wont to do) and a revolutionary process called “one-hour developing” burst onto the scene, almost single-handedly wiping out the Fotomat chain and other similar film processors. Fickle consumer (and proud ‘early adopter’) that I am, I began taking my exposed rolls of film just across the Thrifty parking lot to the “Art for Less” store (where Game Stop is today) to have my laughably unrecognizable photos processed in one hour or less. Why wait to be disappointed, I always say.
I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if we had multiple file boxes of photos that have only been viewed one time – while sitting in the driver’s seat in the Thrifty parking lot, eager to see what priceless memories had been captured for future generations to enjoy. Upon viewing these glossy gems, however, the envelope would more often than not wind up tossed into a storage drawer to remain there for time immemorial.
Today, due to the awesome technological leap of digital photography, literally thousands of photos can remain unseen for years on a single flash memory card. Which is why my family’s vacation photos from not only last summer, but the summer before that are still in the camera. But that’s a subject for next week.
I’ll see you ‘round town.
Jim Chase is an award-winning advertising copywriter and lifetime CV resident. Find him online at www.wordchaser.com.