My dad was an “old school” photographer. He didn’t use a cell phone, pad or tablet but rolls of either 20 or 36 exposure black and white film or an optical camera. We grew up in a home with a darkroom where dad, in addition to family pictures, would supplement his postwar income by photographing kids’ sports teams, youth groups and dance classes. In complete darkness and usually taking an entire evening he would remove the exposed film from his camera and transfer it into light tight containers and process the film with alternating baths of chemicals and water rinses. Photos were then printed by exposing photographic paper to the projected negatives and repeating the chemical process. I can still recall standing with my dad in the subdued red light and watching him poke and prod the sensitized paper with plastic tongs and watching as the images slowly and magically appeared in the shallow trays. The photographs were then removed at the perfect moment and dipped into a solution to halt the chemical process.
During the 1940’s and 50’s his photographic hobby also included movie making. He was a member of the Hayward Movie Club that met in Jack Hobson’s basement or downtown at Bill Bowman’s camera store on upper B Street. Dad, along with 8 or 10 likeminded members met monthly to critique the short 3 minute 8mm films that they shot during the prior month. Movie film processing was complicated requiring 3 - 4 weeks by Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York.
Most all of us still enjoy taking photos of families, friends and places (and ourselves). Once a time consuming craft, hundreds of billions of photos and videos are now taken each week and are distributed world wide in milliseconds. In a world of overwhelming digital visual and written communication maybe there is something to be said about recognizing the value of “old school” and its direct evolution in to today’s social media.
We still store most of dad’s photos, negatives, slides and movies, not in the cloud, on flash drives or on memory cards, but in cartons and albums awaiting organization, conversion, and distribution to the next generation of our family. It’s interesting to note that of the thousands of dad’s images we have never found a single selfie! -Bill R.
(William C. Ralph’s movies of early Castro Valley and Hayward are part of a continuous loop of old films that are on display at the Hayward Area Historical Museum’s collection on Foothill Blvd.)