There’s nothing like eight consecutive days of subzero temperatures to deter a wimp like me from venturing out to take photos. I’m less than intrepid when it comes to shooting outside anyway. It’s either too hot or too cold or I have to hike a trail or climb a mountain or… you get my drift. Winter lends itself to indoor photography as far as I’m concerned. But I couldn’t very easily use the Pony camera inside since I loaded it with 200 speed color film and I don’t have a flash.
The day after Winter Storm Grayson dumped more than a foot of snow on us I did head out to take a few shots. I’m pretty sure they won’t be great if they even come out at all. Since I’m not great at estimating distances, I set the camera up for what the manual calls “box-camera simplicity”. That involves setting the the shutter at 50, the focus to10 feet and the aperture, the “lens opening pointer”, to Bright, Hazy or Cloudy Bright. I’m pretty sure cloudy bright is an oxymoron so I had to choose between bright and hazy. I picked hazy since it wasn’t sunny and proceeded to take (or attempt to take) a few photos.
You have to cock the shutter before firing it. I did that but felt like something was wrong since I couldn’t hear the shutter release. Then I tried to take a couple more shots without remembering to cock the shutter. I figured that out and continued to photograph the post-blizzard vista in my backyard. After 10 minutes my fingers were numb so I had to call it quits.
Today was much warmer so I ventured out again with Mr. Wolfram’s Pony 135 Model C. Trying again to get the hang of it I noticed something funny. The shutter was very slow. A shutter speed of 50 is not exactly “fast” but this was definitely slow. The reason I hadn’t heard the shutter release before is because it did so after I moved camera away from my face. That will result in some ridiculously blurry photos. Once I figured that out I made some adjustments and finished up the roll. I just sent it off to be developed. If I’m lucky I may have a couple of decent shots. If not, well, there’s always another day and another roll. I’ll let you know in a week or so. Stay tuned.
Do you write your name on your belongings? We used to do this all the time back in the day. We’d write our names on our books, on our record albums, on our baseball gloves, and on just about anything we valued and wanted to keep. Our Moms even sewed our names into our clothing. I guess the idea behind the practice was that if you lost something whoever found it could and would return it to you. I think we’re more cynical today. Sadly we don’t expect the best from people anymore. Nor do we keep and value things for years on end. We buy new stuff. Out with the oldand in with the newest and the best, right.
But what about your cameras? Do you put your name on them? Well, Mr. Wolfram did. He printed his name and address in ink on the inside of the brown leather camera case:
Edmond T. Wolfram
249 Sydney Ave.
Malverne New York
TR. 5 SEC. 8
He also wrote TR. 5 SEC. 8 on the inside of the Instruction Book and neatly etched his name and a number on the aluminum plate at the bottom of the camera. How do I know and why do I care? Well, I am now it possession of his 1950’s era Pony 135 Model C. I didn’t exactly find it. I bought it on eBay, but still I wonder about Mr. Wolfram and how he and this camera parted ways. It obviously was important to him. Did he lose it? Was it stolen? Did he sell it and buy a new and better camera? Did he pass away only to have his children sell it after finding it on a back shelf in his closet? I may never know but I did do a search for him on ancestry.com.
I do a lot of work on ancestry and have my family tree here. Typically, the information available on a public tree is only shown for people who have passed away. Any living individuals included in your family tree show up as private and can’t be accessed by anyone who hasn’t been invited to view it. The same is not true for the records you can search on the site. The 1940 census is available and completely searchable. Obviously, there are people living who were enumerated then and if you know their names and where they lived, you can find them along with their address and other family members in the same residence. You can also search selected high school and college yearbooks for a person’s name and if you’re lucky you may get a photo or at least a listing and a class year. There are other databases where you can find living people such as U.S. City Directories, which are mostly scanned phone books, and U.S. Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Vol.1. Even I show up in that one. Privacy concerns? Nah, these are public records. You may think where you lived and when should be private, but that’s just not the case.
So what about Mr. Wolfram of Sydney Avenue in Malverne, New York? I found an Edmond Wolfram in the 1959 Malverne High School Yearbook. He was in Homeroom 316. In the homeroom photo he’s wearing glasses. His hair is parted on the right. He looks neat and he’s smiling. It’s not a broad smile. It’s quite subtle but it’s a smile nevertheless. Does he look like the kind of kid who would write his name on his camera. Youbetcha. I’m pretty sure he’s my guy.
What else did I find? Not much He may have moved to Texas. That’s it. I have to idea if he is still alive but I certainly hope he is. Wherever he is I’d like him to know I’m taking good care of his camera. If he wants it back, I’ll get it to him so spread the word.
Everyone needs a project, right? After two 365 Day challenges and a less than successful monthly challenge this year, I’m trying a different sort of project for 2018. I’m going to shoot some film and I intend to use a different vintage film camera each month. I plan to blog about each camera and share my photos on our Nearly Lost Photography Group Facebook page -
For far too long now I‘ve been buying vintage film cameras with the intention of learning about them and trying them out. Most of these have been inexpensive eBay finds. There’s not a Leica among them so I’m not out thousands of dollars. Sadly, however, I haven’t followed through. These beautiful old gems have been sitting on shelves, forlorn if not completely forgotten. 2018 is their year.
The Kodak Pony 135 Model C is my January film camera project selection. It may not be the best choice since it focuses using a distance scale. Yes, that’s it. A distance scale with 11 markings from 2.5 feet to infinity. Whether or not my pictures are in focus depends entirely upon how well I can judge distance. Let’s just say that will be challenging.
The Pony also lacks an exposure meter. It’s a completely mechanical camera. The good news is you don’t need batteries; the bad news is you get no help. You can set the aperture and the shutter speed manually but to what? There’s no EVF, no histogram display and no little linear display with a midpoint indicating the “correct” exposure. The only help you get is a choice of Bright, Hazy or Cloudy which might give you half a chance at being correct. However those weather cues are calibrated for two specific types of Kodak film, Kodachrome and Extachrome, neither of which are manufactured today. So I either buy and learn to use a handheld light meter or just give the old Sunny 16 rule a try.
The Eastman Kodak Company manufactured this model from 1955 -1958. It originally sold for about $34.00 which would be in the neighborhood of $280.00 today. The Pony line was designed to be an inexpensive camera, but a step up from a box camera. Yes, it’s an oldie but, hey, so am I. I have it cleaned up and it’s ready to go. I hope you’ll wish me well and follow along to keep me accountable.
Happy New Year!
Too many cameras has been a familiar refrain for me these past few years. YouTube reviews and eBay bargains come together to form a perfect storm of accessibility and desire. I buy, I try, I sell. I really love to buy and sell cameras of all varieties, shapes and sizes. But lately I have been drawn to (okay obsessed with) Kodak cameras from the 1950’s. Now the camera snobs and serious collectors will happily tell you that with the exception of the Retina II (and I have one of those on a shelf somewhere) these are not particularly good cameras. Still I love the look and feel of them. I love their nifty brown leather cases. I love what they represent to me - the feeling of the 50’s.
Remember Ozzie and Harriet? If you’re under 55, you probably don’t unless you watched the oldies channels growing up. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was a TV sitcom that ran from 1952 to 1966. That was way before the term sitcom even came into common usage. The show featured the Nelson family, Ozzie, Harriet and their sons, David and Ricky.
The show was a fictionalized version of their day to day family life. Like all television families they had their little problems but somehow managed to resolve them before the end of each episode. I really liked Ozzie not so much because he was the star but because he usually wore a cardigan sweater with a tie. So cool. He had a soft voice and a nice smile. I wanted to grow up to be just like Ozzie, wise in a bumbling, self-effacing way.
I also wanted his cameras. Yes, wouldn’t you know, the show was sponsored by Kodak. Ozzie did the advertisements at the end of the show. The audience, studio I presume, was still clapping when the ever calm, cardigan clad Ozzie came out to tell us about the latest and greatest innovations from the world of Kodak. The Signet Series. The Automatic 35. He showed us how easy they were to use and what they cost at our local Kodak dealer. I always figured he got to keep those cameras for free. Every week I watched those ads with great longing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take 2 inch slides of their vacation and project them large as life to share with family and friends? I think I liked the Kodak promos as much as I did the show itself.
If you’re interested you can find a number of Ozzie’s Kodak ads on YouTube. Here’s a link to one of my personal favorites -
In 1960 when I was 9 the Kodak Automatic 35 cost $89.50! That was way out of reach for our family budget. It was not the kind of thing I could run out and buy for Dad on his birthday. Sigh.
Today on eBay I found one listed for $15.00 or best offer. You see where this is going, don’t you? I can now have the cameras I pined for way back then for pennies on the dollar. At any rate I blame The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet for the large collection of Kodaks on my shelf.
Now what do I do with them other than dust them off periodically and admire them?I’m going to learn to use them and take some photos. First up is the Pony 135 Model C. Stay tuned.