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July 23, 2009

My kids will never experience life in 35mm

Back in the old days, we shot a roll of film and paid 11 cents per image to view the results (with a discount for double prints - remember that?).  One Hour Photo was as instant as the gratification got but it was still incredibly satisfying to hand over my little perforated top-of-envelope receipt, pay ten bucks and get a thick stack of memories in return. 

Since we couldn't preview anything, most of the pics were duds and there was no scrap booking back then so everything you didn't send to Grandma went into a shoe box -- along with all the negatives.    And that's where they've stayed for 20 years.

I have a really hard time throwing anything away -- especially when it's as tiny and flat as a negative -- so I can proudly proclaim that I've kept them all.  We're talking two decades, folks.  Not thousands of pics (because you're a bit more prudent about photo taking when you're buying film and paying to have it developed) but there's still a fair bit of frozen memories in my trusty, dusty, old shoebox.

good thing I'm a packrat

Early this week, I found a device on sale at Bed Bath and Beyond.  I applied a 20% off coupon to it at checkout and, for about $40 bucks, walked away with a goodie that would help me produce decent quality copies of images from those old negatives.   Then, while the kids napped, I explored the contents of about 1/8 of my archive.  It was amazing!  I have much to share but I'll start with this one photo because it says so much about old photography and it documents an important part of  my life.  (I was in the Army, a Chinook helicopter pilot, young, living in Klein- Winternheim, Germany.)

1986 11 25 donna in germany

  • Like most women, the first thing I noticed is that I'm pretty.  I was 25 in this photo and I didn't fully appreciate how attractive everyone looks at age 25.  If I'd only known, I wouldn't have bought Cosmo magazines and cried and felt like I couldn't "compete".  Obviously, I could!
  • Those are Army socks.  Yes, they made us wear those with our uniform when we were on duty.  Although I can't tell for certain, It's almost a guarantee that I'm wearing cotton underwear since that was also a requirement.
  • The Mountain Dew was obviously someone else's since I only drank diet soda.
  • I shot ISO 100 film.
  • I had a green thumb (what happened to that?!)
  • I smoked Virginia Slims Menthol Deluxe Ultra-Lights.  I quit smoking back in 1996 and I've never touched a single cigarette to my lips since that day even though I still love the smell of a freshly lit smoke and love walking through smoking areas outdoors.  But I detest stale smoke -- especially how it makes my hair smell.
  • I can't remember how I hurt my thumb (I'm wearing a band-aide) but I'm getting a vague hit on it being preflight related.  It certainly wasn't cooking related!
  • I loved German beer.  In fact, it was my primary source of hydration back in the early/mid 1980's.  There are two bottles of it in this photo so I hope my photographer (my room-mate, Patty P?) was drinking one of them.  Even though I'm holding a horrible can of Miller Light in my left hand, I can almost guarantee that I'm using it as an ashtray.   Funny, when I think about my time in Germany, I don't even remember that American beer was available (who would want one?) but I'm holding one here! 
  • I'm really pale.  Nobody would ever believe that I'm from Southern California. 
  • My hair is short and curly even though it's been long and straight for the last 20 years.
  • I used to burn candles (??)
  • I used to be able to have candy dishes fully of Hershey's miniature chocolates.  When did that happen?!?  For as long as I can remember, I can't be within 200 feet of any chocolate confection without inhaling deeply and sucking it immediately to my lips.  All of itEvery last bit of it.

Today, I have nothing from this photo (other than those white legs).  A sad testimony to the fact that everything was 'temporary' back in those days.  When I left Germany, they were going to charge me $5 per pound for everything I shipped back to the USA that exceeded my initial allotment of 500 pounds.  So I had a huge sale and sold it all.  I don't have that sofa or that shirt or those socks or those candles or that table.  Nothing but memories.  But memories are suddenly sweet.  :)

I'm sure I'll have more memories to share as I sift through the rest of the contents of this old shoebox.


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