Photography is in my family history

Photography is in my family history.


My grandfather used photography in business. He worked for a company that was building an earth filled dam in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The project was funded by investors in Chicago. Part of my Grandfather’s job was to photograph the height of the dam every week and send in the glass slides to Chicago. The investors would use calipers to measure the height of the dam to make sure that the work was properly progressing before they would send out the money for the payroll.

My grandfather also photographed the Native American Indians in the area as a hobby. His glass plates used to be stored at my Fathers house in an old apple crate. After a few years we gave them to the Kearney Mansion Museum in Fresno.

My Grandfather printed his photographs in a darkroom in the attic of his house on Shaw Avenue in Fresno. He had cut an opening in the sloped roof on the north side on the house for the enlarger. The north side is away from the sun so it gives a more even light for use in printing contacts and enlargements.

As a young child I saw him doing his work and found it a bit intriguing but nothing more came of it for several years.

Of course I always had some kind of brownie box camera or something. I remember taking pictures at 4-H camp up in Whitaker’s Forest in the lower Sierra Nevada mountains in the summer.

When I was in high school I was a bit of an introvert, but I did take on the position of class photographer. One of the toughest assignments was to take pictures of the football players. They all wanted me to make them look ferocious to scare the other teams but it’s pretty hard to do that with fresh faced kids.

In those days we used the large Graph-flex 4 x 5 camera that used flat sheet film in a film holder with cover slides front and back. You slide the film holder in to the back of the camera and then pull out the slide cover, insert a  flashbulb the size of 100 W light bulb in to the reflector and you’re ready to go.

You have to be careful you don’t pull out the film holder before replacing the slide or forget to turn it over or you will  end up with a double image. You are not to carry the flashbulbs in your pocket because they could go off accidentally and burn you.

My next little business worked out fairly well. I took my camera to the high school prom and took pictures of the couples at both the junior and senior proms. I took orders for prints from the students. That left me with the task of developing and printing multiple 8 x 10 photographs. I did this upstairs in my parents home in a part of the attic where I could build in a sink and have room for the enlarger. I still remember listening to the radio I worked and one song stuck in my mind it’s called the Lonesome something or other.

I had a long-lasting love affair with Leica camera but I could never afford one. After I moved to Honolulu Hawaii I bought a Pentax Single Lens Reflex 35 mm camera and a couple of lenses. Money was tight so I couldn’t get a really long telephoto or a super wide lens but I did have a 50 mm and a 65 mm lenses.

One assignment may be my favorite. I was hired to go to the windward side of the island of Oahu and take photographs of the place where the Boydo-in Temple was going to be a recreated in The Valley of The Temples. It already had a small temple there. The white was quite beautiful against the backdrop of the Pali cliffs. I drove over the Pali to the valley several times. I was trying to find the best light. Eventually it turned out that early morning was best and with after the passing of some rain squalls there was a wonderful light and I got my best shot. The client wanted postcards so I sent it into the postcard making company and asked them to add color in the areas where the grass had not yet grown enough to look good.

– Insert photograph of the postcard here-

Another assignment that turned out really well:

I was happy to find a client who wanted to hire me for a project at the Kaneohe Yacht Club. They were racing a sailboats and they wanted a picture of the sailboats to publish on the cover of their monthly newsletter. I explained that the best place to get good photographs would be out on the water. I asked if would they please allow me to go on the committee boat. Permission was granted and much too my delight I found a young woman was present on the boat.  She had been assigned the task of keeping score. We talked a bit and eventually I became her boyfriend. She was my first girlfriend in Hawaii after a long time of wishing I had a girlfriend but not having one.

In those days before I met her the guys and I would bike down to Waikiki and try and pick up the girls walking along Kalakaua Avenue. It didn’t take long to learn that if one of the girls had a sun tan there is no use trying to pick her up because she would already have been there a week or two and she was probably going to be leaving in a day or two. We would have better luck looking for somebody who did not have a sun tan.

Another good place to meet young women was at the summer school dormitory at the University of Hawaii or as the locals call it The U.H. In any case that never worked out very well until I finally met a young lady named Bird Dole. Everyone called her by the name Bird as that’s what she preferred. She played guitar and sang well. She was able to enjoy and have fun riding on the back of my 255 cc Yamaha motorcycle.

Everything was fine until one day her Mother found out about the Yamaha bike or motorcycle and forbade her from riding it anymore. Being young, we did it anyway. One day (4th of July?) to my great detriment we were riding at the side of a parade which unfortunately was televised.  Her Mother mother saw us on her television. If that did not end the relationship it certainly put a strain on it.

We were restricted to riding in my car instead of on the bike. This was okay except for one time . We were going up the Pali Highway when the hood of my old car flew up. It covered most of the windshield making it hard to see as I pulled over. That was kind of scary. I was able to pull over. I fastened the hood down with a coat hanger or something.

Not having a lot of money I had been reduced to buying used cars. One time I picked up an old car for just 20 bucks. of course it had various problems. I was driving it around past diamond head toward Coco Head Crater when the radiator overheated and I blew out the engine. I had to abandon it on the side of the road.  (bad boy)

While in Hawaii, I met a young man named Gary Lavarack and we started a business called Color Unlimited.  Gary introduced me to John (Johnnie) Lavarack, who became a good friend.

NEXT – 4H project – Electricity

One thought on “Photography is in my family history”

  1. Some misspelling and I believe you went to the Windward side of the island being the fact that you lived in Manoa Valley. Kaneohe, I believe is where you went to take sailing boat pictures. I won’t comment on your hunt for young women. (Edit-in Yew windward side – fixed the text. JP)

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