When my neighbor and I got to talking about first cameras I realized that I had a whole lot of memories associated not only with my first camera, but shoes of the era. I picked out my first camera from a catalog that came with Weatherbird stamps. There was a small store on Central Avenue in my community that gave out Weatherbird stamps when you purchased shoes there.
I must have saved my stamps for a long time because I had enough to "buy" a small camera. I remember that my first camera took rectangular pictures. If the subject was high or tall you could turn the camera on end and get a good photo. The most difficult part was getting the film into the camera. There was nothing automatic about it. You had to stretch the film's leader across the lens opening and fasten it to a gear that would wind it when you took a picture. That was not automatic, either. You had to manually wind the camera after each photo. There was no safe-guard so occasionally you ended up with a double exposure.
I believe that I used my camera on my first trip to Washington, D.C. I say that because of the pictures that I have. I was so disgusted with my mother and another mom that we met on the trip. The mothers thought that her son and I made great companions. I did not like him at all, but it seemed like I was stuck with him on a tour of the city that we took. I remember walking by his side as we toured the White House and the Capitol. To make matters worse that mother and son came to visit us at home long after the trip was finished. We traded pictures, but by then the well-meaning mothers knew that the two of us had no connection. I regret the happening because that really ruined our trip to Washington. Instead of just being my mother and me, we had to consider the other family.
Back to the Weatherbird stamps and the small shoe store. I remember that I was fascinated with a machine where you put on the new shoes and stuck your feet into the device. Your mother could actually see how the shoes fit because she could see your toes. I am sure that had to be some sort of X-ray, but at that time we thought nothing about it. They did warn us though to restrict our use to the shoes that we were really considering.
I remember the small stool that the salesperson sat on. There was a slanted part for you to set your foot on so he/she could slip the new shoe on using a shoehorn, of course. When I had the opportunity to get one of those little stools I gladly refinished it for my home. It makes a wonderful foot stool. If I want to put my feet way up I use the top where the salesperson sat. If I want a gentle grade I use the slanted portion. I reupholstered it with a fabric remnant from my chair's re-upholstery.
I also was privileged to get a flashlight from Weatherbird stamps. I think my whole family must have contributed their stamps so that I could get the premiums because I did not get that many new pairs of shoes. I remember that I took that flashlight to church camp at the Conference Grounds. It came in handy on those days we went to the woods early in the day.
View From Hickory Heights
As my neighbor and I reminisced about the cameras, I discovered that the shoe machine was something new to her. She did not remember those. We kept talking, and I told them about a local talent show run by one of the radio stations.
I think the shows took place on Saturdays. I am not sure how you became a contestant, but I competed several times. From other things that I remember I am guessing that I was between the ages of 6 and 8 when I sang on the radio. One song I remember singing is "Put another Nickel In" that I think was originally done by Theresa Brewer. I must have done several others because I had enough votes to take me back over and over. The prize was a gift certificate for a pair of Buster Brown shoes at the local store.
When I went to collect my first prize I tried on some Mary Jane's that were patent leather. I fell in love with them, but my mother's practical side prevailed and I went home with a pair of two-toned brown shoes with two buckles to hold them on. At least I got to pick out the style! I won several gift certificates but I never succeeded in persuading my mother to let me get the beautiful patent leather shoes.
I have fond memories of those contests in spite of my mother's prejudice against my favorite shoes. It was hard to just face the microphone and belt out a song. The only other people in the studio were the other contestants. We all listened to each other. The shoe was an hour in length. When we were finished we went home and waited for a call that said we could come back the next week.
I always had an OK voice, but nothing spectacular. I went on to sing solos and duets in the school choirs. My chorus teacher was sad the year I did not have room in my high school schedule for chorus. I remedied that my senior year by dropping out of an advanced math class. By then I knew that I did not need it for college admission.
We make many choices in life. Those choices affect our lives in many ways. I did not have an affluent upbringing by any means. I think the reason my mother was happy I was in that talent contest was that I won new pairs of shoes thus saving her the expense of buying some.
During my high school years I went on to model for a couple of the local stores. That earned me a hefty discount on clothes that certainly enhanced my wardrobe. I did a couple fashion shows as well as some photo shoots for the local newspaper. It kept my life interesting that is for sure.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at email@example.com.