Friday, 2 October 2015

Saturday job

Continuing on from yesterday's glimpse into the past, I found a couple of colour negs of the shop where I worked Fridays after school and all day Saturday from about the age of 13 until I left school. Whites of New Row, Coleraine, was a typical chemist's shop in the 70s - the usual cosmetics, health products, a dispensary and a fairly decent photographic section, as you can see:

I don't remember it as cluttered as it appears here - it's fair to say we were well stocked.  I would go as far as saying this was the photographic section at its peak...I'm pretty sure things gradually declined from here on, with the arrival of more specialist photographic outlets and the rise of mail order stores.

Anyway, I can just about make out an Olympus OM-1 in the glass case and, I think, some Minolta, Yashica and Pentax 35mm cameras - and some cine cameras as well.  There are a few Polaroid Land cameras in the case on the left and what looks like a Rollei film projector sitting on the counter top.  There's a couple of enlargers on the counter top - the one on the right might be a Durst.  Behind the projector are a good range of papers - the yellow boxes were Kodak Veribrom and Bromesko papers but there are a few white boxes of Ilford papers too.  This was before the days of variable-contrast papers of course, so you had to buy your grades separately.  I've still a few of these boxes with prints in them from those days and grade 2 or 3 seems to have the popular choice for The Brother and I.

At the bottom of the case with the Polaroid cameras there is a Smiths darkroom timer and just behind are what I reckon are Durst Coltim timers in their boxes.

What else have we - well, as you can see there's a good deal of Paterson chemistry on the shelves behind, slide viewers and some slide projectors just visible on the top right.

I like the promotional card for the Yashica FR-1 on the counter-top - 'Handle with flair' I think it says.  Nice.  The price looks like £210.50 if I've read it correctly - apparently that would equate to about £1300 in today's money.  The Brother liked his Yashicas and then his Contax RTS.  Come to think of it, there's still an old Yashica lurking around somewhere - I must stick a film through it some day.

The poster for the Rollei 35 SLR system is prominently displayed where the papers are - now this wasn't cheap at £294.20 (that 20p must have been carefully worked out, eh?).  That would be about £1900 today.  Seems like a lot of money.  The Rollei 35 SLR didn't really work out - although the pharmacist had one for years before he switched to Nikon.  By all accounts the lenses were pretty good but reliability of the bodies was poor.

At the front right we have a few tripods and projector screens.  When I saw the tripods I did laugh - I must have bought the Slik one at the rear, as nowadays the Sinar lives on it (excuse the digital image this once).

Sinar on Slik
Sinars in their day, apparently, were the Rolls Royce of view cameras - and definitely in the 'aspirational' group.  I think Leica acquired Sinar a couple of years ago, so that would figure.  Today, though, second-hand ones like this F1 are cheap as chips.  Now I'm not by any means the world's expert on 4x5 cameras, but the movements on the Sinar are very straightforward for a beginner - it's easy to calculate how much tilt/swing you need for your focus points - you know, the ones you've worked out according to Captain Theodor Scheimpflug.  And, get this, it even tells you what aperture to use to keep it all in focus - how good is that?  No meter of course, so you have to guess or use the Ireland Overcast f/8 rule. Yes it's a monorail and a Very Heavy Thing to cart about, but since I never really venture too far from the car anyway that's OK.  The only thing I find tricky about it is the focus/composition -  I need a proper dark blankety thing.  Or maybe a decent ground glass.  Probably both, actually.  So apart from the weight, lack of meter and the difficulty composing and focussing it really is the ideal camera.  I joke of course - it is actually very nice to use, when you're in the mood for LF.

But as usual I digress.  The good thing about working at Whites was not only did I get to feed my habit by being surrounded with all things photographic, but I was allowed to buy equipment at cost price.  I think I spent every last penny that I earned over 5 years on film, paper and equipment.   It goes without saying that I really did love every minute I was there.

Here's a shot of Iris, who assisted the chemist in those days.

Iris, peering out from the dispensary

Believe it or not Iris was still working in the same shop until a couple of years ago.  Of course there's no photographic counter nowadays, so there's no need to go there very often...

As you can just about make out there on the left, we have our stock of films - some nice old memories there!  Red and yellow Kodachromes, black and yellow Kodacolors and I can just make out some Ilford FP4 on the top.  Reminded me of this shot you saw earlier.  Then we've got flashguns - nice to see Sekonic still going - a few lenses and a better view of the darkroom paper on the right.  I like the 'sticky' for the Flashcube prices - Polaroids were 34p for 1, 67p for 2 or £1 for 3.  Not a great incentive to buy in bulk then...

By the way, those perspex square contraptions with holes in them that are hanging from the dispensary were used as a rapid way to count tablets.  You chose the one with the correct sized holes for the tablet, placed it into a box-like holder and just emptied the tablets out over it.  By tilting the holder all the remaining tablets could be collected and put back in their container, while the 'holes' would now be full, one tablet in each.  Very simple and very fast - in the days before blister packs were invented, of course.

In those days Pharmacists were very different to today's breed - for one thing, they actually made up potions and creams and emulsions and all sorts.  Nowadays there's none of that - just read the 'script, go to the shelf and give it to the customer.  And no photographic counter!  Must be very, very boring being a pharmacist in the 21st Century...

Just to finish, here's one of the 'other' counter - much less interesting for us film bods, of course:

The 'other' counter
Still, while we're here we might as well just cast our eyes over the shelves and see what is recognisable.  Dettol, Seven Seas and Milk of Magnesia are all there.  And of course Durex right at the front (saves the punter from having to ask for them, which could be embarrassing - well, it was Ireland and nearly 40 years ago!).  And boy were they well stocked for feminine hygiene products, on the top shelf.  The Ulster Cancer Foundation tin was well hidden behind the contraceptives - I'll bet donations were down this month.  And a deposit was required for colour D&P, I note.  The last item rung into the till was for 67p - I wonder what it was for...

When I see shots like these it makes me wish for a time-travel machine...just to visit for a couple of hours, talk to my old colleagues and yes, yes, OK, the real reason: to pick up as many of those 35mm cameras - and films - as I could before taking my leave.  Just How Good Would That Be?

1 comment:

  1. That would be better than most things, since you ask!
    What a few fantastic snaps of times soon forgotten you got here mate. If you ever find you get an extra seat in that time-travel machine, please count me in when you plan the trip back to this particular point of time and place :))
    I would be reluctant to call the place cluttered, but very well stocked yes, absolutely. I miss the Nikon and Canon snappers in there, but I guess they were at a different price level back then as well, and probably nothing being kept in stock in every small or middle sized town or place either it was in Ireland or in Norway back in those days.
    Only looking at the film and paper stock would be reason enough to wish for some kind of similar shop to play around in these days as well. Last time I walked into a decent shop with film and paper in the shelves I have to say I was somewhat disappointed as the part of the shop containing such items was microscopic. Huge areas was for frames, albums... well, all sorts of stuff you can get in almost any shop these days. If it was my shop I would let a smaller shop and get rid of some of the boring stuff, put in more of the cool things, and make the place a perfect spot for geeks like myself. But then there has to be a market... I realize that!
    Great story, fantastic memories to see here Michael, and I will go over them time and time again for sure!
    Now another cup of coffee and some more studying of your old snaps :))
    Thanks for the post, and I hope you got some more somewhere...