I was a child of the 60s. I loved the music and especially I loved the journey into space. I could tell you anything about it, even the names of the first seven astronauts: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter.

History records that Shepard was the first American in space, and he was one of the lucky ones to walk on the Moon. Glenn was the face of space for the USA. He was the first American to orbit the Earth, and the oldest person in space. Grissom died in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967. And so on, you can look them up.

The next group included Jim Lovell, Neil Armstrong and John Young.

Of all these mentioned here by name, Lovell is still alive, and many more of the ‘original’ astronauts are on the go, such as Buzz Aldrin and Dave Scott.

Of the twelve who walked on the Moon, four are still alive, Aldrin, Charlie Duke, Scott and Harrison Schmitt.

And while we all remember Apollo 11, and 13 probably, how many remember Apollo 12? Pete Conrad and Alan Bean walked on the Moon. They were more productive, more confident. The pressure was off somewhat.

In later life, Al Bean took up painting. He appeared in documentaries about space, including In The Shadow Of The Moon, a must see if you are interested in space.

It was announced yesterday that Mr Bean had died after a short and sudden illness. This follows Gene Cernan and John Young, both of whom died recently.

It is sad to think that if America wanted to go to the Moon this year, they couldn’t do it. The technology and the know-how no longer exists.

Snap 3

The biggest problems with people’s snaps were ‘out of focus’.

Well, that’s what you would assume. Sometimes, the camera was indeed not focused properly – those simple cameras had fixed lenses and worked in a given range reasonably acceptably, but too close and it failed. Some, like the one in the previous post, had a simple switch that did help a little.

Sometimes the cameras were simply broken, or there was yuck on the lens.

But, for the most part, ‘out of focus’ meant camera movement. The shutter of the camera has to be open for a certain amount of time to allow the light in for a perfect exposure, and moving the camera in that time, which would only be a fraction of a second in daylight but could be longer in dark conditions, makes a smeary picture.

When I was learning how to take decent pictures, I was always told:

  • hold the camera with both hands
  • feet slightly apart
  • arms by your body, tucked in
  • hold your breath for a fraction of  second
  • wait a fraction of a second after the pic is taken
  • use a tripod at night, or some other stable surface, if possible

Having a camera with an eyepiece/viewfinder is essential, I think. A camera with only an LCD screen means you have to hold it away from your body, increasing the chances of shake. But, since, with a digital camera, you can take thousands of pictures until you get it right at no cost, it should be easier to take sharp pictures, shouldn’t it?

Snap 2

People would bring their exposed films before we closed at 10pm. The manager would drop them into the nearby processing house, George Stocks, surely long gone, and they would be delivered back by tea time the next day.

Then we did a slightly naughty thing. The manager would go through all the packs quickly to look at the snaps. There were several reasons for this.

Firstly, to identify any consistent issues, under or over exposure, out of focus, poor flash etc, so we could advise the customer what they were doing wrong.

Secondly, to find a nice picture with recognisable people on and put it to the front of the pack. So, when the customer came in and we opened the pack to say “Are these yours?” (mix ups could happen) they could see a nice picture of someone they could recognise, be happy and then pay up the fairly high cost of developing and printing needed.

On a good day we could get sack loads of film in for processing.

Snap 1

I used to work at a camera shop by the seaside. In truth, it wasn’t a camera shop like Jessops. We catered for the people on the beach, so we did sell cameras, mostly Kodak Instamatic, some Polaroid and others, but we sold lots of film, postcards, batteries and other bits you would need on holiday eg sun cream.

On a busy Sunday, when the sun was shining, we could sell literally a van load of film. We would run out. Mostly it was the 126 format. I can still remember the routine:

  • Black and white or colour?
  • Prints or slides?
  • 12 or 20?
  • Kodak or Agfa?

99% of the time it was Kodak (recognisable in the yellow box) colour prints. 68p or 81p. 20 prints seems better value, but there’s processing to be added. Sometimes we asked about film speed too.

The little cameras were simple but pretty foolproof. Some people thought they were instant pictures, but no, instant loading, in daylight, unlike the slightly more tricky 35mm format. But there were many others. Agfa Rapide was my favourite.

Taking the camera onto the beach could be a problem. There were little holes in the film and a small pin that would ‘lock’ the film as you wound on, when it reached the right place. Sand could get into the camera and the pin would stick, so the film just kept winding. Really, you needed to dismantle the camera and give it a good clean. When you’re on the beach having fun, you don’t want that. Plus, it’s too expensive.

The cameras were brought in and we did what we could, at no charge, but I remember the manager failing more often that succeeding. Until one day, when he put the camera rather firmly onto the counter. “I bet that’s fixed it”, I remarked, and it had. The grit was dislodged. It was a temporary fix, but it worked nearly all the time.