Tuesday, November 3, 2009

By the Garden Gate

By the Garden Gate by Preston "Bud" Morris
Ronda and Mark

Reya, from After the Gold Puppy, was on a walk down Nostalgia Avenue a week or so ago. She invited us to post old photos of our own journey down that street. The blast of emotion that hit me upon opening the first of my many, many boxes of photos (no, they are not organized as I would like) smacked my gluteus maximus down hard into the seat of The Way Back Machine. It spun me into the past like a Whirling Dervish. For the next few posts I'll display photos and memories of my origins.

My father was a photographer. Out of the earliest files in my brain, flew images of him and his camera. Inseparable. The cameras changed over the years but he always seemed to stay the same. Calm. Quiet. Tall. Dark. Creative. Strong. Consistent. Reliable. A teacher. Yep, great qualities for a dad. Any dad. My dad.

In addition to his private photography business, he worked as a photo finisher in the days before 1-hour photo kiosks and digital photography. Sometimes he would take my brother and I to work with him. We always were excited and thought he was giving us a special day. But, in retrospect, my mom probably had to do something and he got stuck with us. Early in the morning, we would go to the retail store where he worked and pick up bags of film people had dropped off. Then we went around to other businesses around town that had film drop-offs. He always took us inside with him and proudly introduced us as he picked up unprocessed film and deposited the previous days finished photos.

With a box full of canvas, zippered bags and us in tow, he would take us to a little hamburger stand for lunch. Then we headed several miles out of town to the lab where he would develop all of those pictures. As we watched, he would open those zippered bags, dump out the little, metal, cylindrical tins with rubber caps holding spools of film. Into the dark room, with its special light that wouldn't ruin the film, we would go. He would open the tins, look at the negatives that looked like they were from a Reverse Bizarro World where light is dark and dark is light, and begin his magic alchemy.

I don't really remember what he did with the negatives, but some how he embedded the images from the negative film onto paper. Then with his magic trays of clear potion, he moved the pieces of paper from tray to tray with tongs. In the last tray, the paper started changing from plain white to, at first, faint, ghostly underwater images to, at last, exact replicas of living people and solid matter. Taking the photos out of the solution, he hung them by clips, on a long wire stretched across the room, to dry. The chemical smell of photo developer still makes me happy and is forever linked with my father.

Unbeknownst to us, he, apparently, had been submitting pictures to different contests and magazines over the years. While he was alive, the only affirmation of his work came from his family and local clients. He died in 1977 of a massive coronary. About 20 plus years after his death, my mother received a royalty check from the American Greeting Card Company for $125 for the top photo. It is called By the Garden Gate and is of me and my brother, Mark, at my Aunt Dot's house in Stockton, California.

We tried to find out what they were going to use his picture for, but never received a reply to our query. But, within a year after the check was received, all those mugs, cards and items featuring a little girl and a little boy, dressed in cute clothes, started appearing for sale. We'll never know for sure but, we think it was dad's photograph they used for their promotion.

I got a visit from dad on All Hallows. It was a very soft and gentle meeting. He just sat on the edge of my bed and looked at me for a while. Then he held out his hand and my mother joined him. They haven't been together for over 30 years. No words were spoken but, I could feel their love, strong and truer than ever. Just because people are gone doesn't mean they're not with us. Immortality is often far different than we think.

Preston "Bud" Morris, high school graduation picture, age 18


Mrsupole said...

I love these trips down memory lane. I could just picture you two doing that with your dad. Sounds like lots of fun and very special memories.

I remember one time in high school watching them in the photo club at school and them making pictures. I cannot remember the exact smell, but maybe if I were to ever smell it again then I would recognize it.

And that is way cool to have a whole promotion of products based on a picture of you and your brother. I think your dad knows about it and is very proud.

Thanks for sharing.

God bless.

Mrsupole said...

PS....you know I love first.....

Candie Bracci said...

That was a wondeful post Ronda and I love that picture very much!sweet!Have a wonderful day!

TechnoBabe said...

Your dad was a handsome man and the photo of him at 18 is so full of personality!! This is such a sweet post. The photo of you and your brother is timeless. How great for you that you grew up glimpsing life through your dad's eyes.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a beautiful post and wonderful tribute to your amazing dad. The image of you and your brother is beautiful!

I, too, spoke with my father at Samhain, as I usually do. His advice was not so great this year. Oh well, it usually is.

Brian Miller said...

whata wonderful post...glad you got to see him...his pics are amazing...that first one, really. the marvelous wonder at how he made pictures was touching as well. hope you have agreat day ronda!

otin said...

The first picture looks so classic! Like a turn of the century shot! (Don't take that the wrong way!

I see a phone number, if I did not have the flu, I might just call and say hello! :)

Ronda Laveen said...

Sherry: Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I loved seeing your high school picture and hope you post more. Yes, I think if you smelled the photo finishing chemicals, you would remember then. And, I do know how you love being on top and #1.

Candie: Thank you so much. You have a wonderful day too!

TechnoBabe: My dad was quite handsome, tall and dark. I look nothing like him. I am fair, short and more cute than handsome. But I do have a lot of his personality.

Reya: I am glad you liked the photo of me and my brother. It reminds me a lot of something you would shoot. Lots of wrought iron, bricks and plants. Now you've piqued my curiosity. What advice did you receive from your father?

Brian: I am glad I got to see him too. And to see him with my mother was such a heart-sweller. And, yes, you picked up on the fact that as I looked at those photos and the memories came, I was touched. You have agreat day too.

Ronda Laveen said...

Why Otin, are you saying I am old? Ha! No, I didn't take it the wrong way. It does look like a turn of the century shot especially since it is in black and white. Darn it! I was hoping you were feeling better. You just give me a call any time. If I don't pick up, it's because I'm giving a massage. Leave a message and I'll call you back. Word.

Megan said...

Hey, now! That's a great picture of the two of you. Your dad sounds awesome.

DUTA said...

Ronda and Mark - what a lovely picture of two very cute kids: sister and brother.

I always love to hear/read about children going to their parent's work and feeling excited and proud about that.

Your memories, Ronda, are related beautifully in this post.

Ronda Laveen said...

Hi Megan: Thanks. My dad was awesome. I seem to be following you around blog land today. Don't know how many times I've posted just behind you today.

Duta: I'm glad you enjoyed the picture and the story. Seems that memories are up for us all the past few weeks. Your post about the man at the train station had the same feel.

Dot-Com said...

Thanks for letting us walk with you down memory lane. Great pics!

Leah said...

I'm so happy you got to have another moment with your dad.

You know, my granddad was a photographer too, and some of my favorite memories are of the time spent in his darkroom. I collected those cylindrical plastic containers for my little bits and bobs. And the smell of Dektol? pure heaven.

Just lovely.

Ronda Laveen said...

Dot-Com: Your welcome to walk the walk any time.

Leah: Your grandfather was a photographer? How cool! Then you really know what I mean about the darkroom and the smells. The darkroom always fascinated me. We also had one at our house. He modified the garage so he do processing there too. I also use the containers for holdinb bits and pieces.

tony said...

Wonderful Photo & Wonderful Post.Thank You, It Brightened My Day.X

Dorraine said...

What a sweet story and adorable picture, Ronda! I see where you get your sparkle. Your dad is quite shiny. I'll bet your mom was also.

And I agree with you-people don't ever really leave us.

Ronda Laveen said...

Tony: Thanks. You always brighten my day. Glad to return the favor.

Dorraine: Oh, how funny. You are right. My dad was shiny and my mother too! Yes, we are never truly alone.

Dave King said...

Fascinating, as such childhood memories invariably are, but this one has so much more and is told so well. An excellent post. Thanks for it.