My Best Friend-neighbor Betty, loved to take photographs. She’s the girl who lived ¼ of a mile away from my house, when I was in kindergarten. I got to walk to her house sometimes, with her mom watching from her porch, and my mom watching from mine. We played in her yard, under the clothesline at the end of the narrow sidewalk that led from her house. .That part matched my house, everything else about Betty’s house was different. Once I ran lickety-split from Betty’s house to the clothesline and landed on my foot half off and half on the sidewalk. It hurt like the dickens for over a month. Of course, I only got to go inside the house when Mom went with me and had coffee and chatted Extension Club stuff with Mrs. S.
Betty had an older sister, and an older brother, just like my Best Friend-ever, Connie; only Betty’s sister was oldest and Connie’s brother was oldest. All my brothers were Little Kids, and Loren, all by himself in the middle. I only had one big sister, Deanna and she was just a year older than me, which was next to nothing. Connie and I had lots of Little Kids in our families; Betty had nobody she could boss around and be in charge of. She was the baby.
Babies of the family are special our baby, Johnnie. Betty was nowhere near as special as Johnnie, ‘cause for one thing, she was the youngest of three, and Johnnie was the youngest of nine, which was way specialler. Plus, Johnnie almost died from getting a haircut, and from sucking on an oleo wrapper, and from breathing the smell of a hen turkey on Thanksgiving, and a bunch of other things that get sorta boring after a while. Johnnie was allergic to everything and then some.
Anyways, Betty was strong as a horse, and sassy as all get out, and she knew all sorts of things I never even thought about, on account of her highschooler sister and brother, Lois and Billy.
Betty got a camera before I did. Mom took all the pictures at our house. Mom’s camera was super-fancy, with dials and different lenses and filters and a light meter. Sometimes I had to stay still and pose for a long time before Mom was ready to take a picture. Betty had a Brownie. She just looked down through the flip-up view finder, and snapped the button. The only waiting was on Betty’s part, ‘cause she had to wind the film before she took the next shot, or she’d get a double-exposure. I learned all about that, because I bought myself a Brownie with the baby-sitting money I saved up in an old Band-Aid tin.
I loved taking pictures of stuff; mostly people. I took a picture of Betty on Science day with a stuffed owl her dad had up in the attic, and never even knew she took to school. I took a picture of Connie and and her sister, Gaynell, at 4-H camp, with Deanna in the background.
I never liked to take pictures of fields and mountains and scenery, like Mom did. That stuff looked all dead and dull when the film got developed, ‘cause all the color was gone, only black and white, and shades in between. People were different; their colors shone right on through the black and white.
Once I took a super-duper picture of Johnnie after his nap. The sun shined in from the bedroom window on Johnnie sitting in is diaper, looking at Ferdinand the Bull, his favorite picture book. Johnnie’s blond hair stuck up like a halo around his head bent over the book; his chubby toddler fingers held one page up like he was really reading.
Lots of times, the picture I took turned out horrible and the drugstore didn’t even bother to give me a copy. Maybe I forgot to wind the camera, or there wasn’t enough light. Once, I forgot to wind to the end after the last picture, and I opened the back. That ruined the whole roll of film. Just a waste of money. Drat it all. I never knew for sure what I had until I opened the envelope from the drugstore.
Mom took the film to the drugstore to be developed and the next week, if I was lucky, the pictures were ready. I was careful not to take too many pictures ‘cause film and developing cost a lot of money, and one thing I learned from my dad is never waste money. Sometimes it took so long to develop film, I forgot about what pictures I took. That was the best, ‘cause all of a sudden, in the middle of summer, there were pictures of our Christmas play. Just looking at those pictures made me feel cooler.
“I’m going to enter this picture in The Flint Journal contest,” I confided to Deanna about the picture of Johnnie waking up from his nap. For sure it was a winner.
“You can’t enter that picture,” Deanna said. She thought she knew everything.
“Look closer at what’s in the shadows.”
Jeez-o-Pete’s: a big pile of underwear, bras and panties and undershirts and socks, just waiting to be folded and put in our drawers.
“You can’t enter a picture with my underwear in it,” Deanna said, rolling her eyes at me. She already thought she was a teenager, knowing everything about everything.
Back then, Kodak’s Brownie cameras allowed even amateurs like me to take good pictures. Still, if back then, I had all the editing tools I have now, I would have entered that picture. I wish I could find it and show it to my readers. It was a real winner. At least in my mind’s eye.