Aug 16, 2013

Found Slides - The Next Chapter

To see the original slides that started the whole Found Slides, A Life Remembered saga, click HERE

To read the Found Slides, A Life Remembered story, click HERE

Finding the slides in the vintage slide projector has been a gift that keeps on giving, with the latest development being a trip to Wisconsin. There are pictures and video!

At the memorial service for Hugh Forsythe, to whom I returned the slides so that the Forsythe family could have them again, I met Mr. Forsythe's daughter-in-law Sandra Forsythe. The service at the Bay Pines VA took place on a sunny, cloudless day in the bucolic, expansive grounds of the Bay Pines cemetery  where Sandra arrived with an elaborate urn that held Mr. Forsythe's remains. It was a tougher experience than I expected; both Hugh and Donna had passed away, and I had liked them very much, the first time I met them.

After the ceremony Sandra and Hugh Forsythe's son Hugh invited me back to the house for the reception. They had heard about the founds slides story and told me that Hugh and Donna had gotten a big kick out of the whole thing; it had been a welcome development while they were dealing with their health issues.

Sandra was a cheerful, upbeat person who stood a tad shorter than me, slender, with a full head of neatly styled black hair trimmed with silver. She had a disarming, easygoing aura that put me at ease right away. At the reception I told her (and several other family members) the whole story, and the Forsythe family accepted my presence there as one of their own.

Sandra mentioned that her mother, Vera, had a large collection of vintage photography and darkroom equipment left by her father, who had passed away. Would I be willing to help her go through it all, and sell it somehow?

"Sure," I answered. "I love old photography equipment. It sounds like it would be a lot of fun. Where does your mother live?"

"She lives in Wisconsin." Sandra answered casually.

"Wisconsin??" I asked. "That's a long ways from here."

"I'd send you up there, you could stay with my mother, Vera. She's a sweetheart, you'll love her. She lives in this huge house, and my father had this elaborate darkroom with all sorts of equipment. My mother doesn't know what to do with it all. She just wants to clear it out. Whatever you sell it for I'd be willing to give you a commission."

"Well..." I said, thinking, "I would love to go up there and help your mother. I'll have to see if I can get time off from work. I've never been to Wisconsin. It sounds like it would be a fun trip."

"You'd love my mother." Sandra said enthusiastically. "She very active, and she still works every day."

As luck would have it, I was given an opportunity to return to school to earn a second degree in web development, not two months after that. I left my job and had three weeks before classes began. 

Looks like I was going to Wisconsin.

Sketches made during the trip up to Wisconsin; I'm getting more into field sketching. Above is a sketch made while waiting for the plane to take off. 

This is a short video of footage I shot while in flight, with a groovy soundtrack.

When I arrived, Vera's son Peter and his wife were there. and we had dinner, followed by Vera's amazing home made apple pie. Then it was time to see the vintage darkroom equipment that I had flown up here to help Vera dispose of.

The huge house had a warren of basement rooms, most devoted to storage. In the far back corner of the basement was an S-shaped entrance to two side-by-side rooms which comprised the darkroom areas. The right side room held the enlargers, enlarging easels, color analyzers, photography papers, timers and other equipment.

The other room, which was divided into two rooms, held a huge stainless steel deep sink for developing and washing negatives and prints, densitometers and lab chemicals. The equipment was top shelf stuff, and had not been used in years.

Below is a short clip of what the darkrooms looked like before I began sorting and organizing, a brief first look at equipment that had lain dormant for years.

To see the full collection of pictures from the items in the darkroom, click HERE. Ebay auctions will be launched; if you are interested in any items let me know.

The darkrooms were at the rear of Vera's huge basement, which were a warren of rooms and storage areas one could get lost in. The equipment had been untouched for years after Vera's husband passed away after a long illness.

All of it was professional, top-of-the-line equipment in its day, and all of it had been cared for, and was in pristine condition.

I didn't know what some of it was used for; it had been made and used before I was born. To the right are timers and a power unit (the blue cube). Below is one of the color enlargers, with a vintage color analyzer unit beside it on the left.

Left: This is a large, stainless steel processing station where negatives and prints were developed. Nitrogen gas was used to aid the agitation process, and a special plumbing set-up regulated the temperature.

Below: a close-up of the controls on this unit

Above: this is a transmission densitometer, used to read the density of images in negatives (how much light is being blocked by the image in the negative). 

Left: another densitomter, with a gorgeous industrial design common in the fifties and sixties. Vera gave me this one, where it will have a treasured place in my studio

This is a Kodak Ektromatic processor, a piece of equipment for which you can no longer get the chemicals it requires. Below is a vintage promotional postcard for this piece of equipment.

I spent the entire day in the darkrooms, first photographing everything, measuring and weighing all the pieces and putting the original owner's manuals and sales brochures with the proper equipment.

Taking a break from the darkroom, I researched the equipment on-line, to see what kind of value they might have.

Vera lives beside a huge soybean field. The air smells so fresh and clean up there, not like the congestion of Pinellas County, Florida

After working in the darkroom all day, Vera and I went to Madison, Wisconsin, about an hour and a half away, to have a bite to eat with her son-in-law Jack.

Madison has a huge college, University of Wisconsin at Madison. There are enormous, brand new, futuristic buildings all jammed closely together, like it's own self-contained metropolis, and several huge buildings are under construction. The city is neat and tidy, with residents obviously taking great pride in it.

Madison sits on three lakes: Mendota, Monona, and Waubesa. The student commons, on Lake Mendota, left, is a popular spot where a lot of boating takes place in the summer.

Below: Vera and I having a beer and bratwurst as the sun goes down

A short video of the waterfront 

The next day Vera took me to a charming little coffee shop nestled in the treeline not far from the house. Daisy, a delightful woman from Chile who is Vera's helper went with us, and we picked up Vera's daughter Rosalie. 

There were several hummingbirds flitting about, and I captured one feeding (below)

Left: having a fine cigar and a Spotted Cow, one of the local micro-brews here.

Below: watching the sun withdraw from another day over the soybean field, with the crickets chirping, and the fireflies winking their green lights in the dusk

Vera came out to join me, and we chatted as the light faded, leaving behind a gorgeous sunset.

Below: it's time to go home; Vera and I say our goodbyes. I have enjoyed this trip, and her company, very much. These are memories I'll have forever.

All because I bought that slide projector.


These are pictures from the return trip, taken while in flight

No comments: