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Working Class Life in the 1950s - My First Camera

Updated on April 25, 2015
Kodak Brownie 2A Box Camera
Kodak Brownie 2A Box Camera | Source
Brownie with its case
Brownie with its case

Brownie Box Camera

The first camera that I can remember using was an old Brownie Box camera, which belonged to my dad. The Brownie was a basic camera, but it took good black and white photographs.

The photograph of a Brownie box camera on the right is like the one my dad had, our Brownie had a brown canvas case to keep it in.

Because I was young I took photographs with the Brownie only occasionally. It was usually my dad's job to take the family photos.

I think that my Dad took most of the photographs because the price involved. We did not have a lot of money and he conscious of the film and developing costs.

Because of the cost involved, we only used the brownie on high days and holidays. The Brownie was the only camera that I remember my family owning before I got my own camera.

Kodak Bantum Colorsnap
Kodak Bantum Colorsnap

Kodak Bantam Colorsnap

The first camera I had was given to me as a Christmas present in the year 1958. The camera was a Kodak Bantam Colorsnap.

Kodak produced this camera in the UK between 1955 and 1959 and its listed price was £11 18s 6d.

The £11 18s 6d price tag does not seem like much today but back then it was quite a lot of money. I say it was quite a lot because it was to my family. The camera was my main present that Christmas.

Kodak designed this camera to use Kodachrome colour film. Kodachrome colour film produced either slides or colour photographs.

Last year I went with a friend to a theme park, and I took 947 photographs with my digital camera.

The photographs that I took on that one day amounted to more than all the photographs that I took using conventional film cameras.

I took more photographs on that one day, than I took using film, between 1958 and 1999 when I bought my first digital camera.

Christmas morning

My family was a working class family and so could not afford for me to go shooting off rolls of film.

Especially not the colour film that my new camera used which was really expensive. This camera was not only the first one I owned but also the first one we had that took colour photographs.

I remember early that Christmas morning crawling down to the end of my bed and peering over footboard to see if Santa had been.

Leaning against the bottom of my bed was the pillowcase that I had put out the night before.

But now, the pillowcase was no longer empty, instead it bulged with lots of brightly wrapped and odd shaped packages.

The thrill of seeing the bulging pillowcase was something special. In those days, we only got presents on our birthdays and at Christmas.

So, on the two days in the year we got presents those days were something really special.

I don't think children of today get to experience that specialness as much as we did. Because for a lot of today's children, getting stuff is a normal everyday thing.

I remember opening up the package that contained my camera on that Christmas morning. My camera came with a fitted leather case and my dad had loaded the camera with a film before he wrapped it so it was ready to go.


My camera is cool

My camera came with its own case and strap the same as the ones in the photo but they were brown.

It also came with a flash and the bulbs to fit the flash. The body of the camera was metal so it had a real solid feel to it.

I thought the camera's shape made it look so cool and modern.

Most of the cameras in use at that time that I had seen, were of the old box camera type. I felt so swish with my camera hanging around my neck in its own case.

As good and as modern as this camera was it was still quite a long time from taking the photo to seeing the result. Not at all like today when you use a digital camera and you can see the result right away.

Colour photography was a new idea for most ordinary people back then in the 1950s. For a long time, even if you owned a camera capable of taking coloured photographs, you would often use a black and white film in your camera.

The price of a black and white film and the cost of developing it was far cheaper than the cost of colour.

Use the Pit Towel

My young brother in his new Nottingham Forest football strip with the Pit towel behind him.
My young brother in his new Nottingham Forest football strip with the Pit towel behind him.

Getting Your Moneys' Worth

To give you some idea of how expensive my mum thought colour photography was, my mum wanted to make sure that we got our money's worth.

The Christmas that I got my camera, my young brother got a Nottingham Forest football kit as one of his presents.

The first photographs I took with my new camera was of him in his new strip.

To make sure that we got our money's worh out of our colour film my mother wanted to use as many colours as we could in the photo.

That way we would be sure not to waste the colour film. My dad was a Coal Miner in the 1950s and at the Pit where he worked, they use to sell subsidised bath towels.

My dad like most miners would get through a lot of towels because it was necessary for him to take a bath each time after work.

I can almost hear you asking, what has this pit towel got to do with my camera taking colour photos. Well, our pit towels are multicoloured.

My mum, endeavouring to get her moneys' worth out of the colour film, sent me to get one of these multicoloured pit towels.

My mum told me to place the pit towel behind my brother so that we could use as many colours as possible in the photograph.

The photo on the right is the one I took that Christmas morning. Do you think she got her money's worth lol...

Full Circle

It was quite a while before I got to see the results of those photographs I took on my first film.

In fact, I have a photograph which is also off that first film that I took of my brother at Goose Fair. Goose Fair always takes place on the first full weekend in October. So I was still using my first film 10 months later.

I found the waiting time, between the taking of a photograph and the finished print or slide, hard back then.

After experiencing the immediacy of digital cameras, I don’t think I would have the patience now to wait. Not even for a film using the one hour processing.

I have just realised that I have come full circle. My latest digital camera is a Kodak and it too was a Christmas present this time from my daughter.

Since writing this hub, I have had two more digital cameras. Each one better than the last.


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    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi lxxy, The Brownie Box camera was easy to use just one little lever though the image that you saw in the view finder (that's if I remember correctly it is over 50 years ago) was upside down. I have heeded your advice about including video not on this one but on some of my other hubs. My two latest hubs includes some small clips. Thanks for your advice, encouragement and support

      luv Maggie

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      thanks for asking the question it brought back happy memories

    • LowellWriter profile image

      L.A. Walsh 8 years ago from Lowell, MA

      I love the story about your mother. Thank you for answering my request! :o)

    • lxxy profile image

      lxxy 8 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

      "Brownie Box camera,"

      Haha, I've seem those. I imagine they're an experience to use! I liked snapping polaroids, but when I took a basic photography class it got my mental mind muttering of perception and lighting. ;)

      Excellent Hub! Maybe find some vids...but this is, just me. I was raised in an era of motion photography, television was my native receptor of human experience. =P



    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Thanks Candie, You are a great encourager and you are right you can't have too much colour

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 8 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      My parents first camera they let me take to camp was a Brownie with the lid that flipped up and you looked down into? Black and white. Then we got one of the first Polaroids you had to swipe the photo with a wand to set the picture.. wow, we've come a long way baby!! PS Can't have too much color in a picture!! :)