Old Friends and Old Photos
As we pack up our entire house to move from Srinagar to London we find time to reflect back on where we have been. Photos taken years back of a trek, an old friend or of some long forgotten place we stopped at for tea on some never-ending trip are nostalgic. My daughter, Jessie is always asking about my childhood. She wants me to tell her what has become known as “Steve and Steve” stories. Stephen Gray and Steven Reese where my two best friends in Anchorage growing up. We were inseparable. But when I left in 1974 to move with my family to Kentucky we soon lost contact.
These two were often my photo guinea pigs. In those days my dad had built a dark room under the stairs going to the basement. Steve, Steve and I were fascinated with World War II. Not sure why, but even today I still have an interest in those epic battles of that era.
Maybe it was because our fathers all fought in it. We glamorized it. We collected anything that had to do with it, uniforms and guns primarily. We even got our hands on a B17 ball turret, the real McCoy. It must have weighed 300 pounds but we got it home to Steve Gray’s house and played with it for hours on end. We would dress up in old Army Air Force uniforms and I would take pictures of us. Of course being 14 we were way too young for facial hair so I did my best to pencil it in on the final print.
My father taught Air Force ROTC and would on occasion bring home16 mm movies of the old Air Power TV series with Walter Cronkite. We would set up the movie screen and have our own private screenings.
One day I set up a tripod and snapped a few frames of some air battles. Then I went to the darkroom and developed them. They looked great! but too new. We were all about authenticity and I was even then a perfectionist. So we took old hot coffee grounds and tea bags and made a solution and soaked the images in this concoction. It was hot so the emulsion started to peal off. I dog-eared the corners and voila, 30-year-old gun camera photos! Later that day I had my mother write in her most manly hand writing some bogus captions on the backs along with some dates. When my dad came home that night I showed him the series of images. He asked where I got them. I told him I made them. He did not believe me. I had to get my mother to come in and vouch for me.
My daughter wants me to find Steve and Steve. Not sure it is a good idea. You can never go back. But if you are reading this and you have heard your friend Steve talk about an old B17 ball turret, tell him Matt Brandon wants to get in touch with him.