Editor's Notebook

Elsewhere in this issue is printed the obituary for Gorman Foley, a retired pastor I have much respect for and former resident of this area,

I was in high school when I met Gorman at the Polk Bible Camp near Polk, Nebraska. At the time, he was pastor of a Congregational Christian Church at Clarks, Nebraska and he accompanied campers to the camp. I was helping a Lincoln, Kansas, high school principal run the camp book store and concession stand. I was impressed with Gorman’s Bible knowledge and interest in photography. Keep reading to learn more about his photography interest. But first I want to say I never met a pastor with a better understanding of the Bible. It seemed he could just open his Bible to wherever and preach a sermon with no special preparation.

I shared multiple years of camping experience with Gorman and I got to see him at times for the camp committee often met in my parents’ home.

While he was planting a church at Garden City, a windstorm overturned the Foley’s trailer home. My father went to Garden City and came home with the trailer frame from which he made a dandy tandem axle flatbed trailer with electric brakes.

The most memorable year with Gorman was associated with a camp at Macksville, Kansas. That year I was asked to help Gorman with his photography projects in the camp darkroom.

The darkroom was an improvised space which contained the camp’s hot water heaters and was more of an oven than a darkroom. Gorman brought his photo enlarger and associated materials with the plan we would take and print photos that would be used throughout the week long camp.

Daytime temperatures were in the 90s, perhaps topping 100, and the improvised darkroom offered many challenges including the fact it was not dark enough during the daytime hours to permit processing our film and prints. Even at night light from the pilot lights meant we had to use a rubber changing bag to load our film into the processing tanks. Because the darkroom wasn’t dark, most of our work had to be done during the night.

Though the temperature dropped at night, it was impossible to maintain our processing chemicals at the recommended 68 degrees. Because of the temperature and high humidity in the heater room, it was hard to keep our hands dry enough to handle the film. I called our improvised darkroom “the boiler room.”

On the last night of camp, Gorman asked me to print a souvenir picture of each camper. That work required most of the night and it was one I had to do alone as Gorman had to supervise a cabin filled with campers. Somebody should have supervised my cabin.

I finished the photo work about day break and made a dash for my bunk hoping to catch some shuteye before heading back to Superior. My plan didn’t work. When I got to the bunk, I found my cabinmates had shortsheeted my bed. At least they didn’t fill it with corn flakes. I suspect my cabinmates had taken turns staying awake to see my reaction. As I tried to wiggle into bed, the entire cabin woke up and cheered.

Exhausted from my nocturnal work, the 190-mile drive from the camp back to Superior was an endurance test but I had a carload of chatty campers to keep me awake.

The day wasn’t over when I got to Superior. The trunk lock had broken and I couldn’t unload the suitcases. Fortunately the Ford garage was open on Saturday nights and the partsman was available to open the trunk. It wasn’t Halloween, but it was Trunk or Treat time when the suitcases were freed about 9 p.m.

Gorman’s obituary mentions his camera collection and I have in my collection a 35 mm Argus rangefinder camera I got from Gorman. It is an adjustable camera with the capability of having interchangeable lens, though all I have is the basic 50 mm lens. Similar cameras range in price this week on eBay from $35 to $1,200 depending upon condition and accessories. As the only accessory I have is the leather case and the camera shows lots of use, I suspect the value of my camera to be near the low end of the range.

The Argus C44 is not a particularly fancy camera. It was first sold in 1956 and was the latest and greatest in a line of Argus rangefinders. According to camera legend, the C44 was the first camera to have a lens designed with the help of an electronic computer, the University of Michigan’s MIDAC. Considering those were the days of vacuum tubes and magnetic-drum memory. That was a pretty impressive selling point.

The lens is an f/2.8 and the camera’s shutter speeds range from 1/10 to 1/300 which limited the use of my favorite film, Tri-X Pan.

The camera doesn’t have a light meter which some would consider a negative but I have a good hand held meter that doesn’t require a battery so that wasn’t a problem. A plus was the camera didn’t require a battery to operate.

There may have been better cameras but I enjoyed using it in less than ideal conditions—for example when it was raining or on a canoe trip down the Republican River.

I once loaned the camera to a friend who owned a Nikon (then one of the best and most expensive cameras available). He planned to spend a summer break away from college hitchhiking around the United States and correctly thought with the old C44 he wouldn’t have to worry about someone stealing his camera while he was using it to document his trip for a graduate school paper.

When I got the camera out for him, it was having a mechanical problem. Though I have never held myself out to be a camera repairman, I was able to open the camera and with some cleaning and lubrication got it working perfectly.

Some users disliked the lens mount but others say once a photographer got used to it, the mount worked fine. Since I never had any of the auxiliary lens, I can’t comment on the mount. This week an eBay seller advertised an auxiliary lens set for $50. I thought about placing the order. But why? I’ll never use the camera again.

I agree some of the controls are a bit funky but I had fun with the camera and am still thankful to have gotten it from Gorman. When I see the camera, I’ll remember our friendship.


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