Slide Show

The man was born to preserve the moment in pictures.

My maternal grandfather, Ray Adams, was an avowed shutterbug. More than a hobby to him, it was an obsession.

Dad once told me that Grandpa Adams had to have every latest gadget, and that included cameras. So when I think of Grandpa, it’s always of him squinting through the viewfinder of a camera, and rarely (as shown at right in his Greensburg, Ind., living room) on the business side of one.

So whether they were visiting our house in Minnesota, or we were staying at their place in Greensburg, you could definitely count on one night solely devoted to The Family Project Slide Show Hour.

I liked it a lot, especially how stories always came with the images. With my other grandfather, Grandpa Maupin, it was always stories and no photos. He couldn’t care a whit about photography. For him it would’ve been just something more to haul around. Heck, I don’t remember him even bringing his own fishing gear when he came to visit us. Dad always made sure there was extra equipment on hand for Grandpa.

Grandpa Adams was different. He was a self-sustaining, photocentric ecosystem. He had the brown leather bag, the flashbulbs, the light meter, the lens cleaners and additional doohickeys that amateur photographers carried everywhere.

As a kid, I sifted through slides he’d collected of water skiers, Florida aquatic shows, theme parks and national landmarks. He kept a photographic record of everything.

While a lax student of pictorial composition, Grandpa more than made up for that in sheer output. The treasure trove of his photographic labors lay in a white vinyl storage ottoman in his den. And while photo album organization was another skill subset sorely lacking, gathering and labeling photo slides in neat little boxes went right back in his plus column.

His first projector was likely a Kodak single-slide viewer. But when the carousel model arrived in the spring of 1962, Grandpa was in heaven. Coming on the heels of baby brother’s birth in January, the timing couldn’t be better.

I remember the projection screen he’d used since the old days: a rollaway model with tripod base and a blue, hammered-metal finish. Its legs unfolded and a retractable holder kept the top of the screen taut and square with the bottom. Its smell was distinct: acrid and hot-chalky when lit up, its bright white surface faintly sparkled.

Now that I’m—along with my brother—the inheritor of all these prints and slides, it takes me back to the real thrill of Slide Show Night: all the faces of past family members, how Mom or Grandma would gossip about So-and-So’s dress or demeanor in a photo, “She seems so tired in that!” “She was, dear! It was just after her operation…”

Or, as we got older, Grandpa was tickled to project slides of Brian and me as toddlers: “Remember the time we hauled you around the backyard in a wheelbarrow? With Taffy barking the whole time?” Uh, nope. Sorry, folks. Didn’t remember that, at least until you showed the proof—the projected slide, up there on the screen.

So I was pleased to read in the diary that, after our day trip to Friendship, Ind., on Aug. 23, 1977, Grandpa Adams unfolded the screen and set up the carousel projector after dark in their backyard. I never recall him ever doing that before or since.

When it started to sprinkle down rain, we hauled everything indoors and continued watching slides and telling family stories until 9 p.m. Brian and I likely sprawled out on the living room floor, Mom and Dad stretched out on the sofa, and Grandma likely put some Jiffy-Pop popcorn on the Roper stove and—bam!

Let the show go on!

~ by completelyinthedark on June 16, 2012.

One Response to “Slide Show”

  1. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    “All of us are creatures of a day; the rememberer and the remembered alike.” —Marcus Aurelius


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