When I was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1969, I decided to begin my career in corrections at the local prison. My buddy, Harold Clancy, from upstate New York, also returned to his home state and began his career with the Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester.
Life was good back in those days.
“Clancy,” as I always called him, worked for more than 34 years at the Kodak plant. That same Kodak Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of diminishing profits and the inability to keep up with other camera companies around the world.
As a camera buff of sorts, I enjoyed many years of using those Kodak cameras and film to take pictures. The cameras were relatively simple to use. Just press a button and the Kodak film always produced a quality picture.
I can remember using some of the Kodak products to take some pictures while I was in the Army and of some family memories that date back to the ’60s.
I’m always one of those guys who looks for that special “Kodak moment.” I usually have people pose, hold their positions with eyes open, mouths smiling and shut, and count to three as my picture clients get situated before I press the shutter. I always try to get the perfect picture for my album.
I still practice that routine today, even though when I’m counting to three many of those in the picture are talking, looking around and wondering why I am counting to get them set.
After review of the finished product, some of them still don’t seem to understand. I’ve seen too many pictures with missing heads, closed eyes and open mouths, which usually end up in the trash can.
I also like to take action shots when no one is looking, but I usually prefer a nice picture that captures a special moment in time.
I have even managed to take a few good pictures with the delayed settings on some of my cameras. Finding a place to land myself in the picture after hitting the 10-second delay can sometimes be acrobatic. One’s move to the actual picture site has to be timed exactly right before the timer snaps the scene.
One of my all-time favorite pictures was taken of the family at Christmas, when I dove into the front row under the tree just before the picture was snapped by the timer.
As I examined some of Kodak’s history, it is yet another example where a large company has not been able to keep pace with the manufacturing prowess of other global companies and with lost or stolen patents.
The Japanese have made huge strides in the manufacture and sale of digital cameras and related products, and created much fiscal distress for the Kodak manufacturers.
While Kodak had more than 60,000 employees in 1983, that number has been reduced by some 47,000 workers since 2003. Some 13 manufacturing plants and 130 processing labs have been closed.
Although today’s current payroll of about 7,000 is still working for Kodak, some 38,000 retirees are drawing pensions nationwide. About 22,000 of these employees, including my friend Clancy, are drawing their pensions and live near Rochester.
What the future holds in store for Clancy and each of those retirees is left for conjecture at this point. Whether the pensioner’s health benefits will be curtailed or future monthly dollar distributions will be reduced is anyone’s guess.
It is yet another example of how things can go so very well for a long time and then change in the “blink” of an eye.
Too many companies seem to be going the same way as Kodak as other global markets compete and those products are embraced by the consumer.
Those “Kodak moments and memories” were, indeed, something very, very special.
Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.