My first job after leaving school was at a local processing lab called Photomasters. I wrote about that here. My second job was fairly short lived, in another lab nearby. After that I didn’t have a gap year, I had a gap few months, when I went to Canada.
On my return I started working in photographic retail, at Coulters Camera Centre. I guess I would have been late teens when I started. The shop was owned and run by J.F. Coulter, known to everyone affectionately as “Paddy” – he was from Lisburn in Northern Ireland. I knew him already from the local “Cine Club” that I was a member of. The interview process was interesting, and went something like. “Oh, hello, what are you up to these days?” Me: “Not a lot, I’ve just got back from Canada”. “Would you like a job?” Me: “Oh ok, but I’ve never worked in a shop before!” And that was it. I started in photographic retail. In the end I worked there for over a decade.
These were the days when Kodak not only had several reps in the UK but actually sold directly to customers – we had a large Kodak delivery about twice a year. The first Auto Focus SLR’s appeared, the first I sold was a Yashica 230AF. Canon EOS was also born. Agfa was still Agfa and made slide film, print film and even a black and white slide film called “Scala” – if my memory is correct. Fuji had Sensia process paid slide film, and “Reala” fine grain negative film. Polaroid was still popular, we used to sell twin packs of 600 for £16:99 and I remember the fuss when it went up to £19:99! Kentmere still made paper, Video 8 appeared, Zenith made a “Photosniper Kit” a Zenith 12 with a 300mm lens on the front!
Don’t look at me – look at the film!!! Oh if only I could roll back the clock – I suspect for us “analogue” fans, we’d now think of that as the “Golden Era”. I’ve just remembered we still sold Kodak Gold in 127 and 620 and even Agfa Rapid – very occasionally! APS came in – but the less said about that the better – in the trade however, due to the delays in release, we called it “April Possibly September”.
Polaroid had a UK rep, and had a promotion once a year.. and Olympus brought out the AF Twin and it sold for £129! Towards the end of my time there, Canon introduced the “Ion” an “electronic” camera that made 50 images on a “disk”. Olympus brought out something called a “Camedia” – the end was neigh!
After about a decade the owner was long past retirement, for a brief time it was thought I might take over and buy out. I thought about it hard, but it was the wrong time for me – I was too young, and not enough knowledge of business. So in the end I made the right decision for me, and found another job. They were indeed golden years. I learned a lot in that shop, and still remember it very fondly. I wonder if it’s possible to work out the year from the films on the shelf? There’s a challenge for someone – I think it was about 1997!
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