Film Photography

A 1989 photo ride

My first apartment was the back half of an old house on the north side of Terre Haute, Indiana. The tree-lined street was less than a block away from Collett Park, one of the city’s loveliest spots. I felt fortunate.

I had seen some interesting spots in my neighborhood through my car’s windshield as I went about my business. I thought it might be fun to photograph some of them. So I bought some film, loaded up my best camera, and headed out on my bicycle.

That camera was the Kodak VR35 K40, a typical 1980s 35mm point and shoot. (See my review here.) The film was probably Kodacolor Gold 200, Kodak’s everyday color film that was available anywhere.

The Coca-Cola bottler was a few blocks away on Lafayette Avenue. This great sign faced the street. It was there through at least 1994, when I moved away from Terre Haute, but was removed at some point afterward.

When I moved to Terre Haute in 1985, this plant still bottled Coke into glass bottles. The common size my whole childhood had been the pint bottle, sold in an eight pack. Sometimes you’d see the eight-ounce bottle in a six pack. But I never saw 12-ounce bottles sold in grocery stores until I moved to Terre Haute. 16 ounces had always been too much for me to drink at once, where 12 ounces was just right. And I always preferred a bottle over a can! Sadly, the plant quit the 12-ounce size after a few years. Then the plant stopped bottling altogether and became a Coke warehouse. And now it stores up Coke no more; the building’s for sale. Oh, there’s the seat of my bicycle poking up from the bottom of this photo.

This little pull-behind cart in the bottling company yard was painted in throwback colors and designs that hearkened to the 1950s or maybe even earlier.

I also wanted to capture this odd tree growing in the middle of the sidewalk on 7th Street.

Also this humorous sign on 12th Street across from the Maple Avenue United Methodist Church.

The centerpiece of the neighborhood was the park, of course. Its land was donated to the city by Josephus Collett, a railroad magnate. Terre Haute was at one time a big railroad town. Many tracks still pass through town at grade; in most cases being delayed for a passing train is a valid excuse for being late.

Pity I didn’t photograph within the park that day. Manicured and proper, it always reminded me of something from a long-lost time where ladies and gentlemen, dressed properly, would stroll on a warm afternoon. I used to walk or ride up there all the time, sit on a bench, read a book, and watch people go by.

Down the block was my apartment, in the back half of the house on the left. That’s my car parked out front.

Here’s my front door. Home!

I make photo walks all the time now. I didn’t when I was in my early 20s. I wish I’d done it more often, because I love looking at these photos from way back when and wish I had more.

I did do this one other time, after an ice storm. I photographed the park in its glistening glory. See that post here.

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Last updated on 20 March 2020 by Jim Grey

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22 thoughts on “A 1989 photo ride

  1. I miss 12 ounce bottles too, though Pepsi Cola was my preferred brew. My mother was a Coke girl and bought 16 ounce bottles. Which were not for drinking at once but were for 2 or 3 glasses. She was aghast when I consumed a “double bottle of pop” all by my teenage self.

    It’s funny how normal everyday things change (or go extinct) over time.

    • My family drank a lot of RC! It was the least expensive non-store-brand cola, unless Coke or Pepsi were on sale, then Mom bought that. Dad got seven of the eight bottles (it was his habit to drink one each night) and my brother and I got to split the last one. As you can imagine, we titrated that bottle carefully so neither of us would get even one fluid dram more than the other.

  2. P says:

    Great memories, Jim. Thanks for sharing. Did you dig out the negatives recently and scan them yourself, or are these scans of prints you have, or something else? They look great, especially for thirty year old negatives. Good stuff.

    • I scanned all of my old negs in back in 2014 while I was laid up after foot surgery. I bought one of those cheap digitizers that takes 110, 126, and 35mm film. I reviewed it here:

      https://blog.jimgrey.net/2014/08/15/wolverine-super-f2d/

      The short of it: it does okayish work. At Web resolutions the images look good enough but beyond that don’t press your li=uck. Being nothing more than a digital camera and a light table sealed into a plastic box, mine leaked light in the upper left corner and I had to battle that through the entire project. The device did the best work with my 35mm negs from the late 80s onward. I suspect that was for two reasons: one, they were the best stored and least handled of all of my negs, and two, these were much more modern film emulsions than the Kodakcolor II I shot in the 70s.

      • P says:

        I thought a few of these looked familiar. I had read your review of the Wolverine previously, so that’s why. Yeah, these devices have a really difficult time producing quality “scans” with much resolution. But at 1200x800px, as your images are here, and with these particular negatives, things turned out quite well. I think you achieved some of the better results I’ve ever seen anyone produce with one of these things. I still think Kodak, Ilford, or someone needs to manufacture a legitimate, high quality, whole roll film scanner that’s truly affordable. I don’t understand the lack of such a thing in today’s world as it seems more relevant than ever.

        • Kodak now sells a device much like this. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s made by the Wolverine people and rebadged. These devices really are good enough — barely — for the average person to digitize those old negatives. The results are good enough to make new 4×6 prints or share on Facebook.

  3. This makes me wish I had been into photography at a younger age, and had photos from my teen years just of places I went to and how they looked then compared with now.

  4. I did a lot of photo walks in my hometown when I was young. Sadly those are among the pictures that went mysteriously missing over the years.
    Ah, coke in glass bottles. 10 cents for 12 ounces. Then the plastic bottles started coming – and you could taste the difference. So much so people wouldn’t buy the plastic ones and they had to change the packaging formula!
    Some things from back then were indeed better. And some of those better things were not kept.

    • I am super glad my negs from childhood and young adulthood survived my divorce. So much of my stuff didn’t.

      I miss Coke made with sugar bottled in glass. You can get that stuff as bottled in Mexico of course and I do drink one from time to time.

  5. Nancy Herget says:

    Love the Coke pictures….my nephew retired from Coke couple years ago in Charleston Wv. He collects all the old memorabilia.

  6. I do a photowalk on my neighborhood on the weekends that I’m off from work. Looking at the photos, I was surprised to see how much has changed within the past 5 years. Old buildings were torn down to make way for new ones, and there’s also a lot more young people moving into the area. Many years ago, I visited a Coke bottling plant on a school trip. At the end of the tour they handed out 12 oz Coke bottles, it tasted so good that my friends and I thought it was probably the best part of the tour.

    • It’s really remarkable how we don’t notice the slow pace of change, and then we look at a photo from 5 years ago and realize just how much is different!

  7. We have a coke factory in my town too, though it do any mean we get the Xmas coke lorry visiting this year. That caused a bit of a drink. As for photo walks, I always think you should take lots of photos when you first get to a place. After a few weeks things seem ordinary and you forget to look.

    • Yes, it’s true. There are things I remember from that neighborhood now, things that just felt everyday and common then, that are gone now and I wish I had photographed them.

  8. Rita Long says:

    I grew up in 12 Points and in the 40’s ad 50’s we would always stand at the window on Lafayette and watch the line where they washed and refilled the little bottles of coke…

  9. CJFrey says:

    Thank you for posting these – I lived as a child on the block with the sidewalk tree. We moved from that neighborhood in 1989 to the east side, then I left TH in 1990. The tree is long gone, but I’m still in touch on Facebook with childhood friends from that block. It was a great place to grow up – close to the park, close to 12 points.

    • You and I might have overlapped just a little in the Collett Park area then, as I moved there in Aug. 1989. It’s too bad that the tree is gone. But I suppose that allowed them to make the sidewalk straight!

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