I hope you’ll indulge me one more story from my book, A Place to Start.

The holidays are almost upon us, and in A Place to Start I tell this one holiday story. You probably won’t be surprised it’s about a camera! A Polaroid camera, to be precise. I wish I still had this camera.

If you order today, it’s probably not too late to have a paperback copy of my book in your hands in time for Christmas. Of course, if you order an electronic copy, you’ll have it instantly! Here’s where you can get it:

This story first appeared here on December 22, 2008.

My grandparents always owned the latest Polaroid cameras, and they passed on that tradition in 1977 when they bought my brother and me Polaroid Super Shooter cameras for Christmas.

courtesy Paul Giambarba

When I unwrapped the gift, I remember thinking how cool the box was. I liked the box so much that I kept my camera in it for the almost 30 years I owned it. Not long ago I learned that the box, like all Polaroid packaging of the day, was designed by Paul Giambarba, a top designer who was a pioneer of clean, strong brand identity.

I remember how easy it was to spot Polaroid film on the drug store shelf because it had the same rainbow-stripes design elements as the camera’s box. Film and developing for my garage-sale Brownie cost about half what a pack of Polaroid film cost, but the colorful Polaroid boxes on the shelf always tempted me. I often decided that next time I bought film, I would save my allowance for the whole month it took to afford a pack of Polaroid.

My brother also got a guitar that Christmas morning. My new camera came with a pack of film, so I loaded it and shot a photo of him on his first day with his guitar. He played that guitar for 20 years! He looked strange as an adult playing a kid-sized guitar!

20 Christmas Days later, when my older son was not yet a full year old, my wife gave my brother her old guitar. Our boy, drawn to the music, wouldn’t leave his uncle’s side as he played that evening. Steadying himself on his uncle’s knee, he looked up with wide amazement in his eyes.

May this holiday bring you the gift of excellent memories to share with your loved ones down the road.


18 responses to “Photographic holiday memories: A story from my book, A Place to Start

  1. J P Avatar

    My, what a blessing and a curse for a kid. Your own Polaroid camera! Which came with the compulsion to use it, which required the most expensive film known to mankind. If that didn’t teach you to budget as a kid, nothing would!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You put your finger right on the blessing/curse nature of owning this camera.

    2. DougD Avatar

      I read that story in the book, and was wondering what the box looked like.
      Thanks for including it here.

      Buy the book!!!

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        Doug, I would have loved to include the box photo in the book but it’s not my photo. I’ll use a photo that’s not mine on the blog because I don’t make any money off it, but it’s a different story for a book I’m selling!

  2. yuri rasin Avatar

    I never had a Polaroid but my dad bought a video cam and let me play with it when I was 10, it was the best toy ever!
    Hope you have great holidays Jim!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’d have died and gone to heaven for a video camera! They didn’t become viable until I was a teenager and they were wicked expensive.

  3. analogphotobug Avatar

    It;s one of my husband’s Xmas Presents…..

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow! How are you sourcing film?

  4. nataliesmartfilmphotography Avatar

    What an amazing thing to own as a child! I had a toy polaroid camera as a child with the same four pictures that used to come out of it every time you put the ‘toy film’ back in it 😂

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I didn’t know they made toy Polaroid cameras! Mine was a lovely gift but on a child’s allowance the film was all to often out of reach.

      1. nataliesmartfilmphotography Avatar

        Yes it was called Happy Shots by Tomy

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I looked it up — how clever!

          1. nataliesmartfilmphotography Avatar

            It was fun to use as a kid 😊

          2. nataliesmartfilmphotography Avatar

            You used to wet the sponge where the photo would come out and it was the wet sponge that made the photo appear.

        2. Jim Grey Avatar

          Oh that is cool. I’m sure after a while it was no surprise to see the same four photos though!

          1. nataliesmartfilmphotography Avatar

            Yep. It got boring 🤣

  5. Sam Avatar

    Thanks for reminding me Jim! Been so busy almost missed it. Perhaps I should get the ebook this time though I still like hard press. Don’t think too much this is your site…Plug it brother nothing wrong with that!! 😎👍🏻

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Sam! I don’t want the blog to be all about plugging my book! Just sometimes.

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