Chapter 8 - In the Darkroom
Excerpt from Tim
by Daniel A. Sheridan
In the faint orange glow of the safelight, unsure of my surroundings, I call out like a little kid, scared of the dark. “Duke, where are you?”
“Over here,” he says. “The safelight is still warming up.”
Dangling overhead is the Thomas Duplex Super Safelight, the best in the profession, weighing over 20 pounds, secured by thick chains to eyebolts in the ceiling. The low-pressure sodium lamp requires five minutes to reach full candle power.
“Before you know it, you’ll be able to read the newspaper by that safelight.”
Duke then flicks on the radio to a Big Band station, WNEW 1130-AM on the dial. William B. Williams is the DJ and his opening signature song begins to play, Make Believe Ballroom Time.
It’s make believe ballroom time,
Put all your cares away,
All the bands are here,
To bring good cheer your way.
The music stops for a split second, the second verse kicks in...
It’s make believe ballroom time…
It’s no time to fret,
Your dial is set for fun…
Something tells me I’m gonna like it here. This is just like the darkroom in the basement back home. Dad would pop in his favorite cassette tape, Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall in 1938. Gene Krupa pounded out paradiddle-diddles on the floor tom during his drum solo in Sing Sing Sing.
We would spend hot summer nights in the cool of the basement darkroom. The old fan squeaked as it oscillated a gentle breeze. Dad’s swivel chair creaked as he adjusted his Federal No. 245 Enlarger that he’s had since 1940. It was made in Brooklyn – cost $27.50 – a lot of money back then. The black powder-coat spray paint on the enlarger reminded me of the SS helmet sitting on the shelf in the darkroom – a souvenir Dad brought home from the War. Over in the corner was a German Mauser rifle. The P-38 pistol and holster belt sat on the second shelf in a beat-up cardboard box along with his Bronze Star medal and two Purple Hearts.
After focusing the negative, Dad lifted the lid to the lead-lined box to pull out a glossy sheet of photographic paper. He would mutter to himself while he counted, exposing the paper underneath the white light of the enlarger. One potato, two potato, three potato… then he would hand me the 5x7 to put in the developer tray.
I had the best part of the job in our little production line – beneath the eerie glow of the red safe light, I watched the white glossy paper magically transform before my eyes in the ripple of developer waves into a photograph.
“That’s good,” says Dad lifting the corner of the tray, giving it a final, gentle swish, “Now, hand it off to Billy.”
Bill, my younger brother, was the short stop in the production line – grasping the print with the rubber tipped tongs for a quick dip in the stop bath before a long soak in the fixer – all the while laughing and singing along to these Big Band tunes… Beat Me Daddy, 8 to the Bar.
“Cut that out, Billy!”
“OK, Daddy-oh… Beat me Daddy, 8 to the Bar!”
“Did ya’ hear what I said?”
“Yes In-Deed!” he quotes a Tommy Dorsey song.
“Now, that’s enough…”