I used to work at a camera shop by the seaside. In truth, it wasn’t a camera shop like Jessops. We catered for the people on the beach, so we did sell cameras, mostly Kodak Instamatic, some Polaroid and others, but we sold lots of film, postcards, batteries and other bits you would need on holiday eg sun cream.
On a busy Sunday, when the sun was shining, we could sell literally a van load of film. We would run out. Mostly it was the 126 format. I can still remember the routine:
- Black and white or colour?
- Prints or slides?
- 12 or 20?
- Kodak or Agfa (or even Fuji)?
99% of the time it was Kodak (recognisable in the yellow box) colour prints. 68p or 81p. 20 prints seems better value, but there’s processing to be added. Sometimes we asked about film speed too.
The little cameras were simple but pretty foolproof. Some people thought they were instant pictures, but no, instant loading, in daylight, unlike the slightly more tricky 35mm format. But there were many others. Agfa Rapid was my favourite.
Taking the camera onto the beach could be a problem. There were little holes in the film and a small pin that would ‘lock’ the film as you wound on, when it reached the right place. Sand could get into the camera and the pin would stick, so the film just kept winding. Really, you needed to dismantle the camera and give it a good clean. When you’re on the beach having fun, you don’t want that. Plus, it’s too expensive.
The cameras were brought in and we did what we could, at no charge, but I remember the manager failing more often that succeeding. Until one day, when he put the camera rather firmly onto the counter. “I bet that’s fixed it”, I remarked, and it had. The grit was dislodged. It was a temporary fix, but it worked nearly all the time.