Way back in the 90s I inherited a Graflex 4x5 press camera from my future wife’s late father. Her family was going to throw it away before I saw it and its suitcase in their family’s basement.
If you are a fan of the Godfather, you will recognize a Graflex from the wedding scene. If you are a Star Wars fan, the Graflex flash bulb battery pack was used as a lightsaber.
It is a great camera and it is fun to use, but time has made it difficult to use. I did find a Polaroid back that allowed me to use out dated Polaroid film that is no longer being made. For a while, I was even able to find flash bulbs on Ebay.
My wife and I used to visit country fairs and dirt race tracks pulling a small red wagon of film cartridges, flash bulbs and snapping cool photos.
In 2004 my wife and I made an impromptu visit to Ypsilanti Michigan’s Yankee Air-Museum. The air museum has a wonderful collection of vintage aircraft and war memorabilia. My plan was to take some photos of the wonderful planes using both my new digital camera and the vintage Graflex.
That was my plan. While I had usually kept my Graflex suitcase in the trunk of my car. I never kept flash bulbs in my car. I always kept my flash bulbs in a steel box on the concrete floor of my studio to prevent static electric discharge. Alas, we arrived at the Air-Museum prepared to take only outdoor shots with the Graflex and indoor digital shots.
Outdoors, I went plane to plane. Indoors I took some action digital shots with my wife. It was while I was taking my wife’s photo standing next to a B-17, a veteran walked up asking about the Graflex in my wagon. I told him that couldn’t use it indoors because I forgot my flash bulbs.
“We have cases of flash bulbs upstairs, I’ll get you some” He chirped
He disappeared and came back with 2 small ancient boxes of 12 flash bulbs. I shook his hand, thanking him. I used every bulb he gave me shooting indoor shots. It was a fun Saturday.
Exactly one week later, the Yankee Air Museum burnt to the ground. Late at night I tell myself the fire was not started by a case of 50 year old flash bulbs falling off a shelf. All the news articles state that the fire did start near the ceiling, but the guys were welding that day. Regardless, using the Graflex wasn’t as much fun after that Saturday. I still have the camera packed away, but I have safely disposed of all the flash bulbs.