SGT Waldrop’s Camera

Sgt. Waldrop‘ s Camera

Brandon Bledsoe

2/12/2019

On the 29th of January, I went to look at a lot of vintage cameras for sale on facebook market place. I had been watching it for a bit, and the seller had been bringing the price down over several weeks until I finally went to have a look. I was interested in one in particular, a Rollei Magic missing it’s name plate. I wanted to know which model it was, maybe I could give it to my son who also enjoys using film. The rest of the lot looked like it was mostly junk, but still interesting enough for me to go and see.

The Rollei Magic turned out to be the wrong model, and I almost told the man that I was not interested. The cameras were in two big plastic tubs, mixed in with tons of loose AC adapters, lens hoods, speaker wire, cheap computer speakers. It was basically the detritus that gets passed from junk dealer to junk dealer, with some cameras mixed in. However, I decided it would be courteous to have a look at the entire lot. I began sorting them, telling him what was broken, thinking that if nothing else, I could buy the working cameras for less. I found some things, put them aside, and then I pulled out an unassuming and slightly battered little box. I recognized it as a folding camera from the 1930s. I was intrigued, figuring that it was probably some kind of Kodak model, but the writing on the back said that it was a Zeiss Ikon Nettar, Bob 510/2. I was not familiar with that particular model, but the name Zeiss Ikon I did know, and I decided to pop it open and see if it worked. I first checked the front, the camera came out, the shutter mostly worked after being stuck for a bit. Next I decided to check the inside. I opened it and noticed first the wooden film spool inside on the film side.

For those not familiar, this type of camera uses 120 type film. 120 is a medium format film, still in use and commonly available today. I had some sitting in the freezer at home and had a couple of rolls waiting to be developed. When you load 120 film into a camera, there must be an empty roll in the camera for take up. 35m film winds into the camera, and when the roll is finished, it is released and the user winds it back onto the cartridge it came on. 120 film only goes one way, and is protected from light by a black paper backer rather than a cartridge. The film is placed in the bottom, and the end is loaded onto an empty roll on the top, and as you shoot, it winds onto the old roll. When finished, the roll that the film came on is moved from bottom to top, and awaits the next roll. Many photographers move it when they take the film out, a good habit for being ready.

The empty wooden spool was on the bottom, where it would have been with film coming off of it. There was no take up spool in the camera. The Second thing that I noticed was on the inside of the door. Etched in rather neatly in my opinion, were the words, “SGT Curtis E. Waldrop Tendon, France October 8, 1944.”

That alone convinced me to buy the lot, as the man wasn’t breaking it up, I needed to take that camera home. Once I came home I began my research into this G.I., and a simple google search found a Kerrville Mountain Sun article from 1990. In it, I learned that Curtis Waldrop had been a part of the 143rd Infantry, a Texas National Guar unit, that his battalion was the first one on the beach in Salerno, and that they had entered federal service in 1940. (1)

Using that information, I looked up the 143rd infantry, and found a brief history of their very extensive service in World War II, courtesy of the Texas Military Forces Museum. (2). You may read the full story if you wish, but in short, in that region of France, the 143rd had already been in three major battles, and were still made to push on. They were fighting a determined and prepared enemy, and in October, it took them three weeks to move seven and a half miles.(2)

According to the Museum, all they wanted was some rest, but rest was not to be had.(2)

Turning my attention back to the camera, I decided to track down a manual for it, as I have learned the hard way that small things can completely ruin a photo. Fortunately, cameramanuals.org is a very nice place and they happened to have just what I needed. It was then that I noticed an anomaly. The manual, being for the exported version of the camera, kept talking about the focusing ring being in feet.(3) This would make sense, except that the camera I bought, is in meters. Meters, not feet.

Starting here, I must do a bit of hypothesizing based on the evidence. I make it clear that I have only what is before us to go on. The cameras were made in Germany starting in 1936.(4)

If what I have learned about them is correct, then meters would indicate a German camera, not one of the exports to English speaking countries. There are plenty of ways that SGT. Waldrop could have gotten that camera, but the inscription in the back is indicative of when and where. If he did not get the camera on October 8, 1944 in that particular region of France, then why scratch that specifically into the back? I know personally that men brought things home, trophy’s from the enemy. I had two great grandfathers in that war, one who fought and one who fixed tanks, specifically he was glad he did not fight. However, both men brought home enemy Lugers, amongst other things. Without fighting my great grandfather Bledsoe was able to bring home an enemy weapon, trophies were plentiful.

I do not know what SGT Waldrop’s job was specifically, so I can only work from the default idea that he was infantry and did fight, but I make no assumptions about what he did or did not do in the war, but I do speculate that this camera belonged to a Nazi soldier and that it was collected by SGT Waldrop. I imagine that he carved his name and the other information into the inside with a knife on the day that he got it. Even murkier is the question of, who was the last person to use it. The empty film spool was in the position of feeding out film, not take up. The film that was last in it could have gone anywhere. If it had been the film of a Nazi soldier, which is feasible, the camera was an entry level model, easily available to even a soldier of the time, then I would say the film was disposed of any number of ways, having been anywhere from pocketed, left in the mud, or given to someone as collected intelligence.

However, the film could have even been last used by an American, as the films metal ends say “ANSCO film.” ANSCO was an American company, which had been acquired by the German firm of AGFA in 1928.(5). This tells me that film could have been used by an American or a German as I have been unable to determine which brand was sold in which country, it could have been both in all markets. What does need to be noted is that upon America’s entry into the war, with Hitler having declared war on the United States, ANSCO was seized by the U.S. government as an enemy property.(5). If ANSCO was still sold in Germany in 1944, then it probably would have been older stock. I do not know how long companies kept film on shelves back then. I believe it would have been black and white film, due to the camera it was in, and who would have been paying for it. Black and White is fairly shelf stable, most of what I have expires in 2022, giving it a best by of four years, as it is mostly from 2018. The film is a dead end. I originally thought that if it had been American film, it would have been on a metal spool, but I later learned that America was using wood again, with metal going to the war effort.

What I do know is that the engraving done by SGT Waldrop is in a place that would not normally be open to be scratched on. In that place should be a metal plate. The purpose of that plate is that it keeps the film in place. Film, even when pulled taught, needs something to hold it in place for the purposes of focusing. When a camera is focused, it is not enough that the lens is focused, but also the film must be the correct distance from the lens for that focus to produce a correct image. The film plate is not present, and could not have been in place when the carving occurred. I do not know where it is, or when it came out, but it had to be out when he carved his inscription. It could have been put back after that, the metal tabs to hold it are still there. I cannot say what happened to the plate, but I think perhaps, he took it out to make his inscription and could not get it back into place, or simply did not mind, that he did not intend to use the camera, film would probably have been hard to come by, as military supplies were difficult for that region at the time. Really, for all that I know, he could have put it back, used the camera quite a bit at home, and it was lost later, but I do not believe so. I think that the last user, was the original owner, but I have little evidence in that way, and all that I do have is put before you.

Either way, I talked to a friend of mine, and he had the idea that if the camera had belonged to a Nazi soldier, and if that person was the last to use it, that I should make the first photo I took on it ( the fact that I was going to use it was never in question) something significant. I did some more digging and was able to determine that SGT Waldrop, having passed in 1991, the year after the article about his unit and their reunion was written, and had been laid to rest in Kerrville, Texas, barely an hour from San Antonio, where I lived at the time. I cleaned the camera up as best as I could. The lens is dirty on the inside, and after minor attempts to get to it, I gave up for fear of making it worse. I made a new plate from a cut up capri sun box, and I drove the camera to Kerrville, so that the first photo could be of the grave of the man who brought it home.

His grave, (and that of his wife) is at the bottom of the photo, partially cut off on the left, and with my Subaru Outback ruining the shot. As you can see, I forgot about the parallax, and so what I thought to be a shot dominated by the grave and foreground is really a large shot with the grave barely in the foreground. Also, my plate was a bit thick, so the film was scratched on the way through (the black lines running the length.). The camera only has four shutter settings, 1/25th of a second, 1/75th, Bulb (open as long as your hold the button) and T, which I figured is like bulb but it opens with one depression and closes with a second. To today’s film, these are all pretty slow. The fastest is 1/4 of a second and for reference with 400 ISO film, my go to film especially for a cloudy day, it would be much too slow, only 1/60th of a second is needed to avoid camera shake, and really the light meter was saying 1/250th. 1/4th was just too slow, and the shutter was prone to sticking on that one, so I went the other way, I loaded Ilford Pan F, a 50 ISO film, and decided to work in whole seconds. Turns out, even on a day that is rainy, this region of Texas has a lot of light, and I did not have whole seconds to work with, so I did my best. Two out of the eight shots were usable, the rest were very overexposed, but I only needed one to accomplish my mission.

That is my story of SGT Waldrop’s camera. I have not contacted the family, as I do not feel the need to. Firstly, I have made no claims on SGT Curtis Waldrop other than the fact that he was a soldier who was in a particular region of France at a certain time, which has been proven. My speculations about the camera are my own, and make no assertions on him whatsoever. As for the idea that they could help the story, I am not sure they could, I got the camera from a picker, who got it from another picker. I think that as they things normally go, that it was cleared out as part of the estate in 2016, and has worked it’s way around to me. I feel that had they known, or if it was significant, then it would not have been there. I do not feel the need to bother these people. I will continue to use the camera, mostly near dusk or on very overcast days. I put some camera seal foam on the metal, hoping to alleviate the scratches without causing a new problem. My wife thinks the more things I introduce into the camera that were not supposed to be there, then the more that will go wrong, and she is most likely right. I hope you have enjoyed this little story, and if you have some evidence to contribute, please do.

I thank SGT Curtis E. Waldrop for his service and time spent fighting against the Nazi menace. As a veteran myself, he is my brother, but I am not able to stand in the shadow of those who fought in that war.

For me, this whole thing was what it is all about. I found a real thing, that belonged to a real person and went hunting for the story, and in the end, added to it myself. The camera did not find it’s way to a dump for an ignominious end, but instead it lives on. I’m rather certain that Sgt. Waldrop’s family remembers him, but now so will I, he has taken a step towards immortality.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

1.https://www.newspapers.com/image/?spot=3611596&fcfToken=754c746a666c474c4f4a4a6631593551333148366463333566456d70506543337a4a66336e5050726a6f6659745a7a7939524656786277754c67723243747478

2.http://www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/36division/archives/france/hyman4

3.http://www.cameramanuals.org/zeiss_ikon/zeiss_ikon_nettar_02.pdf

4.http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Zeiss_Ikon_Nettar

5. http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Ansco

Advertisements

Where do we begin?

This space has not had a true update in a bit.  I have been moving and such.  Let us begin there.  Let us get back to what this blog used to be.  It was first and foremost whatever I, the author, wanted it to be, and I always wanted it to be true.  True to me specifically, and yet I have danced around topics and applied enough tact to make myself sick.  What happened to the truth?  What happened to the alcohol fuel, tobacco burning, dioneysian blog posts that made at least one person think, or made me feel like I was actually doing something with this?  

     Well it is all coming back.  I described this to one of my professors as a “no s*** window into my life,” but somewhere along the way I forgot that.  This is not as dramatic as it all sounds?  Sometimes I got off writing about pencil sharpeners.  I can tell you why I stopped doing that as much, because everybody that enjoys graphite and would feels the need to write about it (me included) and I was not reading theirs, so I stopped asking them to read mine as often, that is all it was just kind of a courtesy thing.  So let us begin with an update.


We were reasssigned to Fort Sam Houston…well isn’t that peachy, leave Massachusetts, leave the circle of Boston, leave Framingham, and go back to the Ghetto.  No I am not hanging out in the wrong parts of Texas, no I do not need to give it a chance, I am allowed to dislike an entire state without offering a reason, and the city of San Antonio, for that I can give reasons.  I am not saying that I will not enjoy things here, I will, I always find something to do, but for me this place will always be too far South West.  Now we do live two minutes from where the medics are made, and that always strikes me as a little funny.  

    Let us be honest here.  I planned every detail of my last day at Framingham State as best as I could.  I had a vision in my head and I was going to do my best to make sure it happened.  I would not settle for something anticlimactic as the semester just being over and me not coming back.  I made a playlist…I even wore the exact same outfit on my last day that I had worn on my first, if you will allow for the fact that I have of course bought new underwear since then.  Even my socks were the same.  I know because they are the ones I wear with my Doc Martin’s.  I cant guarantee that it was the same pair of socks, but there are only three pairs of these, and I have had the same three this whole time.  It was a private little joke that only I was in on.  

This may be the only picture of me from that day.  Zander was there out of necessity caused by the moving schedule and such.  Nobody minded, I have lots of photos of plenty of my friends playing with him.  The point is the sweater, it book ended my time at Framingham State University.  I thought it was hysterical.  I even made a play list.  That’s right.  I made a SOUNDTRACK for my last day.  Most people did not notice that I had it playing most of the day walking around in my personal little movie.  

I went out on country roads.  My buddy Steve camethrough (without knowing it) and we went and smoked before I walked off the campus at almost exactly the same time I had left a night class on my first day.  Couldn’t have done it without you buddy.  

We decided to road trip out of MA.  I know I have a lot more stuff I could talk about, especially people and it may come back to me later, but this will be longer than it is already going to be.  We had some help getting cleaned out of our house, very grateful, and then I had to leave everyone.  We had some friends when We’ve left other places, but they were army people, they knew what it was like.  Here?  We were attached.  So we put a bunch of crap in the outback and went trecking out with kids for 1800 miles, and around 25 days.  We visited family.  We visited friends.  I spent a good bit of the time dealing with that feeling that I am unsure if it is caused becaus we were in between and it wouldn’t go away until we had a house to put together, or if it was just the dread of where we were going.  The kids actually did really well with all of the hotels and such.  We spent New Years in a hotel room enjoying each other’s company.  If you are bored and want to get to the point, here’s one.  Home really is where the heart is, for me, I really am just happy the wife, kids, and I are all together.  

The little guy and his hotel bed.  They were happy as long as there was a bathtub to play in.  Kids know how to keep it simple.  

This whole home is where the heart is thing being true is not news.  What is news is this: you are not required to continue taking people’s garbage just because you are related to them.  I am not saying that all the little motivational Facebook posts about leaving negative people behind are at all true, much to the contrary, I am sure that more often that not people are not looking in the right direction.  I have been there, I have forgotten to blame myself because I did not want to accept that I was the problem, but more often than not we know the type.  My sister is great at this kind of thing, posting about people messing people up when she can’t make a sandwich without a family fight and the cops coming.  That’s what I’m tired of, pretending I care.  I love my family, but you know what I’m tired of telling them that they need to do to fix the situation.  My mother and grandmother are ready to pull their hair out, my mother has the kids and doesn’t get any sleep, and when my family and I come we are mostly spectators to this circus.  AND we never say anything about it.  That stopped back at the beginning of this paragraph.  I do not blame her kids, you have them, stop fooling with that Stalingrad dumpster fire until she pulls it together.  Everyone turns on everyone so fast, and I feel like phone calls are just sirens telling me what she has done now.  It has driven people out of business and before we know it her final revenge will be complete and my kids wont get to see you at all due to the early grave it has driven you to.  We get tired of coming to see everyone and trying to dance around the mess that she has made.  Call me what you will, but I am serious.  We don’t mind helping with the kids, so long as we are not telling ours to wait around and get what is left.  However!  We did get my grandparents to go to the Tennessee Aquarium.  That was awesome as always.  That place should get an entry to itself.  

Some more travels later, we found ourselves on the way to San Antonio for real.  Now here is the catch.  When this trip was over, I was going to have to get up the next day, get on an airplane, and do the whole thing again.  It was cheaper than shipping our second car.  I was going to have an awesome post all planned out for you guys, I was going to go to Route 66 and drive as much of it as possible before hitting Texas.  It was going to be awesome!  I bought a book and spent most of January planning it out.  Then our car was broken into.  I found out from my wife while I was sitting on my second plane waiting on them to check out the equivalent of a check engine light, which is admittedly more serious on a plane.  I guess the crew heard my displeasure at someone having busted a window out.  I looked over in the next seat and there was Woodford Reserve and a Coke.  They kept appearing.  Here’s to the employees of American Airlines.  My road trip went by the wayside, I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, home to my family that is.  Here’s the thing.  We are smart enough to take the DVD players out every time we stop.  We did not have a lot in the car.  My bag that was in there I had put in that morning so that my wife would not have to carry it down the stairs herself with the kids.  All in all they took clothes, my writing stuff, Liam’s toy bag, My wife’s clothes.  The only real valuable–as far as single items go, stuff adds up–was my Nintendo 3DS.  Yes I know this is a First World problem to have.  Yes we are insured, yes we can and have replaced most of that stuff.  However: it was ours.  I hate being stolen from.  A part of me hopes that they were able to sell that stuff and feed their kids, or maybe a kid who had nothing has those toys, but I know thats wishful thinking, and that part of me is small.  The bigger part of me comes from a place where we fought and dueled to build a reputation so that people would not steal from us.  We hate thieves, and that bigger part of me would–and I say this unable to make those who don’t know understand–that I really would break someone’s limbs over my kids toys, my wife’s clothes, and some fountain pens.  The worst part is, it killed the little good I saw in this place.  I have gone to concerts in Worcester MA, parked in an alley with money in the cup holders, actual bills, and people did not smash windows and take money, never has that happened in my life.  Two days in this place?  Thieves hang, no I do not want to hear the rest of the story.

End of the day, my wife and kids are safe.  All is well.  We now live on post, and the house is actually really nice.  People say your blog is supposed to help people.  Here it is again: putting a house together with two kids is slow.  I do not mind living on post, and Liam and I have some nice places to skateboard, and a park, and if we want, we can bike to the grocery store.  What’s amazing is having friends who love you enough and know you well enough to pack the perfect box to try to cheer you up.

We have been selling off some more stuff online.  Here’s some more tips.  #1 be prepared for people to think their stuff is worth way too much.  I read an anthropology paper that did a good job explaining this.  #2 be prepared for people to not be able to read.  Even if you put the words “Will only meet at X” or “I have a Subaru, I cannot deliver a couch” people will not realize they don’t know where X is until they are “almost there” or they will ask when you can drop the couch off.  To sell online is to need golf shoes to wade through the stupid. 

OH!  I wrote a novel while we were traveling.  I did it by the national novel writing month standards.  It is 52,000 words of crap.  But I did it.  I wrote a novel.  My support crew were all amazing.  I might even revise it.  I wrote a book.  That’s a bucket list item gone.  I am actually kind of pleased with the novel.  Next step is to print it and begin revision.  

Now we are here, refining our lives, cementing who we define ourselves as.  I have managed to have a pretty good, INCOWRIMO, international correspondence writing month, despite being busy, my bag of writing stuff having to be replaced, not actually being able to open the mailbox, and getting a late start, I am on 28 letters and it is not the 28th.  I have gotten some really good ones from the address exchanges.  

Now I prepare to leave you, back to our regularly scheduled programming, the knives and pencils, the books and movies, with some new stuff.  I hope to see more readers because I have a lot to write.  It is almost baseball season.  Zander has turned one…

Ganger-Bjorn

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑