One morning, Stephen knocked at the back door, incredibly excited — he had made a camera! He showed me the camera, which looked really cool, and took a picture of me. He’d taken a picture of Mrs. Hawkins, too. Of course, I wanted to make a camera, too, and he agreed to help me.
First we bugged my Mom until she found an empty shoe box for the camera, and then we set to work. We drew on the lens and flash, using colored construction paper and markers. A piece of duct tape held the camera closed on the left side (only one side, though, because of course you have to be able to open the camera to put film in and get the pictures out). We used a bolt that we screwed into the side to advance the film, and to open the shutter, we got a nail, and pushed it halfway through the top of the box, so it was sticking up about half way. We had to have film, so we carefully cut down pieces of white paper to about four inches by six inches. Those we placed in the camera, and closed the box.
Now that we both had cameras, we set out to take pictures — of my house, his house, the trees and flowers — anything we wanted. Since he’d taken a picture of Mrs. Hawkins, I took a picture of her, also, and then one of Stephen. The cameras weren’t perfect, of course; sometimes the film advance bolt would be screwed all the way down and we had to unwind it, and because when we pressed down the nail, it stayed down; we had to pull it back up. That was really annoying when we were trying to take pictures quickly.
Once we figured we’d used up all the film, we had to develop the pictures. We knew we had to have a dark room, but we wanted to be able to see what we were doing, so we used the front bathroom at my house. I got a plastic bowl from the kitchen, and set about mixing the developing fluid.
We went through the bathroom cabinet, and found all sorts of developing fluids — witch hazel, shampoo, lotion, alcohol…. We grabbed them all, and poured small amounts into the bowl, stiring carefully. It took some mixing and adding more of this and less than that, but we finally got the developing fluid right. Opening the cameras, we first put each piece of exposed film into the developing fluid and then rinsed them with water. Then we set them aside on a towel, and waited for the pictured to start developing.
Nothing happened. The film was wet and the paper got flimsy, but no pictures developed.
We finally reached then end of our patience, and threw away the exposed film. I dumped the developing fluid into the sink and washed it away, then rinsed out the bowl and put it in the dishwasher.
Back in my room, Stephen and I sat down and tried to figure out why it didn’t work. The bathroom probably wasn’t dark enough, and we may have gotten the developing fluid wrong; those were the two most likely problems. We didn’t want to try again, though, since we ruined one batch of film, and my Mom wasn’t happy with the mess in the bathroom.
Then Stephen got a brainstorm. He grabbed paper and cut more film as I rounded up crayons. We carefully drew each picture we’d taken (as many as we remembered, that is — we’d probably missed a couple), then colored them true-to-life.
Voila! We had our pictures — the cameras had worked! We proudly showed our photos to my Mom and Mrs. Hawkins, who agreed that the pictures were perfect and our cameras were wonderful.