At various points in my life, from childhood to adulthood, the phrase "the good old days" has been used by persons referring to various times in their pasts when things just seemed to be a little better than they were in actuality. Still, for those of us who are fortunate to be a part of what I shall term - well, simply as "the good old days" - there are times that I believe we just may have been better off than are those unfortunate lost and drugged souls of today's society.
Driverless cars, smart phones, iPods, social media, GPS, text messaging - all are parts of an upgraded society that represent change. Heck, Superman doesn't even have a telephone booth to change clothes in anymore. And Claude Yeager of Switzer in Logan County, who may be the only person in the nation that actually comes out and pumps gasoline for customers at a service station - just like in the "good old days" when gas station attendants even cleaned your windshields each time you stopped by - will turn 90 years old July 4th.
Don't misunderstand me, I suppose it is pretty cool to be able to access every movie in existence just about any time you wish. Wikipedia is certainly a valued site for nearly any information. But there is something to be said for the dinasauric things of yesteryear.
Things like 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, VCR tapes and cursive writing have just about all disappeared. In addition, not only are school kids no longer learning cursive writing, but my fear is that before long we will have a society that cannot even read cursive writing. Imagine this: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, all printed instead of written cursively. What about the signatures - those of men like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hancock, and many other greats? A signature simply cannot be changed into a printed version, as each one is unique as they currently appear.
With nearly every American having a cellphone, a walk down just about any street will reveal someone texting, talking, or taking photos - even "selfies" with this relatively new device. For me - a guy who used to rely on a 35-millimeter camera as part of my newspaper profession, the ability to take really good photographs with cellphones is almost miraculous.
I remember as a young boy families cherished their Kodak cameras. Then later, I believe about 1972, the Polaroid Instant Camera came out in which it became a big deal that one could snap the picture, then shake the camera to allow the chemicals in the camera to eventually develop the picture.
Personally speaking, I didn't care too much for the instant camera pictures, which were anything but instant. What I preferred was when my mother would send rolls of film off to be developed, which is what everybody who took family pictures did back in the day. After a few weeks, the pictures came in the mail and it was exciting to sit down and go through the photographs, nearly all of which had the month, day and year printed on a side of each picture.
The true art of photography, which still somewhat exists today, was done by professional photographers, who had their own studios and developed their own photographs in what were called "dark" rooms. Special occasions, such as weddings, children's photos, family portraits and graduation events, usually required a professional back in the day.
One such professional photographer in downtown Logan, who some readers will recall as Robert "Bob" Johnson, got his start in the business as a hobby when he was just a student at Logan Junior High School in 1936. He used box-type cameras that some may have seen in old black-and-white movies or TV shows where newspaper photographers with flashing light bulbs took photographs of people like the original Superman on that popular television show, or in movies such as 1967's "Bonnie and Clyde" when their bullet ridden bodies were photographed profusely by newspaper people. Or how about 1932's "Scarface," a movie that was basely loosely on gangster Al Capone's murderous life?
By 1959, Bob seemed to be constantly taking pictures of family and friends and he had over the years became enthralled with photographing the Guyandotte River and the many floods that occurred from its overflowing.
A neighbor asked Bob to take photos of their daughter's wedding in 1959 and the amateur cameraman obliged with pictures of a young Suzanne (Browning) Jarvis and her husband, Earl, who some may recall as a valuable component of the PRIDE organization in Logan County for many years. Mrs. Jarvis was a well-known local school teacher.
In 1961, Bob was the proprietor of Johnson's Men's Shop, which was located at what was called "Courthouse Square" in the building that had previously served as the first bank in Logan County, which comprised the entire block of where Logan Bank and Trust is located today. Johnson opened a small studio above Crown Jewelers on Stratton Street across from what was called G.C. Murphy's Dime Store. Bob was described as selling a suit to a customer at his clothing store and then hurrying to his studio to photograph a child for a parent or grandparent.
The stone structure that had served as the Guyan Bank had opened around 1905, closed during the Great Depression, and then was owned by former Logan County sheriff Don Chafin's heirs when Johnson's Men's Shop and 14 other businesses were located in the two-story former banking institution that is credited for the true economic development of Logan when coal started being hauled from Logan by railroad in 1904.
A stroke of luck came Johnson's way when he moved his photography studio in July of '62 into a larger location on Stratton Street across from the First Baptist Church. In November of the same year, a devastating million dollar fire engulfed the old bank building, destroying the Men's Shop as well as the other businesses, and even damaged nearby Crown Jewelers and the former studio above it.
Following the fire, Bob gave up the clothing business and opened full-time as "Johnson of Logan" at the Stratton Street location so he could pursue his love of photography on a full-time basis.
Bob joined the Professional Photographers of West Virginia and the Professional Photographers of America, furthered his photography education, and later served as president of the West Virginia organization.
By 1984, Bob and his wife, Frances, moved their business to a home-studio at Stollings where they changed the business name to Johnson Photography, which featured what was dubbed as a "portrait park" on the banks of the very river Johnson had photographed during so many flooded occasions.
There are probably those persons still around who may have had their weddings or high school graduation pictures, etc., taken by Bob Johnson at any one of his former locations. However, if you really want to see the true photography in a professional sense, one need only refer back to the days of 'Willie's Wild and Running Wildcats."
Yes, all team and group pictures of the various highly successful Logan Wildcats basketball squads - most of which were photographed by Johnson - can be found in just about any Logan High School Guyana yearbook or media guide from especially the 1970s through the '80s. Other Logan High sports teams also are featured in pictures by Johnson.
It was a time period long before cellphones existed and it was also a period when not only was Logan High School basketball great, but also when Johnson Photography was downright excellent.
It was, indeed, the "good old days."
BITS and PIECES: It should be noted that in relation to the above story, Polaroid filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008 and Kodak did the same in 2012. Interestingly, it was Kodak's technology that created digital photography, but the company's refusal to invest in the industry due to its core product being film serves as a simple reminder that even great things can come to a devastating end. China has most certainly benefited from Kodak's miscue, dominating the industry.
Speaking of devastating ends, I'm hearing through the grapevine that the former Sayers' building that has partially fallen onto Dingess Street in Logan could very well be dismantled before the Freedom Festival occurs in July. I'd say every effort for that to happen will be made. The mayor and other town officials deserve a better hand than the one they've been dealt.
One reason the building should be razed quickly is because the lower half of the structure is filled with water from all the rains, and if those bricks are loosened from the water pressure inside, then we can also say goodbye to some other nearby businesses, especially the building where Choppers' barber shop exists on Main Street.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill
CLOSING NOTE: Just to let you know, as of June 4th court costs on citations and other charges in magistrate court have increased $10 per charge. For instance, a speeding ticket will net the violator probably only a $5 fine, but he or she will now pay $175.25 in costs, which is why magistrates choose not to levy heavy fines.
Dwight Williamson is a former writer for the Logan Banner. He is now a magistrate for Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.