Here is the Rolleiflex 3.5f, the best TLR ever, and the first camera I bought with my own money. Here is a saga of adventure, danger, and near tragedy brought on by adolescent stupidity, meanness, and automatically following the lead of your “Moe” (think of the social dynamic of “The Three Stooges”). With a great camera comes great responsibility!
First, some history:
I bought this at a garage sale for $25 in 1963 with savings and my Christmas and birthday money when I was 13. I took family photos with it, and my father used it occasionally for job photos. He was a roofer and waterproofer. My stepmother never gave the camera much notice. She was not photographically inclined. Almost all the photos from this time are lost from sloppy moves. The camera survived because it was mostly kept rolled up in a shopping bag behind the seat of my father’s Studebaker truck. His truck was an island of order in a household of chaos.
Through the years, my father added a Beatty Intenscreen and a Rolleinar 2. The stock focusing screen was rather dim, and close-up capability always helps on the job. It’s now almost 49 years later and it still works perfectly, even the light meter. In my opinion, the Rolleiflex 3.5f is one of history’s greatest cameras. Everyone out there, haunt the garage sales, estate sales, boot sales, swap meets, charity shops, second hand stores, and search all your relative’s attics and basements. You could be lucky!
Now, the adventure:
I took the Rolleiflex 3.5f to my cousin Debbie’s birthday beach party at Zuma and it got several of us in trouble. Debbie had just turned 13 and looked like a dirty yellow mop – turned shag end up with 2 large blue buttons and 2 fairy cakes with pink frosting in the appropriate places. She was wearing a one piece with ruffles on the chest and butt. Debbie was 4’ 6’’ tall and mean as hell. She had forgotten her swimsuit so she her father bought her a US$0.98 suit from a bait and tackle shop on the way. It was made of stiff nylon and made crinkling noises. My cousin Billyjoe was 11. He and I were both rather small pudgy boys in blue shorts. My cousin Butchie, a majestic highschooler in his own mind, was there with his date — a large brunette, very bottom heavy girl wearing a red and yellow polka-dot bikini, too narrow for her butt-crack (She was much bigger than he was and her name is forgotten). Her mother was there (and was absolutely colossal in a hibiscus muumuu) along with Uncle Neil (who was drunk by then) to chaparone all of us and several other innocent children and teenagers. Also there was a large OD colour tent.
When we were together, Debbie was Moe, and Billyjoe and I were Larry and Curley. We all became stupid, and Debbie’s meanness was contagious. Debbie hated Butchie’s girlfriend and insisted we needed a photo of her butt-crack for future use, for what, it was never clarified. I had the Rolleiflex loaded with Tri-X. Butt-girl was bent over, head in the food basket, butt-crack wonderfully displayed. So, we snuck up behind her, Debbie pushing on me, and snapped the photo. Butt-girl heard Debbie crinkle and came after us. We ran but butt-girl was long legged and very fast so I lateraled the camera to Billyjoe, who threw a 40’ Hail Mary pass to Debbie for perfect reception. Debbie then ran full tilt into butt-girl’s mother, who took the camera away from her, and stuffed it in her muumuu, down her decolletage (it fit).
Debbie, Billyjoe, and I were herded into the tent and told to stay there for 1 hour for “meanness and egregious rudity”. About 15 minutes later, butt-girl’s mother kicked us out of the tent and shoved butt-girl in there with a sweater covering her butt and told her to stay 1 hour for “whining, butt crackage and egregious piggery”. Butt-girl’s mom had, apparently, looked in the food basket and liked the word “egregious”. I didn’t get the camera back that day, Butchie said he’d steal it back. About 2 weeks later, Uncle Neil drove over to our house (sober) and gave me back my camera. It was empty. Butt-girl’s mom probably shot the rest of the roll (about 6 left), and that butt shot is in some forgotten photo album almost 49 years in the past. Butt shots are, not only mean and rude, but dangerous. Butt-girl could have caught us. She was about 5’ 10" and about 190lb. If you take a butt photo, make sure no one crinkles.