I was a Girl Scout when I was a child. The official handbook for Junior Girl Scouts (which is the level I was at when this story began) had a list of badges that each Junior Girl Scout could earn. I saw one badge that intrigued me. It was called “My Camera” and it dealt with photography.

Up to that point I hadn’t taken any photographs but I was the subject of a lot of pictures that were taken by my relatives (mostly by my mother although my father took pictures from time to time as well). I looked at the requirements and they sounded interesting to me.

I convinced my parents that I wanted to pursue this badge so they bought me my first camera, which was a Kodak Pocket Instamatic. This camera used film cartridges that dropped into the back of the camera. If I wanted to take indoor pictures I had to put a little flash cube in the top slot.

Unlike digital photography where I can take a huge amount of photographs as long as I have adequate disk space, film photography was way more limited. The film cartridge for this camera came in either 12 exposure or 24 exposure with the latter being way more expensive. I remember my parents started me off with just 12 exposure, which is why I don’t have super extensive photos of any of the events I covered in order to get my Girl Scout badge.

Basically I took enough photos that I earned this badge, which I still have to this day.

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In order to earn the “My Camera” badge I had to photograph a couple of events and put them in a picture album. My parents bought me my first album that was titled “Brag Book” and had this pretty peacock design on the cover.

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I wrote my name in as neat cursive as I possibly could write along with 1972, the year I took all of these photos in this album.

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Now on to the photos themselves. The first event I shot for this album was for the birthday party of Diane, my youngest cousin on my mother’s side of the family who was celebrating her sixth birthday. The original caption of the next photo reads “First view of the house.” (There’s also a portion of my own thumb covering the camera lens on the right side of the picture, which is a dead giveaway that I was a photography newbie.)

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Caption of the next photograph: “The Birthday Girl Diane Lipp.”

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Caption of next photo: “Birthday Girl with the presents.”

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Original caption: “Opening the presents.” Diane’s older sister, Eileen, looks on while Diane opens her presents.

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Original caption: “Looking at the presents.” The blonde woman holding a book on the left is my mother while my cousin (and Diane’s oldest sister) Bernie looks at the pages. Diane is seated on the right with her back to me. Strangely my mother was the only adult I actually photographed at that birthday party despite the fact that my father, grandmother, and my aunt and uncle (Diane’s parents) were also present. (Of course I was dealing with the fact that, unlike today’s digital cameras, I had a limited amount of exposures I could make with film so I had to be very picky as to what pictures I would take.)

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Original caption: “The guests at the party.” This is a group photo of Diane and her sisters (my cousins). Diane is seated at the head of the table. Standing from left to right are Debbie, Bernie, and Eileen.

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Original caption: “The birthday cake.” My cousin Debbie’s back partially obscures the cake, which was a homemade chocolate frosted cake that had Diane’s name and the number 6 spelled out in M&M’s while a small train held the birthday candles.

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Original caption: “Blowing out the candles.”

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Original caption: “My cousin Debbie at the party.” And she’s sucking on a lemon as well.

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Original caption: “The cat with the party girls Bernie [located on the right], Debbie [holding the cat in her arms], Eileen [holding a doll on the left], and Diane [second from the left].”

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Original caption: “Pussy Cat behind a chair.” (Yes, my cousins actually named the family cat “Pussy Cat.”)

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The next few photos are of another event that also took place in the same home where my cousins grew up. Diane’s birthday is in January so, based on the clothes that the girls wore in the next few photos, I have to guess that these were taken sometime between May and August. The original caption of the next photo reads “Another view of the house.”

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Original caption: “Debbie holding Pussy Cat.”

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Original caption: “Debbie, Diane [holding the cat] and the cat named Pussy Cat.”

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Original caption: “Debbie [seated at the left holding Pussy Cat in her lap], Eileen [lying in the entrance to a tent that was erected in the backyard], and Diane at the tent.”

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I’m going to pause right here and provide one of those “Where are they now?” updates. Pussy Cat has crossed that Rainbow Bridge to wherever pets go in the afterlife a long time ago. My aunt and uncle (my cousins’ parents) are both dead. So are my father and grandmother. My mother is still alive while dealing with multiple sclerosis. As for my cousins, the birthday girl, Diane, now works for the Social Security Administration. She’s married with two sons, the younger of whom have just started his freshman year of college. Eileen is a schoolteacher. She’s married with a teenage stepson. She also has two grown sons from a previous marriage. Debbie works in security at NASA Kennedy Space Flight Center in Florida. She’s divorced and the mother of two grown daughters. Bernie is a physical therapist. She’s married with four children with the younger two still living at home and attending high school. (Her two older children have moved out on their own.)

The next few pictures are of a different event. Sue was a cousin on my father’s side of the family and I remember she was my father’s first cousin (which makes her my first cousin once-removed). We were invited to a party held at her house to celebrate the baptism of her first child, who was less than a month old at the time. (For some reason we were only invited to the party but not to the baptism itself. I suspect it’s because of the fact that my Protestant father was married to my Roman Catholic mother and I was being raised as a Catholic so there was some kind of organized religion bullshit going on. I’ll admit that I’m not much of a fan of organized religion and if it weren’t for the fact that I am currently a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation that has no creed or dogma, I wouldn’t even bother with organized religion at all, but I digress.)

The original caption to the next photograph reads “First view of Sue’s house.”

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Original caption: “The guests at the baptism party.” Unfortunately I took a photo of everyone’s backs while they were getting food so I really can’t tell you who was who. But you can at least get a good look of some of the early 1970’s hairstyles and fashions.

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Original caption: “Grandmom at the table.” My late grandmother was my father’s mother and she’s the only relative whose photo I took whom I could identify. (Unfortunately I have no idea as to the identity of that girl who’s to the left of my grandmother.)

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Original caption: “The guests at the kitchen.” Unfortunately I can’t identify any of the people in that photograph (and the fact that the picture is a bit on the blurry side doesn’t help at all).

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My parents lost contact with my father’s cousin Sue after that baptism party so I have no idea whatever became of her (or if she’s even still alive now). Nor do I know whatever became of that baby whose baptism party we attended. My grandmother has since passed away.

The last pictures in this photo album are of the annual family week-long vacation in Ocean City, Maryland. This was an era when the beach was dotted with small cottage-like apartment buildings that had anywhere from 6-24 rooms in each building. Starting in the late 1970s developers began building these huge condominiums which obliterated the beachfront views of the smaller apartment buildings. In a lot of cases these older buildings were torn down in order to make room for these larger condos. The original caption in the next photo reads “Mom and Dad” and, yes, they are my parents.

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Original caption: “Last year’s apartment.” This shows the place where my family stayed on the previous year’s trip (in 1971).

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Original caption: “This year’s apartment.” You can get a sense as to what the architecture was like in Ocean City before all of these huge condos were built.

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Original caption: “Peir [sic] 78.” I think Pier 78 was the building in the background. I don’t remember why I decided to take that picture since I don’t recall my family ever staying in that building. I also don’t recognize the woman sitting on the blanket in the foreground either. (She was probably a stranger.)

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Original caption: “Cathy and Smiley.” I remember my parents got me a Smiley pillow for either my birthday or Christmas (both are just 10 days apart from each other) the previous year. This was at the height of the Smiley Face craze of the 1970’s when there were all kinds of products featuring the Smiley Face. I remember I brought that pillow with me to Ocean City. That trip to Ocean City was one of those years when we shared an apartment with my aunt, uncle, and four cousins (whose pictures I posted earlier in this post). A friend of my aunt’s (whose name I’ve since forgotten) was also staying in Ocean City with her family at the same time so she dropped by the apartment with her toddler daughter named Cathy. I remember Cathy took a liking to my Smiley pillow so much that she carried it around with her everywhere she walked in that apartment and I decided to take that picture. I think the girl in the background may be my cousin Eileen but I don’t know for sure because this photo is a bit on the blurry side and the colors have become faded with age.

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I never saw Cathy or her mother again after that photo so I don’t know what became of either of them. My father passed away in 2000. Like I wrote earlier, my mother is still alive and well despite having to deal with multiple sclerosis.

Here’s the back of the Brag Book. Note the name “Japan” printed in gold on the lover right hand corner. Japan was the nation that many companies frequently went to when they wanted to manufacture cheap goods at a fraction of the cost of manufacturing these same goods in the United States. Japan has since been overtaken by China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and many other Third World countries as the place to go to manufacture goods as cheaply as possible so Japan is no longer synonymous with cheaply made imports.

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So now you know how I began as a photographer. Here’s another look at the “My Camera” badge, which I’m still proud of to this day because it ranks as my earliest accomplishments that I did because I wanted to, not because my parents/teachers/other adults told me that I had to do.

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I looked up the “My Camera” Girl Scout badge for Junior Girl Scouts online and I found that it has sine been replaced with one in Digital Photography including a completely redesigned badge. I suppose it was inevitable given the great strides in photography in the years since I started taking pictures with the Kodak Pocket Instamatic camera on film. At least today’s Girl Scouts still have the opportunity to earn a badge by trying their hand at photography, which is a good thing. I know that if it weren’t for the “My Camera” badge from a long time ago, I don’t know if I would have discovered how much I love photography and my life would’ve been way different (and so would the content of this blog).

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