It was my first summer vacation trip with Grandma Anna. She wanted to see if I was ready to start fulfilling her fantasy of a long vacation trip with her grandsons every summer. I was 8 years old and ready.My brother was 5 and a few years away from ready. She planned a four day trip up through Michigan(from our home in Indiana) visiting the Henry Ford Museum and crossing the Ambassador bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, Canada. And that’s where I fell in love with my little brownie. No, I was not a perverted cub scout, but I was interested in keeping a journal and taking pictures. Sitting on a small pedestal in a huge window of a camera store in downtown Windsor, Ontario sat my Brownie Hawkeye. The sign said, $5.95 including two rolls of film. Sounds pretty cheap for a real camera, doesn’t it? Let me do the inflationary dollar game for you. $5.95 in 1950 would now be $33.50. That’s a lot of savings and work to earn for an eight year old. I had been saving that money for a few years from allowance, birthday money, Christmas money, tooth fairy coins, plus I had just started my first business…selling night-crawlers(fishing worms—35 cents-a-dozen—3 dozen for a dollar). I had given Grandma Anna around $7 to keep for me when we left. I still had two days left. I looked questioningly at Grandma Anna. She said, “Well it’s your money to spend how you want and I think it would be a good investment.”
The man behind the counter showed me how to load the film and I proudly walked out the door with my very own camera. I was one of the early customers of Eastman Kodak’s first release of a low-priced camera. Until the Brownie camera series, only professionals could afford a camera. A Pentax in 1950 was $200.00 ($1900 today). I loved my Brownie Hawkeye!
Memories of that trip with Grandma in the summer of 1950 returned over the weekend while I had a few hours layover in Detroit. There are so many changes and not all are good changes. When I was a tourist here in 1950, Detroit was the 5th largest city in the USA, with one million eight hundred fifty thousand residents. Los Angeles was the 4th largest with one million nine hundred seventy thousand residents. I flew out of Los Angeles in the morning and the population there is now three million eight hundred thousand. (Doubled) I landed in Detroit in the afternoon where the population is now seven hundred thirteen thousand. (A 60% drop)
I pointed and clicked my Brownie Hawkeye all over Detroit and Dearborn, filling my brain with unforgettable images and sweet memories. I remember being so impressed that Detroit was founded by a Cadillac, not the other way around. The French explorer, Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac established Detroit in 1701.
I bet they are happy they weren’t discovered by the famous Spanish explorer, Fernando Peecacrapp. Can you image what we’d be saying to our friends instead of, “Gee that’s an incredible looking “Cadillac” you’re driving Sam?