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Stan’s Stuff

Classic cameras and antiques

She was my kind of gal! Well past 90 and her eyes sparkled with life. In late 1945, as a young woman, she checked the distribution of NZ food aid in war-time Europe. She told me of a a huge hillock of New Zealand milk powder in a warehouse in Athens.
 |  Stan Stewart  | 

“The Greeks didn’t know what to do with it,” she told me. And there were many other stories.

Her house was like a fine art museum. I admired the paintings that lined her walls.

“They are all originals,” she said. She had few visitors. I was always welcome.

Later, I visited her in a retirement home hospital. A fall had changed her life.  In her room she had three items from her splendid home – a chair, a small coffee table, a photo of her long-deceased husband and an A4 size painting – an original of course.

Sadly, once she could not move around, the end of her life came quickly. She had no children but no shortage of relatives.

At the funeral, her relatives were all elegantly dressed. To me the assembly looked rather like a gathering at the Ascot Races. After the service, polite conversation reigned supreme.

Her house was quickly sold. I wondered what happened to the wonderful art and period furniture? Her friends wonder the same thing.

The reason I have been thinking of her is because now it is my turn to get rid of prized possessions.

For years a passion of mine was video photography and video production. I would endlessly scrutinize catalogues.

When in the US where 24-hour-0800 – sales-outlets were the norm, I would ring outlets through the night to obtain the best deal on video equipment.

In time we had a reasonable collection of equipment. It used up a lot of money.

Because of their value, I studiously insured the most costly items – descriptions, serial numbers etc.

Our possessions are now between houses in Auckland. On a Saturday when we were out of Whitianga, a friend brought a van load of our stuff.

Horror of horrors, there in a plastic box was our video gear – our cameras. I had forgotten we still had them. At one stage they were my most treasured possessions. However, they are no longer useful to us or to anyone. But now, large as life, they sit beside my desk. It seems they are asking, “What next?”

On January 9, 2007 on TV, I watched Steve Jobs introduce the iPhone. He said it would change the world. It looked like a gimmick to me. It could take photos – really? In 2009 he introduced a model that could take video. So what? My friend, a professional photographer told me, “The print definition will never match film!”

I met him a few months ago. All his cameras are now digital. When I asked about his super-duper print cameras, he winced.

I know he has the same problem I have. I’m sure he has cupboards full of great gear which is now superseded that he can’t bear to part with – precision made equipment that is now useless.

Today in Whitianga, streams of the most beautiful cars ever made, rumble through our streets. Every one of them the result of numberless hours of loving work.

Cars, utes and vans from the 50’s and 60’s when Detroit was the capital of the auto world and the price of petrol was irrelevant and parking spaces were much larger.

I am envious. The owners have been able to restore these icons of our young life. They look like new.

However, despite the fact their vehicles are once again youthful, the restorers are not. Old Father Time takes no prisoners! All the restorers are on the aging projectile. Taking their bodies back decades is a tougher project than restoring cars.

That reminds me of my 90-plus girlfriend mentioned above. At first with her husband and then on her own, she had collected a house full of beautiful things.

But the time came when she had to say good-bye to her beautiful house and settle for one chair, a coffee table, a photo, and a small painting.

Maybe our cameras can go on display somewhere – historical artefacts? What I know for sure is that for us they are now memorabilia not contributors to life.

In the meantime, we have life to live. There are a few things that I ‘treasure’ now as much as I used to treasure our cameras.

In my 86th year, my sense is the best thing to cherish is people – old friends and new friends. I have met some people in Whitianga that I now truly cherish.

Where were they in all the other years of my life? I don’t know but I’m glad I have met them here and I cherish them and they make me smile.