Whatever Happened To…
I GOT UP THIS MORNING AND TURNED ON THE TV, just like I do on most mornings. I fiddle with the remote until I find TCM – Turner Classic Movies. It is my first mental challenge of the day. Remember the channel number and get my fingers to cooperate enough to hit the right buttons.
Just about every day is some Star’s “day,” either the day they came into the world or the day they left it. Once it has been established who the Star of the Day is the next question in my mind is: Still Alive or Dead?
About a week ago I figured out that the featured Star was Van Johnson. Being sure it was Van was not as simple as it sounds. They were showing a movie with both Van Johnson and June Allyson. Those two made about 600 movies together (or so it seems). It took another movie coming on to nail it down as Van’s day in the spotlight. Alive or Dead was not so easy.
At about 8:30 I went to see if my wife, the lovely and cinematically knowledgeable, Dawn, could, hopefully, give me an answer.
“I think that he is still alive,” she said over the edge of her teacup. “I think so too, the last of his era,” I agreed.
Van Johnson died in 2008. I guess I missed that one.
He just disappeared from my consciousness that morning. He disappeared from everything else in 2008.
People come and then they go. Things do that too. One minute they seem to be everywhere and then, Poof! You find out that they disappeared years before.
This morning I mentioned one such thing to Dawn. She looked at me like I was leading up to another Van Johnson question.
“Whatever happened to all those old Fotomat booths that used to be everywhere?” I asked her out of nowhere. She’s used to me doing that.
“I think they went out of business years ago – Digital cameras and all that.” She never lifted her eyes from her Kindle.
“No, I know that, but what in the world did they do with all of those little booths where you dropped off your film? There must have been millions of them.” She did lift her eyes on that one.
“I dunno,” and back to the Kindle.
This sent me off on a fact-finding mission. For an apparently pointless reason I needed to learn more about Fotomat and their ubiquitous booths. I should have spent my time researching Van Johnson.
I did uncover that those booths started popping up in the 1960s in strip malls all over the country and lasted unto 2009 – one year after Van Johnson checked out.
I found a lot of information about the company and its ups and downs and eventually it’s over and out as a corporate entity. But not one word about the fate of the (In reality – 4000 of them) booths.
When I finished my research I rushed into the other room to tell Dawn all about what I had learned. To say she was not impressed would be an understatement – like saying World War Two was just a little dust-up between friends. I can’t blame her, but still…
There is another show on the TV about a trend/fad in housing where people are building incredibly small houses, little more than – Oh, I don’t know – Fotomat booths. Maybe that’s to where they all disappeared: Cable TV – just a few channels down from Van Johnson.
I watch TCM some. Aren’t they the ones that have Silent Movies once a week…..I like those, especially the Comedies. I also remember those Photomats. I think they may still exist in some places, like Disney World and Holiday World…..places like that. Don’t remember ever buying anything at one, though. I remember thinking it was good they were there, just in case. I always took along enough film to last a year…..just in case.