My father, the garden, and his darkroom trash can.

My father, GF Johnson, was a man of many interests - truly a renaissance man during the 60s. Stubborn, proud and highly creative in his own way. If it could be made, Father would make it himself. If something broke, he fixed it. You got in trouble if you threw something away - that something could be just what he needed to make a repair.  

During the 50s, he and my mother bought a beautiful piece of property in the country, and over the course of time he built the house that I grew up in. He and Mother always had a garden on the hill outside of our house. The tractor used to plow the garden was one that he built himself. He would make me stand on the plow to ensure that the furrows were cut deep as he drove the tractor through the garden. Carrying brown paper bags filled with seeds bought from the bins located in Plegher’s General Store, we would drop just the right amount of seed into the warm dark soil. The garden provided lots of delicious produce, which Mother spent hours freezing, canning and preparing into delicious country-style meals. As for myself, I was just happy being outside.

One of Father’s many interests included photography. He built himself a small, but adequate darkroom directly off of his and Mother’s bedroom. I loved going into the darkroom as it was always filled with interesting equipment, chemicals and tools. It was particularly fascinating to be invited in when he was using the enlarger or developing prints. It was a commitment; you couldn’t just leave when you felt like it as any light let in by opening the door would ruin the photos! The warm darkness, except for the red safe light, and the acrid smell of the chemicals come back clearly in my memories. But, best of all, I relished looking in the small round yellow plastic trashcan underneath the table on which the enlarger was placed. You never knew what you might find in the trashcan: small metal film canisters, bits of this and that, all of which provided interesting detritus for creative play. My Father didn’t throw away much, but the items that he did “pitch out” were fascinating treasures to me.

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