Football Ghosts at Houck Stadium

If I can get in, I’m going to cover my first Central High School game in about four decades. When I asked Missourian photographer Fred Lynch what kind of credentials you need to get on the sidelines or if could I just talk my way in, he said it was pretty casual.

Don’t bother talking. Just head for the 30-yard line with a bigger lens than the high school kids use. You use a monopod? That makes you look like a pro. But I am sure that you carry yourself like a pro. No one will know you are retired.

Impersonating a photographer

If you don’t see anything here for a couple of days, you can assume that I’ve been busted for impersonating a photographer.

Football ghosts

I haven’t scanned many sports negatives because I have a problem figuring out which teams are in the photos. Most schools didn’t have team names or logos on their uniforms in those days. I’m only assuming these photos were taken at Central High School games.

If you click on the photo above to make it larger, you can see the ghostly images of football players hovering over the play. Number 24, in particular, shows up right above the quarterback.

The photographer was sloppy

I’d love to make up some scary story appropriate to the Halloween season, but there is a simple, technical explanation: the photographer was sloppy.

The photo was taken with a 4×5 Crown Graphic camera that used 4-inch by 5-inch sheets of film in a film holder or carrier.

When you went to take the first picture, you would insert the film carrier into the camera and pull a slide that protected the film from light when it was out of the camera. After taking the photo, you would replace the slide, remove the film holder and reverse it so the unexposed film was facing the lens. You would “pull the slide,” make the exposure, replace the slide, remove the holder and set it aside.

Sounds confusing, right? It was.

Lots of things could go wrong

  • You could forget to pull the slide, so the film was never exposed
  • You could forget to replace the slide, so the film would be ruined when it came out of the camera
  • You could forget to flip the folder, so the photos would be double exposed with more than one image on the film (which is what happened above).
  • You could grab a holder than had been used, which would result in a double (or more) exposure.

Four sheets of film, five flashbulbs

Film was expensive, so it was common to be sent to cover a football game with four sheets of film and five flashbulbs (the extra bulb was in case you forgot to pull the slide, see above). You learned to make every shot count.

Flash bulbs, cold weather and static electricity were a bad mix. You usually carried the flash bulbs in your pants pocket. On a cold night, static electricity could create a spark that would ignite a bulb in your pocket. If ONE bulb went off, they’d ALL go off. Flashbulbs put out a LOT of heat.

If you ever saw me jumping and thrashing around on the sidelines, I wasn’t trying out a new dance step. There was a fiery furnace raging in my pants pocket.

66 or 67 Central High School football team