Wrapping Up 2012

Stenciled Happy New Year sign in Steinhoff front windowI ran this photo back in May with some basketball tournament photos, so I hope that either everybody is so hung over they won’t bother to read the page on New Year’s Day or that they have gotten to the age where their short-term memory has gone blank.The Happy New Year sign was on our living room window.

I never was fond on New Year’s Eve

I don’t have a lot of fond memories of New Year’s Eve. I never cared much for parties and particularly didn’t like to be out on “amateur night,” when the streets had drunk drivers roaming around. One night in particular, and I remember it as New Year’s Eve, but I can’t swear to it, I was on my way home when I rolled up on a fresh wreck. Car vs. utility pole with the vehicle on its side and the wires sparking all over the place.


Somehow or another, I managed to convince the people in the car to STAY THERE. As long as the car isn’t on fire or about to explode, you’re a lot safer inside. The metal body works like a Faraday Cage, with the electrical charge riding the surface of the vehicle. If the occupant gets out and gives the power a chance to use his body as a path to ground, things get ugly. If you can’t jump completely clear of the vehicle, then you are better off waiting until the power is cut off.

I don’t know if I had to load my camera in the dark and in the excitement, but I didn’t get the end of the roll of film engaged in the takeup spool and it slipped off when I hit the advance lever. I was clicking away like mad, but there was no film being pulled through to be exposed. After the power had been shut off and the victims transported, I left. I’m not sure how long it was before I checked the camera and discovered my mistake, but by the time I got back, all I was able to shoot was a mugshot of a car with a power pole on top of it.

I never loaded a camera again without reaching for the rewind knob and making sure there was resistance, indicating that the end of the film was firmly on the takeup spool.

Let’s put another myth of rest: your rubber tires won’t keep you safe. I worked a cherrypicker that tangled with a power line. The voltage was high enough that the charge arched from the steel rims of the huge truck tires to ground, melting the rubber. One of the workers had the good sense to stay on the truck. The other panicked and tried to get down. He evidently had one hand on the truck when his feet hit the ground because all that electricity found him a more convenient path than having to arc through the air. THAT was an object lesson you don’t forget.

Tornado time

Lightning storm c 1966We had an elderly woman, Helen, living across the street from us who enjoyed Southern Comfort and shrimp cocktail. We invited her over to ring in the New Year with us. I had just poured the first drink and reached for the first shrimp when I got a call from the office: a rare winter tornado had swept though an RV park on an island in Lake Okeechobee near Belle Glade. There were reports of injuries and power lines down. It was late, but could I get somebody out there and back in time to make deadline?

I knew where the park was and I knew I was sober, so I saddled up and drove 50 miles through driving rain, dodged arcing power lines, shot off enough frames to show that SOMETHING had happened and jetted back. I made deadline with some not-so-memorable photos, but sometimes that’s all you can hope for.

So, I am going to be as happy to be sitting here at home on New Year’s Eve, hoping all that ammo our neighbors are shooting up into the sky will come down on them and not rain down on our house.




4 Replies to “Wrapping Up 2012”

  1. Happy New Year to all. I was reading when some shooting signaled the New Year. It snowed in our area so we decided to stay at home and avoid the crazies and the weather. We are real party animals!

    Ken, your story about electric and car accidents bring back some memories. Incidently, we can no longer film any incident scenes, mainly used for training purposes, because of privacy concerns and that they could be obtained by the public.

    1. Bill, I can see that times have changed.

      I generally didn’t concentrate on victims. I tried to shoot the efforts the rescue workers were making to save them. Whenever possible, I’d have the victim’s face blocked by someone or something in the foreground.

      I made an exception in this case. The humanity of the moment caught me.

  2. Happy New Year! Ken, I’ve been there with you on film take-up problems. I shot a roll of film in the up-state New York Finger Lakes area on the way to Corning. Somehow I got crossed up and did not fully rewind the film at the end of the roll and did not remove the roll immediately. We got to Corning and when I was ready to take pictures of the beautiful glass art, I opened the camera, found an unconnected roll inside, fed it into the take-up reel and beagn shooting some of the most bizarre double-exposures ever!

  3. I never go out on New Year’s Eve…that is for amateur party people and consider myself way above amateur status, thank you. So I sat with my Dad in Cape and watched Dick Clark’s Times Square event and then because we are in the central time zone, I watched the Moon Pie event in Mobile Alabama. You have to watch this next year. The have 350 pound Moon Pie on a rope and the lower it off of a 35 story bank building in Mobile Alabama at midnight.
    You HAVE to see this event next year, it local TV at it’s locally produced best. The Commedores played and all their fans were in the audience singing “She’s a Brick House” and leading “Old Angsign”. (Note to band, learn the words for next year) Yes indeed, my new years was brought in with style!
    Happy New years to all….

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