In 1971, while going to school at the University of Rhode Island, I would sometimes hitchhike up to Providence to catch the bus to Springfield.  One afternoon, having several hours before the bus left, I took a walk down to a camera store I’d heard about, “Arthur’s,” as I recall (which, of course, is to say I’d greatly appreciate if anyone could clarify my memory).  Looking at the various cameras in the glass cases I noticed a Nikkormat FTn, a camera I’d read about in several of the photography magazines of the time.  It was one of the first cameras to have “open aperture metering,” a major technological advancement.

The owner of the store noticed me—well, I supposed it’s possible the word “caressing” might be appropriate.  “You like it?”

The camera fit in my hands as if the Nippon Kogaku designer had built it specifically for me, “Absolutely, it’s fabulous!”

“It’s yours, I’ll give you a deal.  $228 with the lens, I’ll include the leather case!”

“Well, I’d like to get it but I don’t have that much money.”

“You can put something down, pay me some of it everytime you’re in Providence.”

I couldn’t believe it!  I checked my pockets and found I had a bus ticket and about a dollar in change.  “I’ve only got a dollar on me, sorry.”

He didn’t blink, “No problem, you can give me fifty cents down payment.”

I agreed, gave him two quarters, and he boxed up the camera, lens, and case, “Do you need a bag?”

“No, you can keep it until I’ve paid all of what I owe.”

He laughed, “I trust you, you can take it now.”

I was tempted, but I said, “No, it’s not about trust.  I don’t want it until it’s all mine.”

It was several weeks, after many hours painting trim on houses and other yard work all over South County, and more than a few all-nighters writing term papers for members of the freshman football team, that I hitched back to Providence and collected the Nikkormat.

The Nikkormat served me well for many, many years.  When I finally moved on to a Nikon F3HP it stayed in my bag as a backup camera for my wedding photography.  Sometime in the mid-80s I accidentally dropped it into the Sandy River.  After disassembling it, drying it as best I could, and removing the inoperative light meter galvanometer, it remained in use for many more years before I finally passed it on to one of my students who wanted to become a photographer!


©2018 - Patrick L. Groleau

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Nikkormat FTn