By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/18/2019
Posted: 7/2/2007
Topics/Keywords: #DorothyWeemsBrown #Florida #Photography Page Views: 4492
The time I visited Jacksonville International Airport in 1970, when it was new.

In 1968, the big news in St. Augustine was the newly-completed Jacksonville International Airport. St. Augustine had its own airport, but there had never been commercial flights to or from it. So Jacksonville Airport meant that St. Augustinians now had the option of flying somewhere, rather than driving or taking a train or bus.

On June 5th of that year, my friend Joe McGrath's dad had me drive him to the airport. Mr. McGrath owned a Cadillac and it was like driving a living room. But even more impressive was the airport, a marvel of modern design and sleek likes. For me, it was like being in a space ship. Although an innovation that impressed airport designers was its (then) unique approach of having entrances for arriving and departing passengers on opposite sides, for me that was dwarfed by the presence of large color TV sets in the main lobby. I had seen very few color TVs up to that point, and these were state-of-the-art, with screens that were more rectangular than round.

It was on one of those screens, that day, after seeing Mr. McGrath off to his gate, that I watched the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

In 1969, several of us from my class at school visited Jacksonville Airport on a lark—that's how exciting it was. This was long before any kind of airport security, of course; we could walk the halls and even go out on the roof to watch the jets take off. As one was getting up speed, our friend Rosemary said, "Wouldn't it be awful if we were watching and one of the jet's engines blew up and it had to land?" As if on cue, a great puff of black smoke emitted from one of the jet's engines; it took off, but circled and immediately landed. Rosemary, unable to believe she had foreseen this, instead believed she had caused the incident (I ask you, which is more likely??!) and remained terribly upset the rest of the day, in spite of the fact that no harm was done except to travelers' schedules.

Gramma arrives from her journey.

By 1970 the urge to fly was so commonplace that even my grandmother, Dorothy Weems Brown, was ready to go. She had been thinking of taking a trip to New Jersey to visit her friends up there but a journey by train/bus/car seemed just too tedious to consider. Now there was the opportunity to go by air, and no reason not to.

She left in July and the house certainly seemed strange without her. Finally, the two weeks were over and Mom, my sister Mary Joan, and I left to pick her up at the airport.

I went prepared with a special film I had discovered: a Kodak black-and-white high-speed film, ASA 1200, that would permit me to take snapshots indoors without a flash. I shot the entire roll at the airport, carefully saving one shot for Gramma's actual arrival.

Cars could park briefly outside the doors of Jacksonville International Airport, 1970.

The downside, as I discovered when the prints came back from the drugstore, was that the high-speed film was very grainy (a common artifact of high-speed films in general). For some pictures, grain can be an interesting effect used intentionally. For these, it was more distracting than anything else. Another artifact was a kind of halo or glow around bright objects that I found interesting. The result was not quite architectural photography, but a tab ethereal than that—appropriately rendering the outer-space feeling I got from the place.

These days, grain—which in digital photography is referred to as "noise"—can now be added to or removed from a digital image as desired. After having the original negatives digitized by Memories Renewed, and removing dust and scratches with Microsoft PhotoDraw, I used the free program Neat Image to remove the grain from that roll (but retaining the halos), as seen in the photos below.

Gramma just getting on the escalator. Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. Mom and Mary Joan walking down the long hall at JAX, 1970. Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. A jet on the runway at Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. A jet on the runway at Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. A jet on the runway at Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. A jet on the runway at Jacksonville International Airport, 1970. A jet on the runway at Jacksonville International Airport, 1970.