It’s raining today and a post on the Clacton & District Local History Society Facebook site has inspired me to go down memory lane.
Mark Barrett (the son of one of Walton Primary School’s most appreciated 1950s teachers) posted a photo of a wallet in which customers’ photo prints were supplied by Putmans in the 1950s. It was similar to this one. This reminded me that I have a number of old print wallets stored away.
So here is a brief history of Putmans Print Wallets.
The earliest one I’ve ever seen was probably in use in the 1920s. This was when Frank Putman started in business working from his parents’ home at 12 Church Villas, where he developed and printed films in a shed in the back garden. He had a hut on the Albion Beach where he both took photos and also accepted holidaymakers’ films for processing.
This was at a time when Kodak was the most popular name in photography.
It refers to “The Kodak Way” and “Velox” Gaslight printing paper which was sold in three different grades for the discriminating amateur to get the very best out of any negative contrast.
Also it advertises The “Kodak” Self-Timer which could be attached instead of a cable release to enable the owner to include themselves in the picture.
‘Selfies’ are not new
The ‘Kodak’ Magazine was available for two pence monthly.
Frank Putman then leased premises at 86/88, High Street where a simple, locally printed manila envelope was used to hand back the customer’s prints. This was probably during WWII when the business was carried on by his wife Jessie, whilst he was serving in the RAF.
In the 1950s the yellow Kodak wallet pictured at the top of this post were used and were then followed by a neat, smaller wallet, supplied by Ilford Films, with a variety of pictures on the covers. At this time most films were roll films (120, 620, 127, 116, 118 etc.) and they were contact printed. i.e. the prints were made the same size as the negatives. All of this was done manually – no automation. Larger prints were made using the conventional enlarger.
It was around this time that I came onto the scene. I started working as ‘the lad’ doing anything I was allowed to do, and at 11-years-old I thought I could do everything. My main task was to load the individual prints which came out of the darkroom having been washed, onto a moving canvas belt which took them around a highly polished and very hot stainless steel drum to both dry them and impart a glaze (shiny surface) to them. At this tender unenlightened age I relished this job as very occasionally there would be a topless female photo.
I joined the business when I left school at 16 and by then the term ‘Enprint’ was the preferred size of print. These were a bit larger than the old contact prints and the darkroom had been equipped with an Enprint printing machine and automatic roll paper processor.
Putmans processed and printed films for all the Walton, Frinton and Kirby chemists and other outlets where film was sold during the summer months.
It was down to me to cycle to all of these shops twice a day to collect the films and then deliver the finished prints.
In the peak summer time this amounted to hundreds of films each day.
Winter time was quite a different matter and this was when we serviced the machines and spent hours printing the name on the wallets as you can see in the above picture. This was done by an amazing little machine called a “Rollboy” which printed four different colour inks each time it was rolled across a wallet.
The final style wallet used was this one which was commercially printed and supplied to us at great expense in the tens of thousands.
If you have a Putman photo wallet tucked away somewhere – and there must be thousands of them still in boxes and lofts – I would be pleased to see it if it is different from any I’ve illustrated here.