Goodbye Kodachrome Goddammit

My father’s birthday was June 28, 1907.  He died in 1989 at 81.

He loved boats of all shapes and sizes and photography.  He took this photo in 1953 of my older brother and pigtailed me on Kodachrome slide film that shall be discontinued in the coming months according to Kodak and no longer available.

In 2007, I made the slide into what is called a “Polaroid Transfer” using Polaroid instant film.  It’s a transfer process involving the slide, Polaroid film, electric skillets with water baths of 100 degrees, and a lightweight contraption that takes a photo of the slide on the Polaroid film.

You arrange the emulsion gently with your fingers on paper but God help you if your fine motor coordination fishing the emulsion from the electric skillet takes a vacation that day.

Goodbye everything that went before and you have to start over.

O, yes.  Did I mention that Polaroid film was discontinued last year?

So, there you have it.  No more father (1989), brother (1998), mother (2001), Kodachrome (2009) or Polaroid film (2008).

Goodbye everything that goes before,  goddammit.

But, memory has not been discontinued (so far) you bastards of the Disappearance of Life’s Good Things, and I poke your rheumy eye with a sharp stick with this memory of my father when I was 11 and my brother, 14.

It was 1956 and our family of four had just returned from Italy on the Italian Liner, “Andrea Doria”.  We had gone over on the “Queen Mary” and I can safely say that for four of the five day crossing, during a raging storm, I threw up several lifetimes.  But, the return trip was on smooth seas and what I lost in the trip over, I made up in spaghetti on the trip back, which is sadly one of my best memories of this luxurious ship–spaghetti and the pool.

15 days after we’d landed back in New York and we were home near Cape Cod,  the “Andrea Doria” was on her return trip to New York but sank off Nantucket after colliding with another ship, “Stockholm”, in the fog.

My father was a ham radio operator and heard the distress call on his bedside radio around 11 PM and stayed up all night listening to the radio traffic.   He woke us at daylight when the first newsreels were broadcast on TV.

We were only about 50 miles from where the ship was sinking.

Around 10 AM, eleven hours after the collision, with a twist and roll which exposed her propeller, the “Andrea Doria” turned to a sickening 180 degree angle.   The swimming pool where I had lived for most of our voyage was totally submerged and now faced the bottom of the Atlantic instead of the overcast sky.

We all watched the black and white aerial coverage of her last moments in silence.

After a few minutes of paralysis looking at the TV, my father quietly got up and went outside to the lawn and raised our flag but only to half mast. I watched him from the window hook the edges of the stars and stripes and raise it half way up the pole.  He had taught us that when someone important died this was how one paid respect.

We kept the newspapers and magazines covering the story in the library closet and fifty years later in 2006, I made a digital collage of their covers and hung it in my living room.  My grand niece and nephews looked at it and wanted to know where Papa Tim (my late brother, their grandfather) and I had slept on the ship.

Port side, midship.

Cabin #445.

Take that–Pow! KAZAAM!–you bastards of goodbye everything.

©Pat Coakley 2009


**Select photographs from this blog and my wider archive can be purchased at

44 comments on “Goodbye Kodachrome Goddammit”

  1. great story….what fond memories you must have of the whole trip.
    As long as there are photos nothing is lost or forgotten.

    I wish I had a dollar for each time I shot a frame of Kodachrome Slide film.


    • Thanks for taking the time to comment cherokeebydesign. I, too, wish I had a dollar for each Kodachrome slide I took, primarily because I never did master camera shake at 25 ASA!

  2. “I poke your rheumy eye with a sharp stick”

    My God, Pat. This is gorgeous!

    You were ON the Andrea Doria?! I’d love to see that collage on your wall . . .

    • I’ll post the collage sometime soon, Brian. I took it down after a few months from my living room wall. Sorta depressed me.

  3. an explosion of an idea, brilliant, poignant writing, real, just totally moving, and the ragged edges of the photo (and the wonderful detailing of the process)
    just pushes it over the top into a place of its own-
    you so deserve that award, Pat, this work is outstandingly original and

  4. Thank you for saving this picture, which makes me cry because my dad is perched on the bow of an outboard, his favorite place, and because the angles are so beautiful and sophisticated. I am blessed to have that photographer and you in my life! Congratulations on the award!

    • Oh, Al, I’m so glad you like this photo! And loved reading your comments…at least what I can decipher while wailing. Holy God. I’ve got to harden the f up like my aussie friend always reminds me to do.

  5. Congratulations Patricia for a lovely piece recalling the past this morning, and for wiinning the first place award in the solo performance of your blob.
    Once again, you have made me proud.
    What a nice birthday present for Uncle Tim. He was always proud of you, but your accolade today woudn’t have hurt!

    • Oh, cousin Mary…you, the blob, the waters of Buzzards Bay… Uncle Tim…brother Tim….excuse me while I go get another kleenex.

  6. congratulations cousin/auntie patricia. the picture and the piece brought tears to my eyes…
    xo, fc

  7. Once again, incredibly moving story and congratulations on a well deserved award!

  8. Pat, I don’t know what it is about your images and how they make me feel out-of-body sometimes, but this is one of them. If I said Norman Rockwell-esque, would that make sense to you? There’s just something about the composition and the pigtails and the daily life represented here that makes me think of him. The grainy quality puts it into the memory bank era. Then the tale of the Andrea Doria with spaghetti lost and spaghetti demolished, only for her to sink so soon after your family trip. All of it combines to make a post worthy of an award, as is most of your thought-provoking work. Huge congratulations – it’s wonderful to know that your site is appreciated as much by influential bodies such as the Nat Soc of Newspaper Columnists, as it is by your many loyal readers. Ooooh if only you lived closer I’d be round in a flash to give you a massive hug!

    • Epic, If I knew you back then, I’d know whether the spaghetti had meat sauce or cream. In fact, I’d probably have gone down with the ship and never gotten off cuz the food was delicious! Thanks so much. As always.

  9. Congrats on the award! And I loved this story. You are amazing. I keep meaning to ask you about doing one of those lovely ‘paintings’ from a photo…I will try to get around to a specific email. All the best!

    • Allison, you are sweet to take the time to comment! I’m laughing because one of my favorite NYC memories ever is flipping the bird to you and Steve and your lovely children from the back seat of my taxicab. You all were in the SUV behind us. We had just come from that laugh a minute, “Pillowman”. Ah, memories!

  10. Your image perfectly conveys a sense of the fleeting nature of memory.

    It’s too bad Kodachrome is going to be discontinued because it is such a stable film. I’ve seen Kodachrome images from the late 1930s that look like they were taken only yesterday. I’ll tell you one thing though, Kodachrome is a sod to scan and I’ve never really had what I call a success with scanning it.

    Trips overseas on liners when you were a kid! I would’ve been so envious as a child if I had known someone back then who was so lucky. You were lucky in another way in that you weren’t on the ship when it sunk. Then again, it would’ve made for a wonderful dinner party story……… if you had survived.

    Congratulations on your award and I’m reminded of the old saying, “don’t clap, throw money!” I hope someone starts tossing some coin your way soon.

    • Razz, From your lips to a publisher’s ear. Oh, that’s right…I don’t really believe in divine beings anymore. I think I get a cash award with the prize. Does that count?

    • It’s strange. I’m having no problem whatsoever scanning the Kodachrome I just got back from Dwayne’s. For some reason the flatbed I use works well with Kodachrome. The results aren’t as sharp as they should be, but the color fidelity is quite good and the contrast is manageable. I’ll post something soon, in case you’re curious . . .

  11. “I don’t really believe in divine beings”

    There has only been one that I know existed for sure, but he/she died in 1988.

  12. absolutely gorgeous way to preserve such a vivid memory! Pat, your photos and writing ALWAYS amaze me. I’m truly envious as I don’t believe I could ever compare! Congrats on a well deserved award!

  13. This is the divine being that I was talking about.

  14. Congrats to you on the award and the writing. It’s more than just some fond memories preserved. It’s an era that most of us if given the choice between now and then, and reading the way you write it would gladly choose “then”. the picture looks like a painting and that you can’t take away.

    They give us those nice bright colors
    They give us the greens of summers
    Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah
    I got a Nikon camera
    I love to take a photograph
    So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away ~Paul Simon

    • Hey, Renee! I can’t tell you how often that Paul Simon song has gone through my head since I heard the news about Kodachrome. If I remember correctly, one of the best photographs I ever took with Kodachrome was of a rainy day! Figures, right?

  15. Pat,
    Congrats. A well deserved award. Papa and Tim again are looking down proud. I remember you dark room at the cape on the 3rd floor. Papa always new you would do great things with your artistic talents. You should be very proud of your achievements.

    • Oh, Nance that 3rd floor darkroom that Papa put together for me was so freakin’ hot and humid that I’m surprised I didn’t die up there! He was so dear to put it together but it was a sauna!

  16. The capricious dartboard of life brought you home on the Andrea Doria or we’d all have been deprived of your talents. This piece is brilliant Pat.
    It’s how you convey loss without whining. Your skill at succinctly encapsulating an emotion, an opinion, an idea.
    It thrills me to see your growing list of followers.

    This award is so well deserved.
    I do recall laughing at Ruth Gordons’ comment. And I believe her.
    As I do you.

  17. Hey, Bon Bon, early bird!! Half these folks commenting here on this piece are my family! I’m Ruth Gordon with a camera. You are Helen Mirren with a paintbrush and a vocabulary from the gods. Deep bows as you pass through from this ol’ girl.

  18. Well, I’m oviously late to this party! Another moving story so well told, for all the reasons others have already described so well… I never want to skip a single line in your posts, and don’t know which I like better, the words or the pictures, but together they keep me cpoming back. Congratulations a hundred times over on the award. And don’t you dare quit now, even if “recognition is a tricky bitch”!

    • Latecomers are welcome, Don! Particularly fellow blank screen and blank canvas spirits who each day begin without knowing the end result. Perhaps,THAT tricky bitch is even more compelling than any conflicted beam of spotlight? Anyway, you are doing some amazing work yourself these days!

  19. Congrats, Pat. I’m big enough to admit I’m a little jealous. ;)

    By the way, I just got back a few rolls of Kodachrome from Dwayne’s. Not my favorite film, but the results were quite nice this time. Will post something soon.

  20. Thanks, Chris, I’ll check on your new Kodachromes soon. PS. Yours is a photo blog solely so no need to admit a little jealousy. The NSNC award highlights writers in newspapers and online.

    • Yeah, I guess I’m jealous ’cause you’re brave enough to include words with your images. I actually got into photography because I didn’t have the nerve for writing (though Lord knows I tried; I’ve always been a better reader than a writer, sad to say).

      • You don’t have the nerve? Nope, I’m not buying it. Anyone who cross processes the hell out a single image must have flexibility in his soul. Try again. Write about why you like your images for a start or don’t like them. Photographers will be interested and maybe other folks, too.

  21. First of all, its kind of sad that film soon will no longer be. You can hardly even buy 35mm film anymore except for a few spots. I guess all of those days in the dark room are now going to be replaced by sitting at a computer with photoshop. Weird.

    Secondly… Im so proud of you Pat! You definitely deserve all of the praise you get. Not only for your photos (which make us all wish we were as creative as you) but with the often touching posts.

    Sending you a big hug!

    • It is sad, Amber!! But, I haven’t used it in years, along with many photographers. I think it’s popularity was due to Mr and Mrs Joe Begoz on their family vacation with their camera. You were one of the first people to comment on my blog a year ago so I’ll always have a special spot for you!

    • Well, Amber, I wouldn’t say film is going to disappear “soon.” In fact, Kodak continues to come out with new emulsions. Kodachrome died because it’s impractical and a bitch to process, not because film as a whole is no longer desirable. The truth is, enough people still shoot and love film, so I wouldn’t bring out the bagpipes just yet. Now, when Kodak starts losing its commitment to film, then it’s lights out. Until then, I’ll just keep enjoying that funny smell.

  22. Kodachrome was great, but seeing as how only one place in the country would still process it, it was hardly a long time coming. It’s sad, but let’s just hope it gives Kodak more room to help improve digital cameras.

    I’ll spare you any further Paul Simon references or quotes, but I’ll repeat the chorus of congratulations on your award! That’s really something, especially given the volume of blogs out there. With posts like this one I can see why you got recognized. That’s a tremendous image and an fascinating story!

  23. Uh O.O :O it’s magic

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