At last I am connecting with BPH and to my delight with you. SEAS Photography is now underway, busy archiving the Sunbeam Collection - it is sheer joy! Our website hopefully goes live next month and activities begin in ernest from this summer. We will of course keep you posted.
So lovely to find your message on a grey Sunday morning.
Paul, hi. I hope you have received the group photo I sent (as per direction).
I'll try to answer your queries on darkroom/processing as well as I can but bulk processing was not my field and I realise I may have mislead you slightly already.
The size of print I am able to take from a few examples I still have. The picture is a little under 60x80mm on card that is a little under 70x90mm. These were printed 3-up on a strip and cut with a guillotine in the kiosk when sold.
I think, on reflection, that Chambers referred to the printer as an Enprinter and not a Kenprinter as I mistakenly reported and the prints were called enprints although these names are similar enough to get me confused. The numbers were printed on the strip, almost certainly during printing but I don't know if the developing was done inside the machine or in the large tanks that surrounded the printer. The paper/card is thicker than my later colour photos, so could be double weight. Chambers used a glazer drum to dry not glaze - reverse side down on the heated drum - before being cut into strips of 3 prints; so I know the prints were processed on a long roll of paper. they were processed in a similar way to the negatives (rolled on a spindle separated by a plastic strip of the same size). I saw them in their final process when I went across the road to change/cut film.
I know that the mix in the tanks was around 5-10% stronger than as directed and the development temperature was a little high; this speeded up the processing and the increased grain was not noticeable. With up to 9 camera operators each taking 800-1,000 shots per day the processing had to be fast to meet set times for customers to get their pics.
I remember the smells well. The chemicals were not particularly dangerous but the developer and the hypo had very distinctive smell and I remember with more concern a tub of bromide, although not sure what John used it for except to scare us young men. We (camera men) always jokingly moaned about Olive making tea only for John until one morning when we went to the studio to get our film cut, we were met with a cup of tea each. "Don't worry, I've put in the milk, sugar, etc." said John, On the table next to the cups was a bottle of milk, a sugar bowl and the pot of bromide. None took the risk or asked for tea again.
I can't remember the name of the Bournemouth firm, unfortunately although both names have a familiar ring ("Bailey" for obvious reasons)
Yes, the 250 was a pleasure to use. The lens was excellent and with Ilford's FP3 file grain film, the image was crisp; capable of a very big blow-up. The film cartridges were perfect for the sandy beach conditions and never scratched the negatives. Although the controls on the 250 look fiddly now, it was simple and quick to use with practice, even if you did have to use a match to change aperture. With the large volume of shots we took, we could all take well positioned walkie shots without even looking through the tiny viewfinder. A real case of "feel the force". I still find that the informal "shooting from the hip" produces the best shots and best catches the moment, even with today's digital auto-everything nonsense (I now need 15min to look up the manual to be able to override the auto stuff when I used to make a near instant adjustment).
Chambers made a tradition of taking a group photo of the team each year. I still have one, taken in front of the Kiosk around 1967??. Would like a scan of this? If so how could I get it to the forum?
I like your schedule of beach photographers. One correction: Chambers did not do postcard prints; they sold triplicate prints 3-up B&W portrait on a landscape sheet with nothing printed on the back, except the serial number. Their darkroom was in the basement of a row of shops opposite King George III statue with the Kiosk on the other side of the statue, on the prom. Chambers must have had around 9 250s, maybe more, all black.
Chambers did have a Kenprinter, printing on rolls of paper. The finished prints were not glazed. I did not use the Kenprinter (a printer was employed) but rainy days were, for us camera operators, darkroom days: printing the backlog of enlargements.
There were many firms taking walkies in Weymouth. Chambers was the only firm that had a long record from 1920, unbroken except for WW2. The beach was available for licence in 2 parts and Chambers always had the larger southern part and some years had both parts. A firm called Meeches occasionally had the lesser north part, from the Jubilee Clock to Greenhill with a Kiosk near the clock and darkroom in on the the beach facing Georgian terraces. I worked on that pitch for 2 years before joining Chambers although this was for different companies, both were colour and with glazed prints (heat glazing prints near sand is a bad idea); one was a local photography shop trying its hand and the other was a Bournemouth beach photography company trying to expand. Neither lasted more than one year and neither used leicas.
There were other pitches in the town, away from the beach:
On the exit to the fairground on the opposite side of the swanery there was one licensed pitch - a lone cameraman and kiosk; he had cut-out look-through boards which we did not on the beach front.
On the main side of the swanery, where boats could be hired and on the adjacent pleasure gardens, an unlicensed photographer operated. He was an ageing flash character, lost in time - zoot suite, wide colourful tie and thin moustache. Despite his spivy appearance I really liked the guy. I was told he once worked for Meeches when they operated on the beach.
Then there were the unwanted unlicensed heavies from the city, who would occasionally plague the town until we could get rid of them.