The phone camera

Christmas and Easter always meant dinner at my grandparent’s house with all my aunts and uncles and cousins.  After dinner Grandma would say, “Let’s get the kids together for a picture” and we’d all march into the dining room where she’d place us into position with the babies in front. “They’re getting so big.”

We were all standing there waiting to be photographed when Uncle Bernie ran over and picked up the receiver from the black desk phone sitting on the buffet cabinet next to us.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute here”, he said as he stretched the cord out and stood right in front of us.

I could see that my Aunt Ruth was getting annoyed because she had been just about ready to snap the picture ahead of the little kids starting to squirm.

“Come on, Bernie, let’s get this picture before the babies start to scream.”

“Wait a minute, hold on.”  Uncle Bernie had the black receiver at the end of the phone cord in front of his eyes and was looking over it at his nieces and nephews.

“What if this phone was a camera?”

“It’s a phone, Bernie, come on”, said my Uncle Jack who was always teasing Uncle Bernie about his love for science fiction and everything futuristic.  “Just let Mom get her picture while the kids are all calm”.

“But what if this phone was a camera?”

“You’re standing there with a phone receiver on the end of the phone cord and asking what if it was a camera?” “Let’s go.”

Uncle Bernie seemed to snap out of it a bit and placed the receiver back in its cradle before he went over to the couch and took out his pocket notebook as the flashbulbs on the Instamatics went off in front of the kids. As he sat there I could see him sketching and writing notes the rest of the evening but that was about it.  I always heard my dad say that Bernie was a potential genius when it came to inventing things but that he didn’t have the business sense to bring his inventions to market and I guess that was what happened that Christmas night after my Uncle Bernie held the phone receiver on the end of the phone line and asked “what if this phone was a camera?” He had the idea for an invention but just couldn’t bring it to market.

Now over half a century later I always remember Uncle Bernie and that Christmas night. It was my Uncle Bernie, my Uncle Bernie on that long ago Christmas night at my grandma’s who came up with the idea for the Camera-on-a-Rope.

I’m telling you, the guy was a genius.

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