Recollections of Kodak Australasia's Black & White Developing & Printing Department at Burnley, John Garrett, 1950s
From the early 1950s until 1974, Kodak Australasia processed black and white film at its Burnley facility. The recollections of a former staff member, John Garrett, help to bring the Developing and Printing department to life.
John went to work at Burnley when it first opened in the early 1950s, after being in Developing and Printing at Abbotsford. John commented that compared to Abbotsford, "gee it had been modernised, all new equipment there." John worked in the darkroom quite a bit, developing negatives, and stayed at Burnley for about two or three years.
He remembered that in the darkroom ". we had a gang of people working there and we'd have set up about two or three banks of these developing tanks. They'd be about easily . a metre and a half deep. They'd hold about thirty litres of developer and chemicals, fixer. You could have a team of about twelve blokes. You'd get these boxes of film, take the film out, undo it, you'd have a metal clip, you'd take the clip, clip it on the end and . that would go into a bucket somewhere and the film would be hung up on a clip like, rather like an open door wardrobe. And . in there you could hang thirty films at a time. Batches of thirty we used to develop at a time. And you could, take . about ten minutes to do that I suppose, to hang up thirty films. I got good at that. And we'd put these through these tanks."
John said that in terms of printing the developed negatives, Kodak "had three of these automatic developing printing machines." The prints "would go down the first chute and it would fall into the first tank which was developer. And it would be all automatically agitated, and after a certain time turn over into the next basket. And that would be water to rinse it in. Then it would turn over again and would go into the fixer, so it would be fixed. By the time it turned over again, it would then go to the dryers. And it would be dried . on rotary drums if I remember."
According to John, "the volume was enormous. I mean the three girls on a machine printing prints all day long." He believed they printed tens of thousands of prints each day. He said the girls "were worth their weight in gold."
John also noted that at Burnley "We had an enlarging section where we had - I think it was .two fellows in a little room on their own.and they were good. They used to do all the enlargements that used to come in."
He reflected that ". the number of films we put through was enormous. Especially, you know, summertime. But it was a big, big job but of course we were up against competition and competition was pretty fierce. We put in on same day service. But it did cause a lot of problems. You had to rush stuff through which you shouldn't have been doing and the quality was not quite as good as if it'd been allowed to be, you know, take more time."
John Garrett Interview 2014, HT 37042