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Andy Kirkham

Kodachrome Processing Strike, 1970's

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Does anyone remember a strike at the Kodachrome processing plant at Hemel Hempstead in the 1970s? I would be interested to know the dates as I have an idea that it might explain some anomalies in the processing dates of some of my slides, if it were 1973-4.

 

I remember that it was possible to send films to the plant in the Netherlands but the advice was to use an ordinary envelope rather than Kodak's own, because the Post Office would automatically send those to Hemel Hempstead irrespective of the address that was written on it.

 

n.b. this is quite distinct from the notorious Grunwick dispute of 1976-78.

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Going by my memories of where I was at the time, I thought the Kodak strike was later than 1974 because I seem to remember it happened after I got married in 1975 and during the strike I switched to CT18.

 

The last Kodak mounts I have are Sep 1976, but they may have been processed after the strike had ended.

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I believe it was August 1973.

 

I remember because I went on holiday to Bulgaria then, photographed some trains then got food poisoning and ended up in hospital.

On my return, I sent of my slides and Kodak lost them! However, I still have the hospital discharge papers (in Bulgarian) with the date on.

Not a great holiday!

 

Tony

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Hi Andy

 

Just had a quick look - the card mounted slides I have are dated Jan 74.  They are stamped, not printed, with made in USA instead of the usual printed "Made in England".  The photographs were actually taken in August 73 but I must have held on to the films for a while before sending for processing.  As far as I remember I sent mine to France.

 

Regards.

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I believe it was August 1973.

 

I remember because I went on holiday to Bulgaria then, photographed some trains then got food poisoning and ended up in hospital.

On my return, I sent of my slides and Kodak lost them! However, I still have the hospital discharge papers (in Bulgarian) with the date on.

Not a great holiday!

 

Tony

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/kodak-strike/query/Trading

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Sorry, I must have been thinking of Grunwick.

 

(Back to sleep, methinks).

Edited by jonny777

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Excellent. I think that explains my anomalies. I have pictures which must have been taken in the summer of 1973, but have processing dates of Feb and Mar 74. Those ones must have got stuck in the system during the strike. Then I have one set that I know was exposed in December 73 with no date stamps at all, which I think I must have sent to the Netherlands.

Edited by Andy Kirkham

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Excellent. I think that explains my anomalies. I have pictures which must have been taken in the summer of 1973, but have processing dates of Feb and Mar 74. Those ones must have got stuck in the system during the strike. Then I have one set that I know was exposed in December 73 with no date stamps at all, which I think I must have sent to the Netherlands.

 

That was when the system was clogged.

 

Mike.

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I remember it well I was into cine at the time and the advice was to put the films in a plain envelope and send them to a foreign processing plant. This cost more, but it certainly worked. Using a plain envelope was essential as the film packets were so common the post office never read the address, just chucked them in the Hemel Hempstead bag even if a different address was written on them.

 

I actually had a few suoer 8 films processed in the last days of Kodachrome in Europe. i think they went to France. Had the camera still and picked up some stock Boots were selling off. have not looked at it for ages but i think I probably filmed some trains off one of the local preserved lines.

 

Nice reminder, must dig it out.

 

David

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Sorry, resurrecting this after nearly a year......

 

The strike and associated delays at Hemel Hempstead were summer/autumn 1973. At the time I was sharing a house in Wembley with a number of gricers, one of whom was once on the periphery of the notorious Master Neverers Association. He put a lot of film through his cameras and along with the rest of us, was in confusion about what to do about our exposed Kodachromes.

 

Somehow, we found out that the German plant was best for processing our slides - and conveniently the address was on the insert which came in the yellow box. We also found out that processing was still free. So we trusted to fate, stuck the film cartons in the normal yellow paper bags, added adequate postage for the Federal Republic, and crossed our fingers.

 

They all came back OK, taking about a fortnight, which was par for Hemel Hempstead in normal times. The slide mounts were still cardboard, but slightly different. The actual results also seemed slightly different - still obviously Kodachrome, but a bit richer somehow. We were really chuffed, especially as a couple of the films were of "Leander's" first rail tour at Chinley and Sheffield.

 

Many years later, I realised that this situation was the first crack in Kodak's dominance, at least in the UK. Hemel Hempstead was never the same again - they were always chopping and changing the boxes, slide mounts and apparently processing soups as well - also care was not always taken to keep slides clean. So when Fujichrome came along, we all slowly changed. Kodachrome was the better film, but Fuji hyped up the yellows and therefore the depth of colour.

 

Not that it matters now of course!

Edited by Edthefolkie
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The Hemel Hempstead strike pre-dates my use of slide film, as I was still a year away from my first SLR and a devotee of local d&p services. After much experimentation, including GAF 200/500 (grain like rice pudding), home processing Barfen and Agfachrome 50S, I finally settled on Kodachrome. I liked the 25ASA version, but it needed bright sunlight and was rarely fast enough for railway photography; K64 was settled upon largely through "Hobson's choice". It had plenty of faults (sensitivity to UV, lack of shadow detail), even before the variable processing quality of Box 14*, needed re-mounting (I used to have it returned uncut and load it into GePe mounts), but it has excellent keeping qualities and was generally the best of a bad bunch. I used to open the packages returned from the lab with trepidation - the last thing you wanted to see were some "free films" - which happened more than once. Actually the worst batch was in 1989, when I think the lab was being moved and all films were being sent to France, which took longer and had less quality control.

 

Even when the new Fuji emulsions came on to the market, the transition was slow. It takes time and many shots to get to know a film, but there was no going back after switching to Provia - fine grain, neutral and better colour rendition and incredible levels of shadow detail.

 

 

 

*Good grief, I can still remember the address and postcode after all these years!

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