Saturday, March 14, 2020

Small Towns in the Texas Panhandle with Ektar 25 film (Panhandle 2019-01)


The Texas Panhandle is the land of big skies, big farms, big men and women, enormous pickup trucks, and fading towns and farm houses. The Panhandle is the northern rectangle of the state, bordered by Oklahoma and New Mexico and northwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis. Most people drive through in a hurry, but the area offers a wealth of photographic topics. The famous Route 66 crosses the northern Panhandle (type "Route 66" in the search box to see posts on this topic).

Highway US 287 takes you from Dallas to Amarillo and passes through a number of small towns. These were bustling and active up through the mid-20th century but today are slowly fading. I drove east on US 287 in 2017, and numerous abandoned farm houses caught my eye. I promised to return and record them before they disappeared. For a trip west in September of 2019, I loaded my Hasselblad medium-format camera and Tri-X film into my camera bag, but at the last minute added my little Yashica Electro 35CC rangefinder camera with one of my remaining rolls of discontinued Kodak Ektar 25. Long-term readers may recall that I have experimented with Ektar 25 before and concluded that it is well past its prime. Of course, I ignored my own advice and decided to use it for this trip.

Future articles will include black and white photographs from many of these towns.

In the Panhandle

For my September 2019 road trip, I took my time, stayed in seedy motels long past their prime, and enjoyed warm summery weather (and almost stepped on a rattlesnake in my sandals). A month later, an ice storm was threatening and I drove back east in a hurry. We will start in Quanah, a town west of Wichita Falls and proceed northwest on US 287. Click any picture to see it enlarged to 1600 pixels wide.
Dinner at eight, Quanah, Texas
A bit fast-food-like, but OK. The staff were very friendly. Breakfast the next morning was great.
Repair shop and Cadillac, Spur 133, Quanah, Texas. The Cadillac was in surprisingly good condition.
Attack of the giant chickens, Rustic Relics, Quanah, Texas
Even the chickens in Texas are big. Rusty Relics, Quanah, Texas
Nash Metropolitan automobile, US 287 east of Childress
No lunch any more, Estelline, Texas
This cute little building in Estelline may have been a Valentine Diner. Mr. Arthur Valentine formed Valentine Manufacturing Company in Wichita, Kansas, in 1947 to build small lunch buildings. He sold many to veterans who wanted to start their own businesses in the booming post-war years. The Kansas Historical Society has an interesting history. I photographed another Valentine Diner in Chandler, Oklahoma, in 2017.
Commercial building, 704 Cleveland St., Estelline, Texas
Abandoned farmhouse near Memphis, Texas
Benitez Tire, Hedley, Texas
Taqueria Tijuana, Hedley, Texas
Lonely farmhouse near Clarendon
Abandoned house near Goodnight
The largest number of these abandoned farmhouses are between Childress and Amarillo. It is sad that the families who once lived in these homes moved out. Do they now live in towns? Did the old folks die and their kids moved to sophisticated cities? There may be more derelict houses like these on side roads, but it is possible that they typically clustered along the rail corridor, which is now followed by US 287. I will later post black and white film photographs of these lonely farmhouses.
Gas station, Claude, Texas
My last stop on 287 was in Claude at an odd little gas station with zinc or zinc-coated steel roof shingles. These shingles were popular early in the 20th century because they looked like clay tiles but were lighter and cheaper. I photographed this station in 2017 with a digital camera (Panhandle article no. 01).


Texas is fun for a photographer. The people are friendly and travel is easy. The roads are in good condition and there are plenty of gasoline stations along the way. But beware, other than fast food offal, the Panhandle is a rough place for food outside of Amarillo and Wichita Falls. It is even more of a coffee desert. Take a thermos and brew your own. Also, watch out for rattlesnakes.

Techical Notes

I took these photographs with a Yashica Electro 35CC camera with a fixed 35mm ƒ/1.8 Color-Yashinon DX lens. This is a handy compact camera with an excellent 6-element lens and a genuine rangefinder. “Color” was the advertising buzzword in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, it would be “digital.” I suppose some people are fooled. I scanned the film at 3,600 dpi with a Plustek 7600i film scanner using Silverfast Ai software to control the unit. I saved the scans as 16-bit TIFF files. Silverfast does not have an Ektar 25 profile, but the Royal Gold 1000 profile worked reasonably well. The colors were off, and I sometimes used the grey dropper to select a grey area on the frame as a reference. Some of the colors are slightly odd, but it suits the subject matter (and if I wanted boring perfection, I could use a digital camera or mobile phone). A few frames needed some cleaning or scratch removal; Pixelmator 3.8.8 has one of the best healing tools that I have tried. To resize for this article, I used an old version of ACDSee Pro 2.5 running under Windows XP.


Mike said...

That Electro did a lot of nice work with all those interesting small town finds.
We stayed on two-lane all the way back from St. Louis last year and really enjoyed getting off the freeway. I think we were on Highway 54 past Wichita.
I was impressed with the number of windmills in the Panhandle. I've generally seen them as a positive good regarding alternate electric generation. However, some friends in Belen are complaining that the utilities are taking up a lot of pristine realestate with power lines and all the electricity is going to the big California market.

Kodachromeguy said...

Thank you for the compliment. The Electro really is a handy little camera with a great lens and a decent rangefinder. As for windmills, I suspect most of that electricity is going to Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston metropolitan areas. Farmers make a decent rental income from the land rented to the power companies. Anyway, the Panhandle is pretty interesting. One day I may return with a 4×5" camera.

Suzassippi said...

I really liked the color of the photograph of the Nash. On enlargement, the family of cats is interesting, too. That does indeed look like a Valentine diner. It is exact to a model I found in a photograph, except flipped as far as windows and the extended pilaster that held the word "Diner". I only discovered Valentines a few years ago, during my time with Preservation in Mississippi.