Kodak Instamatics & Uncle Dickie’s Lethal Light Bar!


I spent a significant part of my childhood totally blind, with glowing red eyes and a blank expression.

We have a drawer full of Christmas photos to prove it, somewhere.

They’re probably at my oldest sister Lynn’s house. Or at Cathy’s. Or in somebody’s attic.

But I know we kept all the old photos because they were a big deal back in the Sixties and cost millions of dollars.

The photos were only made possible by the super genius nuclear scientists who must have patented Kodak Instamatic Cameras.

And, in particular, their lethal flash bulbs that, from an engineering point of view, were more powerful and complex than NASA’s Saturn V rockets!

Each patented and top secret Magicube contained four separate bulbs.

When the camera shutter was depressed, according to Kodak, it released one of four “coked wire springs” inside the cube.

And then all hell would break loose.

“The springs would strike a primer, which included a fulminate that in turn ignited shredded zirconium foil in the flash.”

And that would release the energy and light of 10,000 suns directly into your eyeballs which ensured that, for the next hour or so, you were legally blind.

Except for the dark spots that floated around your head. 

If you caught a Magicube after your smart-aleck brother-in-law ejected one right at you, it would melt your fingerprints and burn a hole completely through your palm. 

But as powerful as Magicubes were, they were child’s play compared to the light bar Uncle Dickie used at Christmas with his amazing Super 8 movie projector.

I’m pretty sure that Uncle Dickie was the only civilian in Oklahoma qualified to operate such high-tech and potentially life-threatening equipment.

After all, his architectural firm designed the famous geodesic dome on the Citizen’s State Bank in Oklahoma City, and I’m pretty sure that defied gravity.  

On Christmas Eve, when Uncle Dickie fired up his bazooka of a movie camera and light bar, the oxygen would be sucked right out of their huge den.

Even if you were 20 feet away, the top three or four layers of skin would vaporize right off your face.

Your hair and eyeballs would melt, and your lungs would turn to carbon.

And all this happened in about 15 seconds, which was the maximum amount of holiday filming allowed under the Geneva Convention.     

I can only assume that, even in that short amount of time, Uncle Dickie sustained third-degree burns over his entire upper body.

But he was a big, strong man, and willing to make the sacrifice for our wider family at Christmas.

Funnily enough, I remember him shooting the movies. But I don’t actually remember watching many of them.

Maybe because we all looked like space aliens standing in front of a nuclear explosion.

I guess that’s why we had to rely on Kodak Instamatics to capture our family memories.

Seldom did a month go by when we didn’t have at least one roll of 126 film sitting in the “to be collected” basket at Safeway, which was way cheaper than Fox Photo.

But also way slower.

Mom would only collect our photos if there was money left over after buying groceries for a family or five, or there was some kind of special going on.

This explains why each roll of film would usually include images of a distant relative who had croaked while the film was waiting to be collected at Safeway.

“Awww, didn’t Aunt/Uncle/Cousin ______________ (fill in the blank) look good before he/she/they died last January from the massive burns caused by Uncle Dickie’s light bar,” Mom would say.

The absolute best thing about 126 film developed at Safeway was that you got the Big Picture and a “bonus” photo about the size of a postage stamp.

Probably 90 percent of our surviving family Christmas photos are the Mini-Me ones that you can’t actually see without magnifying them with your iPhone.

Somewhere, we’ve also got boxes of Polaroids.

Sadly, they weren’t the sharpest pictures when they were taken. And they’ve faded badly over the decades.

But Polaroid cameras were sure cool back in the day, especially to Normanites, because our own James Garner and Mariette Hartley were always talking them up on TV.

My family would never have been able to afford one, much less the film, which cost well over $9,000 for a pack of eight instant photos.

But by then, my Dad had left the Norman Fire Department and was doing industrial fire inspections in Oklahoma and surrounding states for an insurance company.

We got to use whatever Polaroid film was left over from his business trips “before it expired”.

I think the main reason they were always just slightly out of focus was because Polaroid flashbulbs didn’t include a fulminate that ignited shredded zirconium foil.

Like NASA/Kodak’s Instamatics.

And if a flashbulb or light bar didn’t blind you, and burn your flesh right off, how could you possibly take a good photo?       

(This story will be in “Memories of an Okie Boomer 3” and available on Amazon sometime in early-ish 2024, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!)  

#instamatic #flashcube #Christmashumor #FamilyChristmas #lightbar #flashblind #Oklahomahumor


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Amazon Reviews


Just finished reading your book. I was laughing out loud so much my husband asked what was I reading! And I kept thinking, “Bless his mom's heart”! My dad also read it and said he found it delightful. Looking forward to the second book. Thanks for the entertainment!

2 years ago


Fun and great read!!! If you grew up in the 60 and 70 you will be able to relate to many fun stories the author tells!
Bill Moore is a very talented and entertaining author with a great sense of humor! I highly recommend this book!!!

2 years ago
Susan B.
Susan B.

Couldn’t put it down. A total joy to read.

The author was a classmate of mine in high school, and is still a great Facebook friend. I knew this book would be awesome b/c of the way Bill writes his posts on Facebook telling his friends of his life in New Zealand. This book touched my heart in soo many ways. Bills writing is so descriptive, that in your mind you see what he’s writing about or transports you to the place. I couldn’t put it down. Bill, thank you for letting me go back to my days of innocence as a child in Norman, Oklahoma.

2 years ago

Having known the author all our lives I expected nothing less than stellar from him and he does not disappoint. It brought smiles and loud guffaws as I tripped down memory lane with him. It was so much more personal to me as I knew the characters in the book but all will enjoy reminiscing about that magical time in Norman . Give it a read you wont be disappointed!

5 years ago

I think anyone who grew up around the 1960s will enjoy this trip down memory lane!

5 years ago

Bill Moore, Writer

Norman-born Bill Moore spent four decades as a newspaper reporter and P.R. guy, writing at least 900 gazillion words in Texas, Washington, D.C., Singapore and New Zealand.
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