Last week the day after Dad's surgery I went out to run a few errands. On the way back to the medical center I drifted through downtown Harrisonburg, VA. It had been a while since I had been past Court Square and took a look around. Some things have changed quite a bit and other things are exactly as they were back in high school.
At the far end of downtown I rolled up on Glens Fair Price Store. I'm not sure if any one can accurately describe Glens. They say it is Harrisonburg's most unusual store. That is correct. It is more or less Archie McPhees plus a lot more. You can pick up a garden rake, a curio, your theme party costume, spray that smells like a fart, and a whoopee cushion all at one time.
There is not much of a sense of order at Glens. There never was. There is just lots of stuff. These days they have taken over twice as much space as back when I was a kid, but the same clutter remains. The only thing missing is that old man Glen is long gone and no longer holds court at the counter. I understand the business was passed down and the same family still owns the place.
As a kid the Holy Grail existed amongst the clutter and with the old man. Glen loved photography and had a good part of the store dedicated to all things photographic. In the camera store area there was brand new stuff, old new stuff, and used stuff all jumbled together. Sometimes with Glen's guidance as to approximate area I would dig down several stratas of stuff deep to find an items I was looking for. In the last few years of high school I fell in love with photography and I spent many hours digging thought the booty at the Fair Price Store.
I purchased my first film development tanks, trays, chemicals, black & white film, photo paper, and more from Glen. Sometimes he coached or offered advice and other times I was left to my own devices. I read books, took photos, developed film, and watched the miracle of images coming up on paper in my tiny bath room converted to dark room at home. It was magical.
The other day I could not resist running in those few minutes to take a look around. I saw a mountain of old and new photographic products in the front twenty five percent of the store. The kid behind the counter never knew Glen and did not seem too impressed that this kingdom of junk and treasure played a part in my going to college to chase a degree in photography. He did mention the store coordiantes photography classes and that a local bar was sponsoring a pretty neat instant photography exhibit.
There was a vintage camera that caught my eye and I asked the price. The kid said it was for "the museum" the owner intends to build in the corner some day and the camera was not for sale. I smiled and tried not to laugh. Museum?! The whole place is a museum. And I hope it is that same way in another thirty years.