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1957 – First Intentional Photo

I recently found a very small black-and-white print dated November 19, 1957 that I remember coming across every decade or two, so I recall all the details.

I was walking on a street a few blocks from my home and saw a tree being buzz-sawed down in front of a house. For some reason, the thought immediately popped into my mind that it would be cool to get a picture of the tree falling – hopefully, at a 45-degree angle.

I ran home, begged my mother to let me borrow her cheap little camera (a Brownie?) and ran back just in time to catch the tree falling and caught it at almost 45 degrees.

So, in my semi-convoluted way of thinking, this is my original, premeditated, stop-action photo – the one that led me to success in my beloved right-brained, music photography career after pleasing my parents with the left-brained one I got my degree in (chemistry).

BTW – they eventually came around on career #2 and if you want to read a story related to that, go to bobleafe.com and enter 03-037 into the search box.

Hang in there – these WILL get better eventually……………give it 50 or 60 years   😉

 

1959 – Outside the original Yankee Stadium

Before the new 2009 Yankee Stadium, before the 1976 renovation of the previous Yankee Stadium, there was the original 1923 Yankee Stadium.

I’m not sure that two of these pictures were taken in 1959 (could have been ’60 or ’61), but the third one was signed outside the Stadium in 1959, so they’re all being put under the 1959 blanket.

Back then, players used to get dropped off by their wives or friends while kids and a cop stood around. I have no idea who these particular players are and I can’t find the negatives – if they exist – to blow them up and try to ID someone.

No one seems to be screaming for autographs. Everyone appears to be respectful and satisfied to view the comings and goings of the players (as I apparently was to take pictures from across the street).

 

I DID get one autograph in 1959. The Ol’ Redhead – Yankees announcer Red Barber – signed my 15-cent program outside the Stadium after a game. I would have preferred to get announcer Mel Allen’s sig, but you take what you can get.

 

 

1960 – Nixon!

My mother – a staunch Republican – decided to volunteer newly-teenaged me to the local Nixon for President headquarters, which was a few blocks from our house in Teaneck, NJ. I don’t recall what I did there, but I decided I deserved one of the huge Tricky Dicky posters for my efforts, so, at some point, I took one home. The story I’m sticking with is that the campaign was already over and stuff was being dispersed (you buying that?).

I displayed it over a window in my bedroom, which now had another occupant, whose crib is seen in the lower left of the below image. I festooned the poster with other campaign leftovers, which included six Nixon buttons and two signs. All of this was a setup for my supposedly developing sense of humor. At the time, I was an avid MAD magazine fan. MAD came out with an issue that had dual covers: one congratulating JFK for his victory (shown below) and the other doing the same for the later-defeated Nixon.

Guess which one I put on the poster (I’m sure Mom was thrilled).

The picture’s composition may be related to the room’s composition (I also think I was standing in the doorway) and this may have been the only way to get the full poster, etc., in the shot. The white of the upper left may be a door jamb that was too close to the flash.

This may be the only image I’ve ever shot that shows what film was used.

I kept this poster folded up in our attic for years, but when I cleaned out the house after my parents died, it was nowhere to be found (but I have my suspicions about its absence).

 

 

 

1961 – Nuns!

These were the two nuns in charge of the 8th-grade classes at Holy Trinity School in Hackensack, NJ, in early 1961.

On the left is Sister Anne Roberta from 8A (my class) and on the right is Sister Rose Felicia of 8B. My two classmates were Kathy Gingras in the background and Linda Guerra in the foreground.

I have no idea why I had a camera at school. I seem to barely recall having my own dinky little camera that used large-ish film and I’m pretty sure I took other pictures of classmates, but these were the only two I found.

I also recall that I was trying to sneak the 8A shot from the vicinity of the classroom door before Sister Anne realized what I was doing and react. I took this the second she came into view. I don’t recall any negative reaction.

Sister Rose was too close to have been a snuck shot. I’m guessing she didn’t care one way or the other…………..too cool for school, I guess.

There’s one interesting thing I remember regarding the 8A windows: sticking my head out one of them in early October, 1960, to see the Richard Nixon motorcade go by on Main St (a block away) during his failed presidential campaign against JFK.

No sighting of Tricky Dicky, of course, but I was fine with that after recently seeing his face WAY too much (see 1960 post).

 

1962 – The Paperboy Goes To D.C.

As a paperboy for North Jersey’s The Record newspaper back in the early 60s, I sold a lot of subscriptions, which won me some prizes and trips, including ones to see the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia and the New York Rangers in NYC at the old Madison Square Garden, which used to be on 8th Ave between 49th and 50th streets.

But in 1962, I won the biggie (along with about 40 other carriers): a bus trip to Washington, DC, to see all the sights over a two-day period:

 

 

My mother brought me to The Record to catch the bus and – OF COURSE – had to take some pictures, but I didn’t mind. It was a happy occasion.

She took this picture near the Record delivery truck bays. I’m 4th from the right in the light jacket/white socks and cool loafers, smiling and giving her a number 1 salute (at least I hope that’s what I was doing):

 

As the letter noted, we stayed at The Virginia Lodge – just across the Potomac in Alexandria, VA – and visited all the major monuments, plus the Treasury and the White House. We didn’t get in the WH – maybe JFK wasn’t home that day – but there’s a picture of me below, standing in front of the White House fence, wearing my Record Honor Carrier sweater.

One very odd thing that I recall about the motel: I had brought a portable radio and everyone in the room was happy that it could pick up our beloved WABC-AM in New York……………..but it did so only when the bathroom door was open! If anyone needed to take a shower, a shave, or a sh………………ampoo, the tunes ceased until he came out. Weird.

 

I also recall being at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the Changing of the Guard. We also went to the nearby Iwo Jima Memorial, which I don’t recall, but I found the below picture amongst my other pix from that trip, so I guess I was there.

 

Obviously, I didn’t take the next picture, but I did take the three after that (recently).

Me at the White House wearing my Honor Carrier sweater:

 

 

The Honor Carrier sweater survived!

 

 

Another Honor Carrier goodie that I saved………..looks almost brand-new:

 

My mother saved my carrier bag. I recently filled it with newspapers, but the front-page pictures were in color – something that didn’t exist in 1962 – so I made it a black & white.

 

The Record did a story about the trip the day after we left:

 

It was a great first trip without my parents, which means that most of the subsequent ones WITH them were not so great, but I guess that’s what happens when you get a little taste of freedom.

After 1962, I imagine that I got involved with teenage stuff, high school, college and work and didn’t really begin to start documenting anything until I finally found some photographic footing in the 70s.

 

1968 – The Grand Prix

Sometime around 1966, I acquired a black 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix. I had always liked the design and lines of this car, but I thought it could look so much better…………..maybe even hot.

First thing: a snazzy new paint job. This particular blue was a popular color on the Chevy Chevelle in the mid-60s. I thought it would be perfect.

Next thing: jack it up with the front end a bit higher than the rear. Hackensack Auto Spring took care of that.

It already looked unlike any Grand Prix ever created, but it needed chrome-reversed wheels – deep-dish in the front and regular in the back (deep-dish wouldn’t fit in back).

Pinstriping was added, the wheel wells were painted white and the tires and seats were made shiny with silicone. You almost had to wear a seat belt because you might slide right off the seat.

 

The finishing touch was a name for the car – something that was semi-popular at the time. After much thought, there could be none other than “Prix-fection”.

I hired a boyhood friend named Dickie Kunath to paint the name on the car. He had just opened a sign shop in Teaneck and was really good (he went on to become the guy who – among many other things – painted all the logos on the field at Yankee Stadium for special games like the World Series, etc.).

There was, however, one drawback to naming the car: stupid people.

One day while stopped at a light, a car pulls next to me. The guy yells out, “Hey, beautiful Grand Prix!”

“Thanks”

(I have to spell this one phonetically) “But what does ‘Pricks-fection’ mean?”

Oy.

I eventually added glass-pack mufflers to the car, so it sounded as good as it looked. More than one person thought it was a GTO (which was much smaller).

 

Inside the car, music was king. Remember 8-track tapes? A friend and I were the first ones in Bergen County to buy 4-track tape players for cars. The music selection was terrible (“The Best of the Ray Conniff Singers” – which I did NOT buy) and the only place that sold them was in East Paterson (now Elmwood Park).

So what did I replace it with? An unsmall 45-rpm record player under the dash that held 12-45s……..upside down……..and crowded passengers’ legs. An upside-down tone arm with a needle played the bottom record. When it finished, the arm would move out of the way while the just-played single would drop down and the process began again with the next single.

Additionally, I had a small reverb unit installed under the dash. In theory, this combo should have provided great sound, but because of the stiff ride provided by the lifts in the springs that raised the car, riding over a pebble sounded like someone kicked the reverb at full volume. I had to remove it.

I sold the car in 1969 and got a real GTO, which I remember racing against an XKE on my way down the shore late one night. At 140mph, the Jaguar walked away from me – how embarassing.

By the time I went back to college in September, 1970, I had an Austin-Healey Sprite convertible that was about the size (and consistency) of a tin can.

Late addition: I just found a picture of a car that’s identical (down to the color scheme) to my first car: a 1956 Dodge Custom Royal. I bought it from a high school classmate in 1965 and blew the engine two months later on the night before my prom – so much for impressing my date (my mother’s battleship gray, 4-door, ’61 Chevy didn’t quite measure up).

1969 – Woodstock

Before we go to Woodstock, I just found a couple of things – AFTER I posted the whole Woodstock thing – from a very full day 3 months earlier…………….May 18, to be exact, so I’m slipping it in here.

They’re two ticket stubs. I remember the second one very well, but not the first one at all.

It seems I attended a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium against the Angels (the Yanks won both games) and sat in a lower level box seat for $4.00. I then went to Madison Square Garden to see Jimi Hendrix and sat upstairs for $5.00.

I don’t even know who I went with, but here’s what I remember about the Garden show:

The band was on a rotating stage in the center of the Garden, but all the sound equipment was on the stage. That meant that for 99% of each revolution, the sound was at a modest level…………….and then all of a sudden, it went BAM!!! for a second or two and this continued for the entire show – very distracting and not exactly like listening to the records.

The other thing I distinctly recall was Jimi getting annoyed at the photographers’ flashes, announcing that the band was gonna walk off the stage if it continued.

“Ooo – what power the photographers have”, I thought. “I wanna do that!”

Little did I know………….

Anyway, what an amazing day…………….and all for $9.00!

 

 

 

 

 

 

WOODSTOCK!

 

From my site:

Photo taken in 1989

Yes, I went to the first Woodstock (and no, I wasn’t shooting concerts yet).

That experience is a very long story that I may write elsewhere, but suffice it to say, as soon as I got home, I took off my muddy sandals and bagged them (always thinking historically).

As you know, our tickets weren’t needed, so I got to keep mine from Saturday and Sunday (I couldn’t go Friday, so only bought for the 2 days).

20 years later, I took the tickets and sandals out of storage and took this picture just for the hell of it. I showed my agent, who wound up selling it to an Italian (I think) magazine which did a story for Woodstock’s 20th Anniversary.

 

 

 

On second thought, I just found a whole bunch of Woodstock-related items and have re-written my Woodstock story from one I wrote in 2009, so I’m just gonna put it all up here.

 

 

MY WOODSTOCK EXPERIENCE ©Bob Leafe

 

(NOTE: I originally wrote this in 2009 for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and have just re-worked it in 2017. After reading it, I should probably mention that the 3-day event was held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – August 15, 16, and 17 (plus the morning of Monday the 18th).

 

At the time, I was working on a one-year subcontract with IBM in East Fishkill, NY in their quality control chem lab and living during the week in Wappingers Falls, NY. I had to work on Friday (second shift), so couldn’t go to Woodstock that day.

An ex-girlfriend’s friend in New Jersey had let me know that she wanted to go Friday with another girl and come back to my apartment later that evening, so we could all go together the next morning.

They got back to my apartment – shell-shocked – at about 2am and we had to leave early that morning. But before we all went to sleep, she told me of her Woodstock experience that day.

She said she was lying on a blanket with her eyes closed listening to Richie Havens. When she opened her eyes, she saw some guy straddling her and dancing balls-ass naked practically right in her face. I’m guessing that she had never seen something like that at close range before. To say she was shocked is putting it mildly.

Despite that traumatic experience and now knowing that the traffic situation was not ideal, they both woke up a couple of hours later, ready to go.

We drove straight into the lion’s teeth – Route 17 (or was it 17B) – which became famous for becoming Woodstock’s parking lot.

We wound up parking about 13 miles away, walked 12, and then suddenly noticed that a lot of people were walking toward us, saying that the show was over – that the state troopers had closed it down.

The girls panicked. I said “Bullshit! We’re so close, let’s at least go and find out for sure”. They whined, “We have the car and we’re leaving – you can stay if you want”.

So near and yet…………..

I reluctantly left with them, got back to my place late afternoon and they went back to Jersey.

I was pissed. I HAD to be there. I KNEW that this was a monumental event and that I’d regret it the rest of my life if I didn’t go. I called the few people I knew up there……………no one wanted to go.

“Fuck it! I’m going!”

I packed my sleeping bag with a huge bag of creme sandwich cookies and a carton of cigarettes, which came in real handy for trading for other stuff. I went out to my car and found it had a flat tire……………and I couldn’t get the tire off!

No gas stations (or anything else) were open on a Saturday at 6pm in Wappingers Falls in 1969. I forget who I got, but someone finally showed up and got me going.

I decided to drive around the back way – out Rt 84 and up Rt 52. I parked in some little town that was about 5-7 miles away – possibly Jeffersonville (I’ve GOT to go back some day and find out) – and walked to the site. The roads were deserted with little-to-no lighting.

I found my way eventually to the site, coming in from behind the stage at around 12:30am. Creedence was on. I walked up along the stage-right fence away from the stage and finally found a spot by the fence and parked myself against it (the helicopters landed on the other side of it).

Next up was Janis Joplin. All I remember from that was some rumor spreading around me that there was a topless chick with huge tits dancing in front of the stage. I guess that’s what people do – start rumors – when they’re too far away to see if it’s true (although everyone squinted and said, “Oh yeah……..I see her………I think”).

Sly & the Family Stone was next and I’ll never forget the sheer volume of EVERYONE screaming “HIGHER!” at 4am. I was hoping it was loud enough to have woken those two princesses who were now safely back in New Jersey. It was THAT loud!

But my favorite moment was yet to come.

I was born on August 17 at exactly 5:00am. The Who came on at the EXACT moment that I turned 22. I was in my absolute glory.

After that memorable set, everybody was conking out. I really needed to use a Port-O-John. I found a bunch that had wooden planks leading to each unit because of all the mud. As I waited and worked my way closer, I noticed that each unit said “Men” or “Women” on the door. Fortunately, I happened to be in a “Men” line.

The door pops open and some chick bounces out. OK. I stepped inside to find out that these units had never been serviced. I swear – the pile in the bowl was actually higher than the seat! That girl HAD to leave with more than she went in with!

That’s OK…………I’ll hold it.

The Jefferson Airplane came on at around 7am, but people were still all zonked out. I actually walked right up to the stage and leaned on the barrier – no crowds, no pushing/shoving……………..very cool (but no camera either, unfortunately).

Sometime later in the set, I decided to leave. I had seen the bands I really wanted to see and since I had seen Hendrix 3 months earlier at MSG, I didn’t need to wait through another 24 hours.

It turned out to be a good move. The next set didn’t happen until 6 hours later after lots more rain. I got home by late Sunday morning and – realizing the historical importance of the event – I immediately took off my muddy sandals and bagged them. They’re still in that bag.

I took them out in 1989 for the 20th anniversary and took photos, which my agency sold to an Italian magazine that was doing a 20th anniversary story.

Go to bobleafe.com and find the “Woodstock I” listing.

So – I went to Woodstock twice in one day, probably walked a total of about 40 miles, was really only at the site for about 8 hours, saw Creedence, Janis, Sly, the Who, and the Airplane……………AND NEVER GOT RAINED ON!!! (and I’m not the one with lifetime regrets about going home and missing out)

 

PERFECT!!!

 

THE END

 

(actually, there’s more Woodstock after the 3 photos)

 

 

I shared a garden apartment in Wappingers Falls with a couple of other IBM-ers, who went home on weekends. Most of the time, I did that too, but obviously not THIS weekend.

I actually DID own a camera then, but it was a cheap Polaroid camera – the kind where after you separated the negative from the print, you had to smear a tube of some smelly chemical glop all over it. The stuff had the consistency of slightly harder Vaseline. And if you forgot, were too busy or didn’t do it evenly, the print would start to get weird, as you’ll see below in the Grand Prix shot.

Here are a couple of friends and the GP. Only the first one came out OK. I guess I forgot the tube of glop when I shot the GP.

 

 

 

I collected whatever newspapers I could to save the stories – some of which were unintentionally funny. My parents saved the NY Daily News ones. I was kinda busy and Woodstock didn’t have any newsstands, but I did manage to get one local paper out of Beacon, NY. I’m not sure where the Newark one came from.

My favorite headline has to be the third one. If you added wood planks to the picture underneath it, it would look like the scene for the Port-O-John lines that I wrote about above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had almost forgotten that I had taken a Polaroid of my muddy sandals when I got home from Woodstock – just before I bagged them. I obviously didn’t do too well with the Polaroid glop on this shot.

 

 

 

One of my favorite finds after I cleaned out my late parents’ house was a note I had left for my mother when I was home the week before Woodstock. I can’t believe she saved it, but thank you, Mom! What an historian SHE would have made!

 

 

 

BEFORE AND AFTER

About a month before Woodstock, I wrote to the show’s organizers to get some more information about what would actually be going on. They wrote back to me and the envelope had the Woodstock logo and the word “Wappingers” misspelled by some buzzed hippie in the mail room.

 

 

It contained the Woodstock brochure, a notice about the fact that the Festival had to be moved from the original site in Wallkill, NY. and an ad for a bright orange inflatable tent for $5.

I don’t recall seeing very many pictures of Woodstock with bright orange inflatable tents, do you?

 

 

 

Like my mother, I save everything and this time it paid off. In 2009, Rhino Records decided to re-release the Woodstock 1&2 albums with new liner notes, so they put out the call for ……..STUFF.

I submitted my envelope and its contents and guess what…….

The move from Wallkill to White Lake notice is on page 14 of the Woodstock I CD booklet (with the credit near the bottom of page 15)……………

 

 

………….and the entire Woodstock envelope it came in – complete with my name and address in “Wattingers” Falls – is on page 14 (with the credit once again near the bottom of page 15) of the Woodstock II CD booklet:

 

So I went to Woodstock, didn’t take any pictures and still managed to get into both Woodstock CD re-issues. In a weird way, that’s very fulfilling to a music photographer.

 

LATE ADDITION:

 

I visited the site on November 8, 2003 and took this picture, which includes the Woodstock monument and the stage location (the not-green area just above the fence on the left), which faced the sloping land where hundreds of thousands of us were sitting.

 

I came across the slide and scanned it in May, 2019. If you go to my site, there’s a shot of me standing on the monument.

 

 

1973 – $7.50 Life-Changer

When I started college all over again in 1970 – a year after I should have graduated – I had to do it full-time. That way, there’d be less of a chance of me not wanting to stick with it over the course of seven years or so going part-time.

That meant I’d also have to work full-time to pay for tuition, rent and food. I worked the midnight shift on one job for the first three years and 2nd-shift at another for senior year.

This meant that all big projects – like weekly chemistry and physics lab reports – had to be done on weekends. These projects take up a LOT of space, what with all the books, literature, measuring instruments, calculators and other stuff I don’t even remember – all at my fingertips.

At the time, I shared the 2nd-floor of a small two-family house in Englewood, NJ, with a roommate and his Afghan hound. There was no living room – only two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom – and nowhere to put a table large enough to accommodate the creation of science lab reports…………..even if I could have afforded a table that large.

The only solution was obvious: my king-size bed.

As you can see in the picture below, all that stuff – plus my phone, my watch (with studded 3″-wide leather band………..I had no clock) – fit on the bed with some space left over for me, laying on my side.

Somehow, it all worked and I was able to crank out these lab reports every week.

Note: besides the hippie watch band, you can see some other period must-haves in the image, such as a large tie-dyed sheet and – of course – a Frisbee.

Too bad that the king-sized comforter was jammed into that chair. Except for the back and sides, every part of it was patched beautifully. Sitting in that chair while wearing my patched jeans (see jeans in 2008 post) made me partially-camouflaged.

 

 

 

 

 

At the head of my bed was my stereo, my Garrard turntable (I still have the Garrard) and two sets of headphones – perfect for listening with………….someone.

I pulled the spindle from the turntable and replaced it with something that kept everything well in tune, but also prevented multiple-album play (and lid closure).

Such a dilemma……………

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOR $7.50

This happened while I was living in that Englewood, NJ house.

Led Zeppelin decided to do away with thousands of crazed ticket buyers jamming up dozens of venues for their 1973 US tour by offering a lottery system where everyone would send in payments by mail for $7.50 a ticket (plus 50 cents S&H per order – limit: 6 tickets).

 

It was not first-come-first-served for better seats. Rather, all seats were the same price and – after the deadline for submitting payment – seats would be selected at random.

You could get front row center orchestra or last row nosebleed seats behind the stage – everyone had a fair shot.

I certainly did. I got 4th-row, dead-center orchestra for the 3rd and final night at Madison Square Garden – the show that was filmed for Zep’s “The Song Remains the Same” movie (I even got in the movie!). I also got first night tickets just off the floor by the stage and second night ones for mid-orchestra.

As I wrote on bobleafe.com regarding that third night:

“I figured I would NEVER get this close again (yeah, right), so I borrowed a camera to have something memorable from it.

I had no real camera experience, so I got 2 minutes of instruction………‘do this’, ‘turn that’………before the show. To complicate matters, there was a sort of purple haze in the air. SOMEHOW, the pictures came out and I was on my way.”

If you’d like to read the rest of the story and see the pictures, go to the Led Zeppelin listing on my site and check out the first two shots.

Suffice it to say that this ticket changed my life and ultimately turned decades of working in a chemistry lab into decades of great music and fun.

The whole ticket was $7.50 – the stub is priceless.

1974 – “He’s a student” – “No, he’s faculty” – “STOP! You’re both right!”

After high school, I went to Seton Hall University. I lasted ONE semester. I hated it and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so rather than have my parents spend thousands of dollars that would have resulted in my getting a BA in Nothing in 1969, I dropped out to find some direction.

I found it in quality control chemistry lab work and got my chem degree in 1974. Before I got that degree, I worked for IBM and other labs and was hired in 1973 by the local community college to become a faculty member.

One day in early 1974, I noticed the two active faculty and student parking permits on my car (how often does that happen?) and decided that might make an interesting photo someday (but probably only interesting to me).

1975 – Faculty has an Afro!

In late 1974, I went to the WBAI-FM (NYC) Christmas Craft Show (which benefits the station) and found this great hanging stained-glass Rolling Stones logo (which I photographed in June, 1975). It’s about 10″ by 6″. I don’t recall what I paid for it, but it wasn’t a lot.

I still have it and still LOVE the Stones (who I photographed a half-dozen times).

 

 

 

The master of the house I was living in at the time was my roommate’s cat, Damien. You did NOT mess with Damien!

 

 

 

That house was in River Edge, NJ, and this picture was taken in my bedroom. I had acquired a folding metal record rack sometime in the early 70s from my hometown record store – the Teaneck Record Shop – when it closed. I used it until 1988.

The posters are 10cc and BOC (and if you don’t know who BOC is, look at the next picture). I got to shoot BOC the same year in the next town (Paramus) in the college where I was working.

The album artists I can make out in this less-than-optimally-exposed shot are: John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Rainbow, the Stones, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Robert Klein, two by the Tubes, Humble Pie, Frampton, Rick Derringer, Alice Cooper, Bowie, Be-Bop Deluxe (anybody remember them?), Aerosmith, Jo Jo Gunne, Lee Michaels, Mountain, Lou Reed, Springsteen, Joe Walsh, Johnny Winter and a rare-ish Zep booklet.

Only mellow, acoustic folk songs for me.

 

 

 

OK – so I didn’t actually take this March, 1975 picture myself, but I might have if I had a tripod with me that night. I was a big BOC fan and this show was in the gym of the college where I was a faculty member, so I got to sit in the front row and also take pictures on stage and in the dressing room (but you’ll have to go to my site to see those).