Josef Muench, of Arizona Highways photo-fame, I met and talked with at the Santa Barbara Camera Club in 1954, and at the time didn’t think too much about it other than acknowledging that he took good landscape photographs, but then, so did I (I was 17, and silly of course). Once a month that camera club selected three photos taken by club members and at the end of the year from that group of thirty-six photos chose the best slide of the year. My dad was a member, but I was just visiting him and my timing happened to coincide with the monthly meeting.
I visited my dad that summer and he showed me the giant trophy with his name on it. He was proudly displaying it on his mantel. The only problem was that he had won the slide of the year with one of my photos which I had loaned him; it was a lightning flash taken at the Priday Ranch near Antelope, Oregon. I had been working there a couple of weeks after graduating from Richland, Washington, high school and took the picture while sitting on top of a truck.
My photo, with just our common last name on it, he claimed was mixed in with his submissions accidentally, “just to show what his son was doing.” Anyhow, a couple of months later when the club members found out about his “inadvertent” cheating and that it was, in fact, my photo … (OOPS!!!)… he was literally run out of Santa Barbara.
It never really entered my adolescent mind that I had beaten out some of the acknowledged best photographers in the country in an open competition while using a ten-dollar camera. It was a 35mm Edindex, kind of a poor boy’s Leica.
I really liked my father. He was intelligent and a great storyteller, but I must face it now in my old age … a deadbeat conman.
This is only a funny sample of the things my father stole from me. Another not so funny was seven years of child support after abandoning my mother.