My association with Joe began many years ago when I answered an ad from Nelson's Studios seeking people to train for wedding photography. My humble Rolliecord twin lens beast held just 12 precious exposures, and he taught me to make every one count, since we were only allowed about eighty shots.
On the Monday after each wedding, I entered their store in the Colonial Arcade, handed off the exposed film and clomped up the steep wooden stairs to his office where I was first greeted by the ancient portrait of Ralph Perk that hung proudly near the doorway. While I waited patiently for Joe to end a phone call or some other task at hand, I enjoyed scanning the walls where the pictorial history of his work and family were displayed, among them, a beautiful portrait of his wife, Sherrie.
A phone rattles back into its cradle: “How much to I owe ya, Bill?” This was my favorite part. Joe had his work area arranged in a small rectangle so he could get to practically anything without standing up. He maneuvered his swivel chair like a programmed machine on an assembly line, pushing off from the desk and landing in precisely the right spot to pick up a pen, then pivoting and sliding across to retrieve the ledger, then his checkbook, with delightful squeaks being produced with every turn and then miraculously whooshing back to the exact starting place
Joe always held an annual picnic at Cedar Point for his employees, including us part timers. For our feast, we sat on the wooden benches in the pavilion and ate from generous bowls of company furnished potato salad and fried chicken. But before the first tender morsel passed our hungry lips, he leaped to the top of the table where his booming voice rang out a hearty thanks to the Lord, SO THAT ALL COULD HEAR!!!
Over the years, Nelson's Studio morphed into Pro Color Lab on Carnegie in downtown Cleveland. His son's Scott and Jeff managed it, along with his wife, Sherrie. Although failing health did not permit him to be as involved in the day to day operations, Joe always maintained a quiet presence there.
On occasion, you might have been privileged to encounter his smiling face and reminisce a moment or two, taking you back to days of and Black and White and Ralph Perk, and endless white veils…wait—what's that sound?
Do you hear squeaks?