On old film, a collector in Georgia uncovered a glimpse into Hawaii’s past from 1976

Updated: Oct. 12, 2020 at 6:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A collector in Georgia recently purchased an old camera from an online auction, and it turned out to be more valuable than she expected.

“Honestly, I wasn’t even looking to buy the camera, I was actually looking to buy the film,” said Atlanta camera collector Jodi Benaroch. “This kind of film has been discontinued many, many years ago, but I do have one or two other cameras that use it.”

Benaroch says she bought the old film and Kodak Instamatic camera from an eBay seller in Hawaii for about $60.

She says she noticed the number “8” on the back of the device, which meant there were someones' photos inside.

"It will show you how many pictures are left. “It’s one of those things that camera collectors kind of enjoy - the combination of being fascinated and curious of what’s on there with a little bit of fear of what’s on there because you don’t know,” Benaroch said.

After developing the roll of film in her home studio, Benaroch came across four photos.

“It looked like some kind of event, and as soon as I saw the photo where it said ‘Craven for U.S. House,’ then I thought okay I can date this,” said Benaroch.

The photos were taken in Hawaii in 1976 at a political rally at McKinley High School for John Craven who was running for Congress for the first time.

Craven was a top Navy scientist and nationally-recognized educator who moved to Oahu in 1970 after Governor John Burns asked him to oversee the marine programs at the University of Hawaii.

Benaroch said with a little help from the internet, she was able to track down Craven’s daughter Sarah who lives in D.C.

“I went into my office email and there was an email there from someone I never met before,” said Sarah Craven. “It was very polite. It said they hoped they weren’t intruding, they completely understood if I was freaked out by it, but that they had found this camera and it had pictures of my family from 1976. I was anything but freaked out, I was thrilled.”

Sarah was just 12 years old in the photos, but she says she remembers moments from that night vividly.

“The pictures are in black and white, but I can already remember how it felt and smelled to have those big carnation leis, which I don’t think people in Hawaii wear them as much anymore, so that was really a throwback,” she said.

Sarah says her father passed away five years ago from complications from Parkinson’s Disease, but the photos brought back memories of his energy and enthusiasm.

The timing of the discovery was also serendipitous since Dorothy Craven, John’s wife, was celebrating her 95th birthday.

“Sarah said, ‘Mom, sit down, I’m going to tell you something you’re not going to believe,’” said Dorothy Craven. “I just thought it was sort of amazing.”

In an album in her Honolulu home, Dorothy has photos from the same night back in 197 She says John convinced her to move to Oahu in 1970 for a year, but they never left.

She says that congressional campaign gave her family a unique introduction to Hawaii’s communities, one she’ll always cherish.

“I remember one day I had to go out to lunch with a bunch of Japanese ladies that had a club, and I was so nervous because I wasn’t so good with chopsticks, and I was just sure I was going to make a big mess. Those were people that I didn’t even know, and they were always so gracious and they were always generous,” Dorothy said.

And while the newfound photos aren’t the best quality, the Cravens say they’re priceless.

“I thought it was like the universe sending us a lovely message from my dad because that congressional race was a really important time for my family. We miss him a lot,” Sarah said.

John Craven lost the Democratic primary, but continued his extraordinary work in ocean and marine sciences for decades.

He died at the age of 90.

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