Innerviews: Photo store scion still fiddling with film
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Growing up, David Moore was the mirror image of his twin brother, Dick. Even now, he has trouble discerning who's who in pictures.
He grew up in the family business, the S. Spencer Moore Co., an iconic book and photo supply store in downtown Charleston. It operated on Capitol Street from the 1890s until it closed in 1987, a casualty of changing times.
As a teenager in Charleston, David Moore enjoyed competitive water skiing, playing in bands and working in the store's photo lab.
For years, he worked for various airlines, 13 companies in all. He flew all over the world.
At Boeing in Seattle, skills honed back home landed him a job in the company photo lab.
In 1980, the wandering store scion returned to the photo lab at Moore's. At 66, he works part-time at the airport and stays busy at home preserving old film on his computer. The lifelong fascination with film goes on.
"I grew up in old South Ruffner adjacent to Morris Harvey College, now the University of Charleston. Morris Harvey only had one building then. There was a lot of green grass. We would play down there as kids.
"I have a twin brother. Dick and I were so identical that all through high school we would switch classes and nobody knew it until they put us in the same room as seniors.
"At Morris Harvey, my brother didn't show up for the annual fraternity photograph. I asked the photographer to let me pose one way, then turn and pose the other way, so he could be included.
"Years later, I told my wife and kids I would give them $10 if they could tell me which one was Uncle Dick. Of course, nobody won because it was me in both photographs.
"The store [S. Spencer Moore] sold about everything. They sold schoolbooks, office and art supplies and did framing. They had a photo-finishing lab.
"The store was started on the corner of Kanawha and Summers by E.T. Moore who came here with the Union Army in 1862. S. Spencer Moore, my great-grandfather, joined him in 1863.
"The photo lab was our bread and butter. Dad would shoot all the high school football games, and we would start the processing machines on Friday night, and they wouldn't stop until Monday.
"I started shooting the games with my brother. It was an all-night job. We'd go to the bus depot 100 times a night to pick up film from all the high schools around Virginia and West Virginia.
"We had the first color processing lab in Charleston, maybe West Virginia. We did all of Kmart's business for years -- 24 hours a day, print, print, print. It was crazy.
"We had an Eastman Kodak franchise. George Eastman came to Charleston in 1913 and filmed part of downtown Charleston. All the women were dressed in those old black dresses up to their necks and down to their ankles, and all the men wore ties and hats, which I think they should do today. It was the first movie taken in Charleston.
"In junior high, I met Ross Tuckwiller, who used to own Ernie's Esquire. Ross loved water skiing. Any time it was skiable weather, we were out there on the river.
"Jerry White came down from Ohio. Ross and I were experimenting with trick skis. Jerry knew the real game. We started getting into regional and national tournaments.
"I worked summers at the Charleston Boat Club. I got a Cypress Gardens water ski franchise and sold skis to boaters.
"Music was my other hobby. My brother and I did a duet with guitar and ukulele. Then Bobby Tate formed a folk music group. We called it the Freeways.
"He taught me to play the six-string guitar. Then he taught me to play bass. I played electric bass with the Rooks, the Fascinations and other bands. I give Bobby Tate all the credit for my music.
"Then I hit Morris Harvey. I only went two years. I got interested in the airlines. I went to the airport looking for a job. Tom North, a pilot in the Guard, said they needed pilots. I flunked the physical, so I went over to the airport, and they said to go home and get a degree. I took a lot of math and chemistry at Morris Harvey. They have good instructors. I even aced chemistry.
"I went to Seattle to see a girl, a flight attendant for United. I met three guys, and we became roommates. We all got jobs at Boeing.
"Guess where I ended up? The photo lab. The interviewer kept saying, 'Have you done anything else?' I said I had worked in the photo lab. They had an opening there.
"I decided to get back to college and was accepted at the University of Washington. Tuition was like $125 a quarter. When I graduated, I had a paid-up college degree. The chemistry and the math saved me. Morris Harvey set me up.
"At one point, Boeing laid off thousands. I worked only when they needed me. Any free time I had, I would fly anywhere in the world with my first wife.
"I was working for Alaska Airlines in Seattle the night D.B. Cooper jumped out of the airplane. I saw the money go out.
"We lost an airplane in Juno. It ran into a mountain with 105 people on board. I had to do the next-of-kin room. That was terrible.
"My wife wanted to go back east, so we moved to Washington, D.C., and lived in Virginia. I worked for the American Trucking Association for a year.
"I was working for Piedmont Airlines part time at night. Then I went to United. That didn't last six months. Airlines have 10-year cycles. They're great, and then they're dying.
"I went to the Air Transport Assn., working for the industry. We scheduled charter flights for GIs. We'd have maybe 200 guys going to the same point about same time. We would consolidate them into a charter. It saved taxpayers a ton of money.
"I could get a ticket on any airline except United and Northwest. I'd travel to Europe, Southeast Asia, Hawaii a million times.
"For a month, I worked for Eastern in the morning and Braniff [International Airways] in the afternoon. Deregulation was coming. I got laid off. I came back to West Virginia in 1980. I was getting a divorce, and I had my two boys. I raised Todd and Jason, with my mom's help. I have a third son, Christopher, from my third marriage.
"I was running the photo lab at the store. You always end up in the photo lab. I automated the lab. Boy, the film that would come through!
"But things were changing. Town Center opened. We couldn't open a business there the way we wanted it. They wanted you to be specialized, like only photography.
"Then they closed Capitol Street at Christmas. United Bank across the street closed. It was one nail after another, but that Christmas was the killer.
"We closed in March 1987. It was sad. Here comes my dad at 8 in the morning. He never got up before noon. He told me to lock the door, that he was closing the business. I was mad. In hindsight, it was the right thing to do. There was no way we could have made it.
"My brother showed me eight or nine stores on Capitol Street that were over 100 years old. He said they would all be gone in two or three years. He was right.
"I went back up and worked for United as a part-time ticket agent. Six months later, they pulled out, and Air Wisconsin came in. They were union. I told the lady I would probably go to Chicago. They asked if I would think about being a station manager, the boss.
"I was station manager for about 10 years. When Air Wisconsin pulled out, I went to Atlanta to work for First Data Corp. That was collections. That was a nightmare. We had five minutes max to talk to someone. They wanted you to finish in two.
"I went up to Newport News to stay with a friend and got a job with Ball Canning in production. They make Budweiser beer cans.
"I came back to West Virginia to visit. The manager for Comair needed an agent. He asked me what I was doing. I said I wasn't doing anything. I've been there ever since.
"I've worked for 13 airlines. When Comair left, it was Regional Elite Services, another Delta subsidiary. They left and it became Delta Global Services.
"I retired for one year and couldn't stand it. They had cargo issues, so I went back. I've been working a few hours a day, taking care of the freight and fuel and stuff. There's always another opportunity.
"The rest of the time, I screw around with videos on the computer. I bought Merrill's device to transfer film to disks. I've got films all over the place." Reach Sandy Wells at email@example.com or 304-348-5173.