Albert Bale Trophy

baleAlbert died on 3rd January 2009 just a few days short of his 97th birthday.

Albert was the longest serving member of WDPS having joined the Society on 24th September 1946, it would have been earlier but there was a waiting list to join at that time. He was also a founder member of Walthamstow Amateur Cine Video Club in 1947 and a keen supporter of other camera clubs in the area.

His daughter Susie donated The Albert Bale Memorial Trophy in his name which is a portrait competition for prints.

From his early days Albert showed a non-conformist streak, keeping a grass snake as a pet rather than something more traditional.  He was bright at school and won an apprenticeship to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in the City.  It was a great opportunity but Albert took one look at the senior bankers and did not see himself turning into such a staid character.  It was also clear that the managers disapproved of his habit of scootingat high speed down the marble staircases.  Banking was not to be the career of this young man!

What he was crazy about were motors and motorbikes and he put his expertise to good use by becoming a lorry driver on the Scotland run. Around this time he went on a blind date with Doris and fell in love at first sight after making a debonair leap out of  his sports car to meet her.  They courted for a few years before marrying in August 1939.  A honeymoon wasn’t on the cards as Albert had to work, but he did manage to avoid having his lorry commandeered for the war effort and he returned to Doris for a few months before being conscripted.  He joined the REME where he continued using his engineering skills and he got on very well with his superior officers.  He was recommended for a commission but always refused, some say because he didn’t want to pay the extra mess bills!  Albert remained a staff Sergeant – and a very frugal person to the end!

His stint in the army wasn’t as bad as some.  For instance, in Holland he managed to get billeted on a family with 7 daughters, and one of his saddest tales from his time in France was finding himself too poor to purchase a looted emerald necklace offered to him in a bar.  He also got to play the guitar in an army band, the Delpolians, alongside sax player Ken Mackintosh who later became a big band leader.  One of his buddies was Canadian Erwin “Wendy” Wendholt who remained in contact with Albert and Doris throughout their lives.

Back home he had a band of his own, the Cleveland Strutter.  Doris played piano and his lifelong friend and great musician, Freddy Randall, was on trumpet.  Among others who sat in on occasion were Johnny Dankworth and Bobby Coram whose beautiful line drawings still grace the plaster beneath the wallpaper at Cleveland Park Crescent.  Albert’s idol was Django Reinhardt and he always valued the few times when he heard him play live.

During working hours, Albert joined up with his friend Norman ‘Buddy’ Laxton in his motor business but he loved photography and when a local business became available on the death of the owner, Albert bought it and worked from home under the name ‘Harris Photography’ until well beyond retirement age.  He became well known for his wedding photography.  In some churches he was the only one allowed to work during the service as he made his shot quietly from the back of the aisle without flash and waited for just that moment when the vicar raised his hand in blessing over the couple’s heads.

Simultaneously, in the 60s he became the staff photographer at Fuller Electronic, known later as Hawker Siddeley Power Transformers.  He thoroughly enjoyed the set-up there; a great darkroom, good friends, the chance to travel with his cameras to Iceland and Switzerland, and a high degree of autonomy.  Whilst there he produced a series of industrial films shot entirely alone save for the help of narrators such as Roy Garner and David Piggott.  He started a widely appreciated in-house newsletter, formed the Hawker Siddeley Photographic Club, and also twice won the BEAMA national award for best industrial photograph of the year.

Since childhood Albert loved poring over National Geographic magazines and many of his dreams of travel were fulfilled.  Starting with jaunts around Europe and North Africa in the 60s he was later able to travel further afield when Susie joined British Airways.  For his first long distance  trip he chose to visit America, to Susie’s home in Florida.  Over the years Albert produced many family films and a huge collection of slides from all corners of the globe many of which won awards in club competition.

People remember Albert as very good company and the life of the party, acting as an excellent MC on many occasions.  He had a most inquiring mind and always had questions to ask.  Equally, he was quick to share his lifetime of knowledge with the new photographers.  His repertoire of jokes was surprising.  No one knew where he got them from but they were usually worth hearing as long as Albert didn’t ruin it by breaking down in laughter before the punch line.

Remembering Albert also brings back the sound of his whistle.  Even after he gave up the guitar when his hands became a bit stiff, his lips would form a tune from the moment he got up in the morning.  “Up a Lazy River” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” were his favourite themes.

Then last 6 months since Doris died proved hard going.  He missed her as badly as he had done through the war.  Now the couple who believed they were made for each other can be together again.