McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

February 23, 2014

From hobby to legacy

ENID, Okla. — These days, it’s not unusual for John Campbell to be up until dawn working in his dark room.

“I’ll look around (in the morning) and think, ‘Wow, it got kinda light out,’” Campbell, of Enid, said with a hearty laugh Saturday. “My son (Doug Nakvinda) will come in and say, ‘Dad, did you stay up all night again?’”

Located in the back of his house — beyond little pink bicycles and toy houses of his granddaughter on the carpet, dozens of eagle figurines and photos of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — the office contains what Campbell calls his “legacy”: upwards of 500,000 photographs, slides and negatives of planes, mostly military.

And, as a reminder that things could be worse, a framed photo of Albert Einstein sits over his desk, “because that’s a bad hair day,” he said.

He doesn’t have an exact number of the size of his archive, though.

“Back in 2007, I pushed through like two-thirds of this collection, and I couldn’t get through it,” he said.

Even though Campbell since has moved to digital file archives, he keeps all the airplane photos, negatives and slides in colored binders, filling four or so bookshelves. He doesn’t know how many binders line them.

“Everything’s going digital. I used to hate it, but I got stacks of discs this high now,” Campbell said, spreading his index fingers a foot apart.

The walls of the room not covered by bookshelves have been lined with framed photos of aviators, famed sound barrier-breaker Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager among them, as well as airplanes, including a restored B-29 at Tinker Air Force Base (during the investigation of which he broke both his arms).

His latest collections include photos of Russian airplanes, placed in red binders, and three boxes of photos of the Navy’s Blue Angels demonstration team, who change pilots, but have flown F/A-18 Hornet planes since 1992. Currently, Campbell is doing a write-up of the Fifth Air Force’s WWII 90th Bombardment Group of B-24 Liberators, known as the “Jolly Rogers” for the skull-and-crossed bombs on their tail fins.

 

A custodian

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