BINGHAMTON FLASHBACK: The Ansco-G.A.F. Plant
The string of buildings and the big water tower could be seen driving along kamikaze curve on RT 17 for many years, the Ansco/G.A.F. film plant was a major player in Binghamton’s manufacturing history.
Today’s flashback article comes with a personal touch as we highlight the string of buildings off Clinton street on the west side of Binghamton know to most as the G.A.F. plant, older Binghamtonians would refer to the previous company name, ANSCO.
The film plant ANSCO came to Binghamton at the start of the 20th century and began as camera and photo products manufacturers, and over the next several years built 40 plus buildings in and around the original building in the first ward.
I don’t know all the history but according to my dad it was part of a German company called Agfa and when WW2 begin it was taken over by the government and used in the war effort.
After the war it re-emerged as General Aniline Film Corporation, and continued making film, cameras products and eventually the popular view master in the mid 1960’s.
My father started working for G.A.F. around that time and worked there till his retirement in 1994.
Dad was a film and paper slitter and because the material was photo sensitive, he worked in the dark, or sometimes in green light.
In 1977 my father helped me get into G.A.F. where I was a transporter moving huge rolls of film on these big carts, there were these light locks kind of a tunnel that weaved around corners and eventually into darkness, or vice versa if you were coming out into the light.
My dad always commented on how sensitive his eyes were at times, and I guess I never realized it until I actually worker in those conditions. My days were numbered as I was layed off a few month later.
My Uncle worked at the G.A.F. plant for many years, and my brother also worked at G.A.F., he was employed for over 20 years, and experienced a few of the many layoffs from the union employed company.
Another memory was ANSCO Lake which was also called GAF Lake in Windsor, we would go there a few times when I was a boy, the property has since been sold off, but the sign remained up for many years and I’m sure it was confusing to people who didn’t grow up during those times.
We also had a 8mm film camera that my dad bought from the G.A.F. camera shop, we took several live motion pictures, but I think we should have let my dad operate the camera, as I look back at a lot of out of focus / silly shots in those home movies.
The plant changed names a few times and was eventually bought by Kodak in 1998, they promised the workers they would have a job, and then shut it down soon after.
I think most of us that grew up during the time of film cameras will never be afforded the photos and videos that today’s generation will be able to look back on.
Every time I drive over the prospect mountain strip of route 17, I remember the old G.A.F. plant and the family and friends that worked there.
Ansco-G.A.F. Plant Binghamton, NY
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