Yakkety-Sax Man – Part IV: It’s Istanbul, Not Constantinople


Istanbul, Turkey.  Formerly Constantinople.  Getting off the plane the smell is instantly noticeable.  Turkish cigarettes and other odors cling to the air.  This is Istanbul International Airport.  We were debarking from an Air Force Super Constellation that brought us via Bermuda, Madrid, Tripoli, and Athens.  The Madrid stopover was necessitated by a failure of one of the four engines over Gibralter.  We stayed there overnight while the engine was replaced.

Harbiye'deki Hilton otelinin Taksim tarafından...

Istanbul Hilton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After staying over night at the Istanbul Hilton for about  $15.00 American, we were flown to Karamursel AFB, which would turnout to be our home for nearly three years.  This flight was a rickety Air Force C-47 that was from our duty station there to pick us up.  The pilot, who eventually became a family friend, had to. at times, poke a broomstick that he carried in the cockpit, up into the engine on start-up.  I don’t know what this accomplished, except to raise the eyebrows of new arrivals.

Karamursel AFB, was the home of TUSLOG Det. 3, (Turkish United States Logistics Group),a unit of the United States Air Force Security Service.  But other branches of the service were represented there, too.  It is on the Sea of Marmara southeast of Istanbul.  Our mission was monitoring communications of our friends north and east of the Black Sea.

English: United States Air Force Security Serv...

United States Air Force Security Service emblem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yalova Turkey Provinces locator

Yalova, Turkey upper left.  Just north of it you can see the Bosphorus canal that separates the two parts of Istanbul, between the Sea Marmara and the Black Seas. Meditereanean is at far left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Initially, Ann stayed in the States, as I didn’t have the rank for the Air Force to pay her way.  There were no quarters for families on the base and married couples lived in Yalova, a village about 12 miles away.  But after living in a barracks environment for about two months, I asked Ann to sell the Buick and use the money for a plane ticket to Turkey.  A few weeks later, she made her first plane trip ever, and I met her in Istanbul.  After a night at the Hilton,  we took the ferry to Yalova, about an hour’s trip.

I had found an apartment on the 4th floor of a building in Yalova.  Another military couple was the previous tenant, and our neighbors in the building were all military, too.  The rent was about $11.00 per month.  These low prices were because of the exchange rate.  We had a maid, $3.00 monthly and a houseboy, another $3.00.  These rates were American money, but with exchange rates the wages were average for the Turkish.  The apartment was two bedrooms and a kitchen.  The bath had a hot water tank with a fire-box underneath.  You had to build a fire before going to bed to have hot water in the morning.  Then you built another fire to have hot water in evening.  Our house boy took care of that, lugging firewood up the four flights of stairs.  He also met us when we came home from work, to carry any of our groceries, etc. upstairs for us.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  After my own arrival earlier and getting settled in, I stopped by the Airmen’s Club, that was in the base fire station.  It was temporary and plans were in the offing for a permanent club.  Anyway, some musicians were jamming one evening.  They were using instruments from the special services department.  My sax was still in transit so I picked up this battered looking alto and and used it.  I was immediately invited to play with a group that was playing a few gigs around the area.  It was made of of Navy personnel mainly.  We played at the NCO club a time or two and down at a submarine base at Golcuk, Turkey.

To do the appearances at the club at Golcuk, we needed a vehicle to haul the large equipment, drums, base, etc.  One of the sailors worked at the motor pool, and we “midnight requisitioned” a van of some type, and sneaked it past the military police on the gate.

Ann arrived then, and I ran into some Air Force musicians that also had a group and we re-organized.  We really could put on a show.  We had a piano player, upright bass, trumpet, sax, (me) and drums.  We romped to the style of Louis PrimaI fittingly happened to play a Sam Butera style at that time.  What a blast it was!  We would occasionally go to Istanbul and entertain at a USO club there.  We had to take our equipment on a ferry across the sea.  Quite a chore, but there was always a bunch of Turkish civilians that were more than anxious to help us.

Turkish ferry.  Harbor at Istanbul, Turkey.  @Bob Zeller.

Turkish ferry. Harbor at Istanbul, Turkey. @Bob Zeller.

Ann had gotten a job as office manager for the Officers’ Club and was instrumental in getting us to play at the dances there.  We played for the grand opening of the new NCO club, and many dances after that.  It was during one of those outings that a USO Show was there for extra entertainment. The caracaturist that drew the likenesses of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis was there with the group and he thought I was a great candidate for a caracature.   Below is the resultblog_bob_caracature.  I think he liked my Adam’s apple.

Our trumpet player was a member of one of the major big bands before entering the Air Force.  He was only serving a two-year hitch and was planning on re-joining that orchestra.  I don’t remember the name of that band.

Our upright bass player, Les White, had been a radio announcer, and he was our MC.  We didn’t do many vocals, as we were more of a show band.

By now you may be wondering where my photography came in.  It was at this Air Base that I bought my very first 35mm camera.  It was a German-made Kodak Retina IIIs rangefinder type.  Of course, I had always owned a camera of some sort, but they were the cheap little box cameras of the era.  The Brownie Hawkeye comes to mind.  I started shooting Kodachrome slides with a film speed of ASA 10.  To me the best slide film ever made.

Turkish Fishing Boat  @Bob Zeller

Turkish Fishing Boat @Bob Zeller

I began to get serious, and I enrolled with the home study course from the New York Institute of Photography.  I shot hundreds of slides while in Turkey, but during the shipment of our household goods back to the States many of them were lost or damaged.  But while I was there, I got acquainted with the official base photographer and he let me use the darkroom.  In return I let him use some of my own photos to use for the base commanders briefings for VIPs that dropped by.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Tukey.  ©Bob Zeller

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey. ©Bob Zeller

Since Ann and I were doing so well, with our “side jobs”, we extended our tour an additional year.  My job on base was Chief Cashier and in charge of the payroll.  I was responsible for paying all military and indigenous civilian personnel at the air base, plus two smaller detachments on remote sites on the Black Sea.  Most of the time, I was sitting in a cashiers cage, with a .45 caliber pistol at my side, handing out thousands of dollars each day.

It was on one of these days, in September of 1961 that I felt a twinge in my chest while I was sitting there.  Uh oh!……….  To be continued…………

Watch for Part V in about another week.  If you missed the first three parts, click the links below.

Part I, Part II, Part III

My Surprising Past (or would you buy a used car from this guy?)


This post will probably contain a bit of entertaining nonsense about my past that I haven’t told you about in detail  But never fear, it is rated PG.  It may not have many pictures, or maybe none at all, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.  We will just see where it leads.

What brought this on, is that my friend Ross McSwain, author of several books about the history of west Texas, made a remark to me that rather surprised.  I have know Ross for forty something years, and after reviewing my book for me, he said “Bob, I have known you for years, played golf with you, listened to you on the saxophone, but I never knew you to be a photographer”.

It made me think about what little my friends actually knew about me.  To set the record straight, although I opted to take a course through the New York Institute of Photography, I had no intentions of pursuing a profession by the use of a camera.  I just wanted to be good at it.  So my photographic work came in streaks.  Mainly when we vacationing, when I wanted pictures of places we visited.

So when we came to San Angelo in 1961, I was with the US Air Force.  My main focus at the time, was my musical career.  Ever since leaving high school that had been my main thing in life.  I rarely had a weekend off from playing the sax.  I was in demand and could name my own price.  But then, at a dance at the Cactus Hotel Ballroom in June of 1962 my life changed.

After coming back from intermission, where I had a cigarette (my final one as it turned out), I sat down to play the next set.  Halfway through the first song, my left lung collapsed.   I said to myself  “Oh s**t!, not again!”  I knew immediately what had happened, having had it happen to my right lung in October of the previous year.  I went into denial, and decided to try to complete the set.  I got through three more songs, then I decided to let them cart me off to the emergency room at the air base.  You can see more details about the cause in my Marfan Syndrome Page

In the years following that, I still played in several bands off and on, but was always careful and watchful of my health.  Because of my problems, after spending the summer of 1962 at the Wilford Hall hospital at Lackland AFB in Texas, the government decided to let me go, and I was awarded my 2nd honorable discharge that following September.  (I was on my second tour of duty.)

My intended Air Force career was no more, so I had to adjust and find civilian work.  I tried several things, selling encyclopedias, selling Watkins products, working in a service station.  In 1964 I finally got a job as head bookkeeper for the Lake View School District here in San Angelo.  My Air Force job had been in accounting so the fit was perfect.  But since I wasn’t CPA, the pay wasn’t very good so after a few years I moved on.

In 1968, Ann, who had been working for the local Coca-cola Bottling Company, was transferred to the Las Cruces, New Mexico plant.  I decided to try a new career, selling cars.  Now here is where the fun starts.

At that time I was a terrible introvert.  I was afraid to talk to people.  Not a good asset, if you want to sell cars.  I was working for some very nice people that owned the dealership.  Needless to say, I fell on my face when trying to sell, so they asked me if I wanted work in the bookkeeping department.  I moved to the office and did very well there.

You’re probably still wondering about my photography.  Well, I was still taking photographs on weekends.  The Organ Mountains and White Sands National Monument were near, and it wasn’t a long drive to get to other great sites in the Gila National Forest.  But, photography was still just a passing hobby.

I was asked to join a local chapter of the Optimist Club.  At first, my greatest fear was that they were going to ask me to give the blessings before breakfast.  I kept avoiding that as shy as I was.  But, believe it or not, after several months of hanging with those guys, I lost my shyness, and really started to open up.  My wife said that nobody could shut me up after that.

Meanwhile, back at the Chevrolet Dealership.  I started to get excited about wanting to sell cars.  But based on my previous “sales record”, they didn’t want to take a chance.  So, I decided to bid them farewell.

The next day I went to work at the Ford Dealership.  Within the first hour there I sold my very first car.  A 1972 Maverick to a soldier from White Sands Missle Range.

In June of that year Ann was transferred back to San Angelo.  I got into car sales immediately, and stayed doing that for another six years.  After cars got so high priced, it made me uncomfortable, so I went to work selling tires.  Montgomery Wards until they closed, then Goodyear.  I could sell tires to an Eskimo for his sled. 🙂

In 1982 I got tired of working for other people, so I went into business for myself.  I started Bob’s Mow’n’Trim Lawn and Landscape Service.  It was very, very successful, but it was a strain on my health, so on the doctor’s recommendation I sold the business in about 1987.  I took a few months off, then decided to work as a contractor delivering newspapers.  I was the best in town for twelve years, and when I retired in 1999, they gave me a nice brief case.

So then, I finally had the time to do serious photography.  A fellow artist, a scuptor, suggested I take my work to art shows.  It was a rough start, as I didn’t have much inventory, but after selling a few prints, I really got excited.  I bought a little trailer, backdrops, and display materials.  During the week I would be out in the field taking photographs, then traveling on weekends to shows around west Texas.  We would do about two shows per month.

So even though it took me a few years, the work I did learning the craft of photography finally paid off.  We retired from doing shows about four years ago.  I now sell my work, word of mouth, on-line, and contacts with various magazines, etc.  But we had great memories.  So now you know a little more about me.

Ya wanna buy a car??  I’ll tell ya what I’m gonna do……………. 🙂

Check out my book by clicking on the links on the right side of this page.

Want to sell your photographs??


A lot has been said the last day or two in comments to my posts, in reference to the sales of photographs.  I think, in this post, I will tell you how I have managed to pick a few bucks in sales.  To begin with, I feel I should mention that when I decided many years ago to study with the New York Institute of Photography, I had no intention of wanting to get a job in photography.  I didn’t want to work for a magazine or newspaper, and have to go on assignments.  I simply just wanted to be a good photographer.

It has worked pretty much the way I wanted.  I took what I learned, combined it with my natural eye for composition and managed to take good photographs.  Over the earlier years I mostly gave away my prints, for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  Oh, lest I forget, I filled our walls, too.

Later on, about 15-20 years ago, a friend of mine who was an artist, a sculptor, suggested I enter an art show and sale that he was participating in.  With some arm pulling, he convinced me that would be a way to sell a few prints.  I had no display materiel, back-drops, etc.  I only had a card table.  The fee for the show was about 20.00 for a 10×10 ft space.

For merchandise, I had printed out twenty-one different 11×14 prints and had them mounted on foam-board and shrink-wrapped.  I done the mounting and shrink-wrapping myself, borrowing the material from my friend, and using a hair-dryer to seal them.  I was good to go, ready to present my work to the world. 🙂

The show was a week-end deal, from 10:00 until 6:00Pm on Saturday, and from noon until 5:00PM on Sunday.  I had my prints priced at 25.00 each.  I sold my first and only print at about 3:00 on Sunday afternoon.  At least, my first foray into the world of arts and crafts shows wasn’t a complete bust.  But to be honest, when I made that one sale, I was elated.  Holy Smokes!  Somebody liked my work well enough that they wanted to buy it.  What a great feeling!

I realized then that I really wasn’t prepared.  With only 21 prints to choose from there just wasn’t enough choice.  I had only one size, 11×14.  I decided the next time I would have more variety in pictures, and also in sizes.

The next time I was in better shape.  I got some backdrop made of lattice-work, hooked it together so it would stand up and hung a few prints.  I got a larger table with boxes where people could sort through the pictures.  Sales started to pick up.  But still not enough to really make enough money.

I decided if I was going to do this, I needed to get smart and do things to look a little more professional.  At first, I was having some prints framed at a professional frame shop.  That worked, except that because of the costs, I couldn’t sell them at a price where it was very cost effective.  So, I invested in a mat-cutter.  I learned to cut my own mats, and do my own framing.  I had a few outlets where I could buy frames at wholesale prices.  In place of shrink-wrapping, I discovered a company, Clearbags.com. that sold crystal clear bags or envelopes to slide my mounted prints into.  I also invested in some professional back-drops, whereas I could hang framed pictures in an attractive setting.

Show set-up

When things really got rolling, I was selling framed prints, mostly matted 11x14s.  They will fit perfectly into 16×20 frames.  Matted 8×10 prints will fit into 11×14 frames.  These are standard sizes.  This way you won’t be spending money on custom made frames.  Personally, I always bought my frames, standard off the shelf sizes, at Hobby Lobby, when they were on sale 1/2 off.  You can also buy pre-cut standard mats so you won’t have to do any mat-cutting if you don’t want.

I was also selling note-cards with envelopes, with of course my own pictures.  It pays to diversify, to have more choices for the customer.  They may not want to pay for large print, but they just might consider a few note cards, that cost you 35 cents and they pay you 2.95.

I own a Epson Stylus R1900 Photo printer.  It will print up to a 13×19 print, that will last 100 years.  For larger sizes, I use a very good on-line company.  Reliable Photo, whose prices you won’t believe.  I am talking really low prices for top quality, beautiful prints.  Avery, the company that makes paper, labels, etc. had free software so you can design your note cards, and by the way, business cards.

As you have probably realized by now, it takes considerable investment to really do it right.  But you can start out small, and probably do a better job than I did, then gradually add and grow.  Check out some arts and crafts shows near you, and see how some of those photographers and artists operate.

A few years ago, I was doing about 25 shows per year.  Averaging two shows per month.  We had a van and traveled around west Texas, usually picking out shows that were within 150 miles of us, so as not to travel too far.  I averaged anywhere from 700.00 to 2,000.00 in sales per weekend.

My car with sign

Some other tips.  Always carry business cards, and don’t be afraid to hand them to anyone.  You want to keep your name out there.  I even invested in magnetic signs for my car.  they cost me 30.00 each.  Now I am not going to say that someone saw my sign and called me about a picture.  Probably, not at all.  But my name is out there and people recognize me.

You might frame a few prints and ask your favorite bank, or restaurant, etc., if you can hang some framed prints there.  Offer them a percentage of a sale.  You can ask a larger price to cover that.  Personally, I have a large collection of my work hanging in the Crockett National Bank, here in San Angelo.  As I get new works, I frame it and swap it out, so my display changes every month or two.  I don’t have an account there, but the bank president had seen my work and liked it.  He initially asked me to display my work for a month, but I have been there now for over a year now.  By the way, when I sell something he doesn’t want any commission.  He benefits from the people to come in his bank, when I tell them my gallery is located there.

A web-site is good to have, too.  It is a good place to refer people to, so they can see your work ahead of time.  In reality, I have sold images over the internet but not enough to make a living at it.  On occasion, a magazine will contact me and that can be lucrative.  I have been published in Photography Forum Magazine,  Wild West Magazine,  Texas Farmers and Ranch Magazine,  and National Wildlife Magazine.  Plus I had a photo on the cover of another issue of National Wildlife Maazine.

Ross McSwain, who writes the “Out Yonder” column for the San Angelo Standard-Times, wrote a book about west Texas.  He asked me to do the cover for the book, plus illustrate several chapters.  It sold unter the title of “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”.  Now he is doing another book.  It will be called “The Best of Out Yonder”, and again he has contracted me to do the cover and other illustrations.  It will published in 2012.

For me, though, the shows were where I made the most money on a regular basis.  But now I now longer need to do them, and at my age, I now longer want to do them.

Now, just word of mouth and local sales work for me.  For example, on two occasions, I have had people buy literally a house full of pictures.  They had bought new homes, and wanted my work in each and every room.  My only advertising, is my cards, my sign on my car, and the fact that people know that for nature photography, I am the person to see.

I hope this article instills a little eagerness on your part to get out and let the public see and buy your images.  I did it, and so can you.

Now I want to wish all of my readers, my fellow bloggers, and everyone else, a very Merry Christmas to you and your families.