Feb. 12--Elijah Johnson looked at the camera and noticed stuff "oozing out of it."
It was a 20-year-old Nikon -- and the batteries hadn't been changed in more than six years.
The woman who brought it to Johnson said she needed it repaired at all costs.
Seeing the corrosion as thick as Scarlett O'Hara's accent, Johnson doubted it had much of a chance of being saved.
But he got the camera back in order, giving the woman a picture-perfect smile.
"Some jobs are tougher than others," he says.
The retired Army veteran has operated Johnson's Camera Repair in Columbus since 1973. Except for a few years when his son assisted him, it's been a one-man show and is currently the only shop of its type in the area.
He laughs when asked if he ever suggests a good camera for someone to buy. He implies it would be unfair for him to do so.
"Every camera I see is broken," he says
In the past, Johnson has remarked that his dream was to have a building shaped like a camera, but he's perfectly pleased in his Mission Square location on University Avenue.
He has a wife, Laverna, and six children, but it's up for debate how much he sees them. "I have little free time," he admits. His shop is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day but Sunday, and he says his chores often keep him there much later. He once missed 30 days for an operation but can't recall skipping another day of work.
His faith is as strong as his work ethic. He starts off each day at his shop with a full hour of prayer and meditation. Johnson, who turns 75 next month, has no thoughts about retirement.
"But at my age," he says, laughing, "I might not have much choice."
Though his life is cameras, he rarely shoots photographs himself. "I used to do some weddings -- stuff like that for folks -- but it was too much of a hassle," he says.
When he does take photos, he likes to take them of people. "I've done a few scenic shots but don't care for it much," he says.
He was born and raised in Lowndes County in south Georgia, and he entered the Army in 1953.
Twenty years in the military saw the former sergeant first class stationed twice in Korea, three times in Vietnam and once in Germany.
He was awarded a Bronze Star and a host of other honors while in the service, but doesn't like to talk much about it. A portrait of a young Johnson in uniform holding a camera decorates a wall in his place of business.
Though he served time in the infantry, Johnson spent 15 years doing maintenance on Army helicopters.