In 1946, the Fellas opened their new studio at 1465 Main St. in Northampton. Martin Fella Sr. managed the new studio. A Liberty High School graduate and World War II veteran, he and his three brothers were trained by Otto, their father, in the photography profession.
His son Martin would also learn the profession from his father.
He recalled, “I had a camera in my hand when I was 5 years old. When I was in the third grade, I would accompany my father to many wedding receptions, carrying the flash bulb for the cameras and collecting them after all the photographs were taken. My father had many seven-day work weeks.”
Saturday was wedding day for most couples. Mr. Fella would go to the bride’s home for photographs, to the church service and then go to the studio for a few hours for photo appointments. Completing the appointments, he would return to the venue and take reception photos. The wedding photographs were then sent to our local newspapers.
Fifty years ago, newspapers featured a society page. The Sunday edition would contain bridal photos, engagements, anniversaries and social gatherings.
Mr. Fella recalls, “Many years ago, a Sunday Morning Call had 28 photos taken by Fella Studios.”
When you read our current newspapers, how many of a similar nature appear? This writer rarely sees any in the newspaper!
After the wedding photos appeared in the newspapers, the couple’s mailbox was filled with ads from the real estate agents, furniture stores, home appliance stores and yes, even insurance companies.
The Fellas and other studios all had busy weekends 50 years ago. Most wedding ceremonies were held in a church or a house of worship. Receptions were gala events held in numerous venues.
The local social clubs were booked with receptions from spring to fall. Mr. Fella took photos at many of these clubs. When the immigrants came to America, many formed clubs called Sick and Beneficial Societies.
In Northampton, the Fellas could be found with their camera every Saturday at these clubs. It seemed every week they were at a different club.
Each week, they could be at the following Northampton clubs: St. Joseph’s Sick and Beneficial Social, St. Peter and Paul’s S.B.C., St. Nicholas S.B.C., St. Stephen’s S.B.C. and Lierderkranz.
Reservations for the halls and the photographer, in many cases, were booked for a year in advance. Your name was placed on a waiting list.
Over in Coplay, you could find the Fellas at Nine Oaks, American Club, Saengerbund and West Coplay Maennorchor.
Their camera took them to fire halls, American Legion Posts, VFWs and wherever their photographic talents were needed.
A highlight for Mr. Fella’s father was when the Northampton Democratic Party hired him to cover political events. He was thrilled to photograph J.F. Kennedy on his arrival at ABE airport and at his presidential campaign speaking events.
We will continue to follow the Fellas’ camera journey in two weeks.