KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The 1963 Zapruder film of President John F. Kennedy's assassination was shot on it.
So, too, were the portraits of Sir Edmund Hillary on Mount Everest, a famed 1985 National Geographic cover of a beautiful Afghan refugee girl, and probably a generation or two of your family's vacation slides.
"They give us those nice bright colors; they give us the greens of summers," Paul Simon sang, immortalizing the film in his 1973 hit "Kodachrome."
So when Angie Jennings of Prairie Village, Kan., learned that Kodachrome was going away -- that Kodak would stop making the film in 2009 and that the last Kodachrome processing machine on the globe would shut down at the end of 2010 -- she knew what to do.
In September, the 45-year-old art photographer trekked with her mother, 72, up a lush hillside in China's Fujian province. There, visiting the tea fields of a dear friend, she stood on the rise of a winding path. Shrubs rich with the buds of her favorite white tea covered the mountainside.
"That was the point I pulled out my Leica loaded with Kodachrome," Jennings said. "The Kodachrome deserved to be shot in China."
But it would be processed in a town in southeast Kansas.
Dwayne's Photo -- started in Parsons in 1956 by Dwayne Steinle, now 79, and run primarily by son Grant, 48 -- had announced that it planned to stop processing Kodachrome film on Dec. 30.
The 6-foot-tall, 28-foot-long processing machine, which was used to churn out slides and film at 32 feet per minute, would be sold for scrap.
News that Dwayne's was dropping this aspect of its business generated not only a worldwide wave of nostalgia, but also what Grant Steinle called "a tsunami of film."
Before the explosion in digital photography, Dwayne's employed 200 people as one of Parsons' biggest businesses. Today it has 60 employees. And Kodachrome's touchstone to the pre-digital past has kept them busier than ever.
The stop date was postponed from the end of 2010, but is expected this month.
"The deadline for getting the film in was the 30th," Grant Steinle said. "A couple of days before that, we were inundated. Normally we get 20 to 30 packages a day from FedEx and three or four bags of mail from the post office. One day last week, we got 500 packages from FedEx, 250 from UPS and probably 18 bags of mail."
Film came from China, Japan, Australia. The volume in November was triple that of the November before. For a time, processing went on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In November, Bill Thomas, 58, a co-owner of Crick Camera Shop in Kansas City, broke out his Leica camera to take Kodachrome slides of Half Dome, the granite mountain face that looms over California's Yosemite National Park.
"I wanted to be one of the last to have Kodachrome processed," Thomas said, "for nostalgia's sake, so to speak."
When Sara Manco, 23, of Prairie Village, heard that Kodachrome's end was near, she made a pilgrimage to Dwayne's with her father.
"I grew up in the digital era," said Manco, a recent Kansas State University graduate who last summer had an internship at National Geographic. "I think I wanted to be part of something that was very much part of photographic history."
But more than nostalgia, the flood of film also may be borne of need -- shutterbugs cleaning film canisters out of the fridge and realizing they have only one last chance to develop slides or movie film that may have been around for years.
Among them was an Arkansas railroad worker who recently picked up 1,580 rolls of film from Dwayne's. He borrowed money from his father's retirement account to pay the $15,798 bill. The subject was trains -- 50,000 slides of them.
Todd Gustavson understands why Kodachrome's end generates such interest.
"Everybody's parents shot Kodachrome," said Gustavson, a curator at the George Eastman House, an international museum of photography and film in Rochester, N.Y., on the manorial grounds of Kodak's founder, George Eastman.
"It's the color film my father shot in the 1950s," he said, "and I shot as a kid in the 1960s."
And those were Kodachrome slides that filled the carousels stashed on closet shelves.
"Usually, at the holidays, if you got together, there would be a slide show," he said.
Although it was not the first color slide film produced, it was Kodak's first, developed 75 years ago. It was a high-quality film known, just as the Simon song says, for the richness and real feel of its colors, especially its reds and skin tones. The film actually is black and white; the color is added in three steps during processing.
"If you compared Kodachrome's color to everyone else's color, it was significantly better," Gustavson said.
Early on and for many years, photographers who shot with Kodachrome could get it developed only by Kodak. They would mail the film, and the slides, encased in paper frames, would come back days or weeks later.
Processing later was doled out to photo labs such as Dwayne's. About 25 Kodachrome processors once existed worldwide.
Gradually they closed, leaving Dwayne's standing alone.
When Kodak announced in 2009 that it was discontinuing Kodachrome, the company gave Steve McCurry, a longtime National Geographic photographer who shot the picture of the Afghan girl, its last roll.
But when the last roll is processed, it will not be McCurry's, but one shot by Dwayne Steinle. The pictures are of him and his 60 employees, wearing yellow T-shirts and standing outside his business. On the backs of the shirts are these words:
Paul sang about it.
A state park was named after it.
National Geographic shot their most famous photos on it.
And we developed the last roll.
Dwayne's Photo. We Made History. December 30, 2010.
OK, make that January 2011.
(c) 2011, The Kansas City Star.
Visit The Star Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.kansascity.com.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.