I'm glad this thread was resurrected--very interesting stories from all.
My first camera was a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye when I was a kid. I annoyed everyone with that camera. I can still hear my mother telling me to stop wasting film.
My first "real" camera was a Mamiya-Sekor 500DTL bought (as best I can remember) in late 1972. It had a 50mm f/2 lens. I was broke after buying it and 3-4 rolls of film. I shot a lot of Tri-X because it was cheap to shoot and black and white was cheap to have printed at the drugstore. I learned to love black and white photographs.
I quickly got seriously interested in photography. By the spring of 1973, I had sold the Mamiya and bought a used Nikon Photomic FTn with Nikkor 50/1.4 and a couple of truly wretched used third party lenses. I also set up a darkroom with a used but decent Vivitar enlarger. I worked at my job during the day, shot pictures of anything and everything after work and on weekends and processed film and printed late into the night. I was obsessed. I seldom slept. I remember trying to catch up on my sleep by coming home after work, going directly to bed and sleeping around the clock. I did this a couple of times a month, thinking it was doing me good. Within a year, I quit my job, spent a few months making pictures and putting together a portfolio. By the summer of 1975, I got my first newspaper job.