Y’all come over tonight and we’ll watch home movies. Wow! What an exciting invite. Back in the day getting together with friends and neighbors often included watching movies or slide shows from the family vacation. I’m talking about back in the sixties and seventies. We had three channels on TV. No video games. Heck, there were no computers. No DVD. You actually had to use your imagination. Or get together with people and interact. In person.
We’d gather in the living room or the den and set up the silver screen. That was my job. Get the projector ready and then lights, projector, action! Great way to spend an hour or so watching a series of still pictures, each with a long description of the who, what, when, where and why; or five or ten minutes worth of film clips.
Most amateur movies back then were always short clips. And there were a lot of vignettes on one short reel of film. The film was expensive and no one wanted to waste it, they just wanted to capture a glimpse of what was happening. In these clips people were often running, or jumping. Acting silly. And moving toward the camera. They always seemed to be somewhat staged.
Fortunately for movie stars, most people weren’t great actors. People didn’t know what to do with this technology. How many of these home movies were made without reference to the place or the date or even who is appearing? Jumping people at the beach. Children at a birthday party wearing silly hats. Christmas morning with sleepy, excited eyes.
If it’s not your family, or your vacation, or you’re not in the flick, it might not be very interesting. Hence, the dreaded invitation. But now, in retrospect, there is a great deal of value in these films. In my family, at least in my early years, we would gather all of my father’s side and have a great birthday bash for everyone once a year. It was always during the summer, when we were on vacation, and centered mostly around the children. So I remember the silly hats, including my favorite, which was a beanie with a propeller on top. There would be gifts, cake and ice cream, swimming in the pool. And, home movie magic.
Looking back, one could watch as the family expanded and the children grew. New people came in as spouses. Some left as exes. But beyond the trip down memory lane about family members, there are a number of other valuable details about society.
Can you believe those clothes? Look at dad’s stripped bell-bottoms! That’s some hairdo! Look at the car. Land yacht. And the house. What’s that color? Harvest gold and avocado green appliances. Celery shag carpet. And look, a Hi-Fi sound system for vinyl records and AM radio. Can you believe that, Auntie Sue has a color TV?! Those silly home movies are filled with information about how we lived. What our world was like at a certain period in time. It’s history! And valuable antiques!
I went to an event yesterday called National Home Movie Day. The local University was hosting. They have an awesome library of rare documents and a film archive dating back to 1917. But this was largely a bring your own film event. Reminded me of my youth, and all of those movies we took. Not just a family history. World history. I wonder where all those movies are now? My kids would laugh at them. And learn. Preserve your family history. Contribute to our understanding of the history of our world.
That’s part of my story. What’s yours?