What’s in a Name?

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All of my grade school life, I never sat in a classroom where there weren’t a few other boys who shared my first name. It turns out that there was a very good reason for that. According to the Social Security Administration, from 1954 until 1998, with the exception of one year, Michael was the most popular boy’s name in America. The exception came in 1960 where it came in second behind David. That’s still an impressive run of 44 years.

But it did cause some confusing moments. In the classroom, I could never figure out if the teacher was talking to me or one of the five other Michaels who sat near me. And at recess, out on the playground, I’d be forever turning around to find out who was calling me only to find out nobody was calling me… just my name. It happened every day…multiple times a day.

So I was tickled by a customer yesterday who had come in to the studio to have some old photos from the early 1900s restored. And as he was sharing with us who these people were that were in the pictures, ticking off their names, I commented on how unfamiliar their names seemed. It turns out it was a thing in their family. Their grandmother didn’t appreciate conventional names so she opted for naming her children with words that she would just make up. If it was in the baby book of names… she would simply come up with something else.

Over the years, the family adapted to their unusual monikers by taking their first and middle names and whittling them down to just the first initials. Thus Jerimillia Crimereo called herself JC; Podifer Amitelik would answer to PA; etc. That worked for most. Unfortunately, no one thought what it would be like for little Ventroy Delwhilm who, once grown, would to the family be forever known as Uncle VD.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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Popeye the Guitar Man

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I was transferring some Christmas video footage today and noticed that one of the gifts opened by a child in the video was a toy guitar with a hand crank on the side of it.

I don’t know if they still are sold today, but they were certainly popular back in my day.  In fact, I got one as a Christmas present a long long time ago. As I recall, it was a Popeye guitar and when you turned the handle it would play the Popeye theme song in a tinny kind of way:

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I’m strong to the fin-ich

Cause I eats me spin-ach.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

Of course, I learned the elementary school potty mouth version:

I’m Popeye the sailor man

I live in a garbage can.

I eats all the worms

And spits out the germs.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I’m not really sure how much influence this particular Christmas gift had on my musical ability. Well, actually I am. It had zero influence. Because I never did learn to play the guitar. And I hated spinach as a child. I did like hamburgers. Still do. Maybe my folks should have gotten me the Wimpy guitar.

(For my younger readers, Wimpy was Popeye’s friend – a lazy moocher whose catchphrase was “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” It was a debt he never paid because he always managed to stay out of sight on Tuesdays.)

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

They Just Don’t Write (or Think) Like This Anymore…

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We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

—————–

“Is There a Santa Claus?” reprinted from the September 21, 1897, number of The New York Sun.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories (and childlike wonder) through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Mystery Date

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One of the iconic board games of the 60s was Milton Bradley’s Mystery Date. Targeted to girls aged 6-14, the game had players collecting fashion cards on their turns. When they assembled a complete matching ensemble, they could open the door to reveal the date. If he was dressed in similar attire, a winner was declared. The mystery dates included: the formal dance dude, the surfer dude, the skier, the bowler, and the dud.

I barely remember the game (I was much more interested in Battleship at that time.) But my sister had it and may have tricked me into playing Mystery Date once or twice. I seem to have a faint recall of getting the dud date but have managed to block out most of those details from my memory.

However, I do get faced with “mystery tapes” on almost a daily basis. You know the ones I mean. The VHS, VHS-C or 8mm tapes that were tossed in a drawer or shoebox. Quickly forgotten until discovered on a spring cleaning day decades later. But now, with no label on the tape and no way to play it to find out if it is something worth keeping, it goes back into the drawer until someone finds it next time a cleaning day rolls around.

I get asked on a regular basis if I can play a mystery tape in my studio so the prospective client can see what’s on it. Unfortunately, during normal business days, the equipment in my studio is busy performing transfer services and can’t be interrupted to satisfy a curiosity.

Except for one day a year. On Saturday, October 20th in honor of Home Movie Day (yes, that’s a real thing), we will suspend all normal operation and open our equipment up to the community so they can finally see what they’ve been holding onto all these years.

So, from 10 am until 4pm on Saturday October 20th, bring your unlabeled tapes to Home Video Studio and we’ll help you see your mystery tape. Hopefully, it won’t be a dud. If, after seeing what memories the tapes hold, you would like to protect and preserve them, we’ll also be offering our transfer services at discounted rates.

Even if you have no tapes to bring, stop on by anyway. We’ll have a good time reliving old memories with friends and neighbors. We’ll have the popcorn ready. Happy Home Movie Day.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

I’m Flying

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My eldest son recently completed his first solo flight. I’m sure it was an exhilarating moment for him. Not being particularly fond of flying myself, I never had the desire to put myself in the cockpit. It’s all I can do to strap myself into coach.

But I try to find things in my past that I can use to relate to the experiences others have. So I dug into the recesses of my mind and thought about the last time that I had the sensation of being free and unencumbered by gravity… soaring like a bird resting on invisible currents of air.

I came up with this image.

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In the fifties and sixties, hands-free had nothing to do with cell phones or wi-fi… in fact we didn’t have those.  We did have hi-fi which stood for high fidelity – the trademark of a good stereo cabinet or transistor radio. But that’s another story.

To be hands free in my day meant coasting down a neighborhood street, preferably one with a steep hill and letting go of the handlebars of your trusty Schwin. Where do you think the expression, “Look Ma, no hands” came from? Leaning back in the banana seat, arms thrust outward, head back to let the wind rip through your closely cropped hair.  (Bike helmets were not yet invented. ) The only sound to be heard was the familiar tic-tic-tic-tic-tic of a Sandy Koufax playing card clothespinned to the spokes of the rear wheel.  I was flying.

So I get it. I understand the feeling of solo flight. I’ve been there in my mind. I just prefer to experience it on a bike. It’s way closer to the ground.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

And remember, special discounts available through Oct 15th with a donation of canned or dry packaged food items during our Fall Food Drive. All donations to go to Lake Cares Food Pantry.

Mnemonic Me This

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“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

If you attended school around the same time I did, no doubt you recited that little poem more than once to help your memory during history quizzes.  It’s an example of a mnemonic which is an aide to help bring something to mind. I call them memory pegs or memory triggers. And it is a little embarrassing how many I still use.

Except for February, I simply can’t bring myself to remember how many days are in a particular month unless I first count them down on my knuckles. With your two fists extended in front of you, side by side, start reciting the months. When a month falls on a knuckle, it has 31 days. if it falls between knuckles, it has 30 (or 28).

We probably all use the old “Spring Forward; Fall Back Trick” when it comes time to reset our clocks for Daylight Savings Time.  At least I still do and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

I could never remember which was which – stalagmite or stalactite until I learned this little trick: Stalagmite has a “g” in it because it comes out of the ground. Stalactite has a “c” in it because it hangs from the ceiling.

And finally, I would be incapable of setting a proper table without knowing that utensils with four letters (like fork) are placed to the left (four letters) of the plate while utensils with five letters (spoon, knife) are placed on the right (five letters.)

Our minds being what they are, we would have a hard time remembering anything if it weren’t for these little tricks or memory triggers.  And really, isn’t that why we keep photos, slides, videos and film?  Because they contain the images of memories we don’t want to forget.

Thanks to Home Video Studio, we don’t have to. The obsolete media once used to store memorable images can be transferred to a more current format, bringing your memories into the digital age. 

What mnemonic do you use? Share them here. Something tells me I’ll need all the memory pegs I can find as the years go by.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Life Before Google

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I suddenly realized how dependent I have become. As I blogged earlier, we cut the cable cord recently – deciding instead to rely on streaming technology for our TV entertainment.  What I failed to consider are the ramifications of Internet service disruptions.

We lost our Internet service on Friday. And life as we knew it pretty much stopped. Our TV went dark. Our smart phones became dumb. And so did I. I couldn’t ask Alexa for a weather report. I couldn’t google a recipe to make for that night’s dinner. I couldn’t visit any of the apps that I use on a daily basis. I had no way of finding out what my Facebook friends were doing. I was alone and adrift in an online world that was suddenly out of my reach.

The lack of Google especially troubled me. I was struck with the realization that I went from being intelligent to being clueless in the blink of an eye. It turns out my IQ may be based on my ability to find information quickly via search engines. Without them, I am shocked at how little I’ve retained from all that I’ve once learned.  But perhaps that is what intelligence is: the ability to gather information and disseminate the pertinent details from the irrelevant ones. It is what I’ve always done.

Before Google, I still had my resources to get information. In my day, most people were divided into two camps. The Encyclopedia Britannica group and The World Book folks. My family fell into the latter camp. We had the full set of World Books and opted to receive the yearly recap edition – a highly anticipated occurrence in the Ondrasik household.

Thinking back on it, I was just as dependent upon The World Book back then as I am on Google today. My A+ third grade report on frogs would not have been possible without the help of the F volume of the World Book. I even traced my cover illustration from the picture within its pages.

The World Book was as much a part of my cultural upbringing as Google is for today’s generation. We just didn’t make a verb out of it. We never said something like, “I don’t know, let me World Book it.” My generation didn’t make up words… except for “groovy” for which I have no logical explanation.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

I Like Mike

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If you’re experiencing what I am, you are now being inundated with electioneering stuff… phone calls, flyers, door to door canvassers… all of which are signs that it’s time to prepare to cast our votes. While I do appreciate the freedom we have to elect our political leaders I must admit that I, along with what I suspect is most of America, really have grown to hate the process. Not the voting… I’m referring to the campaigning. I’ve always hated it… even when I fell into the middle of it.

When I was in ninth grade and my best friend decided to run for student council president, I figured I would toss my hat in the ring and run for vice-president. Unfortunately, my opponent was one of the cool kids – Mr. Popularity. I had to figure out a way to elevate myself above Joe Cool so, after much deliberation, I settled on a variation of a popular campaign slogan. “I Like Ike” worked for Eisenhower… how could “I Like Mike” possibly fail?

I made buttons, printed posters, passed out flyers – all with the clever “I Like Mike” slogan. And how did it go you might ask? Not well. Not well at all. How was I supposed to know that ninth graders in 1970 didn’t know all that much about Eisenhower and to them “I Like Mike” was an inappropriate admission of affection? None of the guys would wear the button and the girls were afraid it would be misunderstood. 

I lost in a landslide. My first humiliating defeat. Turns out few people would publicly confess to liking Mike.

Fortunately, my best friend won and, as president, selected me to be his sergeant-at-arms – a position I was woefully ill-equipped to serve. I was given a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order. Can’t say that I ever bothered to read it. But at least I got to hold and bang the gavel during council meetings. That was cool. So, all in all, everything turned out ok.

Speaking of voting, the Best of Mount Dora survey is currently running and while Home Video Studio is strangely missing from the candidates printed on the ballots, there are some categories where a write-in vote for us would be fitting.  Best place to buy a gift because the memories we bring to life make the best gifts ever. Best vintage find because we constantly discover and resurrect images and sounds of yesteryear that have long been forgotten. And best kept secret because people constantly come in with questions and eventually get around to saying, “I didn’t even know you could do all that.”

If you are so inclined to take a minute to write in a vote or two for our studio, here’s the link: http://www.mountdorabuzz.com/2018bestofmountdora.html

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Trotting Out Old Memories

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One of our customers today presented me with a VHS tape that she wanted to convert to a DVD. It contained footage of a championship horse that she raced back in the day. Harness racing.  My dad always called them “trotters.” And my, how he loved the trotters.

He used to pour over the daily racing form; looking at the past performances of, not only the horses, but also the jockeys. He would calculate the odds, evaluate the cost and the risk, and then decide which race or races he would put his two dollars on. He always kept himself on a firm budget and insisted on the same from us.

As we grew older, an occasional  trip to the track became a family event. And we each got our own two dollars to put on a horse. My sisters couldn’t be bothered with learning my father’s system. They tended to go the route my mother chose. They bet on the horse with the cleverest name. Most of the time, they lost.

Me, I tried to emulate my old man. I studied the racing form, not knowing much about what I was looking at. But I thought that if I looked hard enough, I would see something that no one else did. Following the logic of the racing form gave me inconsistent results so I switched to watching the horses as they were led onto the track. I decided to put my money on the horse that looked like a winner. I bet with my gut.

I soon learned that looks can be deceiving and my gut was often wrong. So I then decided that as long as I was going to throw  two dollars away, I might as well do it with an outside chance that I would hit it big.  I started to search the racing form looking for long shots that had certain stats that showed they might have a chance to win… if the conditions were right.

I certainly lost more than I won. But on those rare occasions when my horse came in the money,  I won big because the odds were long.  Granted, the winnings weren’t big enough to cover all those $2.00 losses but it still made me feel good when it happened.

My fondest memory was the one time, in what was a pure fluke, I hit a trifecta. That’s when you successfully pick the horses that come in first, second and third in a race. A two dollar bet suddenly turned into a hundred dollar payout. I stopped going to the track soon after that. I knew that trying to repeat that success would only lead to greater losses.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

A Forgotten Memory Restored

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It never ceases to amaze me how much our individual and unique memories are often shared by others we have never met. I was transferring some footage from a client of mine today and suddenly the unknown home movie footage I was monitoring shifted to a memory that was all too familiar to my past.

There was a tourist attraction near my childhood home called Enchanted Forest. Its concept was to build exhibits centered around the fairy tale stories familiar to children. I haven’t thought about it in years but the footage from my client brought those memories back to life.

I remember the Old Woman’s Shoe (you remember… she had so many children she didn’t know what to do?) In the Enchanted Forest version it was a two story shoe that encased a slide. Kids would walk into the shoe, climb the stairs to the upper level and then slide down to the ground.  It probably should have been called the Old Woman’s Boot but why quibble?

There was a cartoon whale named Willie, a gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, and a storybook castle with a dragon among other similar themed “rides.”

Admittedly, Enchanted Forest was a poor man’s version of Disneyland but if you couldn’t afford to go to the house of the mouse, perhaps Enchanted Forest provided a decent alternative at a more affordable price. It was a one man brainchild the likes of which we may never see again. There was nothing showy about it. Most of the attractions were simple structures that kids could play on or in, letting their imagination take them where it would. It was a simple pleasure for a simpler time.

Nothing wrong with that… in fact there’s a whole lot of good in that. Although it closed in 1995, after nearly a decade of neglect, there was a movement to save many of the pieces in the Enchanted Forest from further disrepair. Piece by piece, surviving items including the ones mentioned above were transported to a local farm, restored and put in place where they continue to be enjoyed by passers by.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora special in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.