Safer at Home – Day Twenty-Four

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April 25, 2020

Transferring other people’s video and film has given me a great opportunity to witness the customs and traditions of families from various cultures. There’s a practice that is often repeated by families celebrating the first birthday of a child: the smash cake.

I don’t recall it as a custom when I was growing up but it has certainly gained in popularity since then. I was surprised to learn that it may have its origins south of the border. Mexican families will gather around the birthday child singing Mordida! Mordida! Mordida! (Bite, bite, bite). Then, after the candles are blown out (and hopefully removed) one of the parents will approach from behind and gently shove the kid’s face in the cake. This is followed by much laughter and picture taking.

The US version of the smash cake typically will be a second, smaller size version of the birthday cake set in front of the 1 year old. While the adults enjoy their neatly sliced pieces of cake, the child, without the benefits of utensils, will eventually begin to dig his hands into the dessert and even manage to get some of the sugary goodness into his or her mouth. This, once again, is followed by much laughter and picture taking. 

I can’t say I understand the rationale behind the tradition. The child is too young to remember it and there will be some major cleanup to do afterwards. Why does this make me think it was all probably started by some dad’s idea of a joke?

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.

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SAFER AT HOME – DAY SEVEN

April 9, 2020

I stumbled upon an innocuous Facebook challenge today. Seeing no harm, I accepted it. Basically, an old friend was asking people to post their senior year high school yearbook photos to support and applaud the graduating class of 2020. So I did.

Now I’m usually not a conspiracy theorist, but I have no other explanation for the hair and outfits I was wearing during my high school years. It had to be a devious plot (50 years in the making) to completely embarass those of us who lived in that time.

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I mean, seriously? This was a picture day which means I chose that outfit knowing I’d be photographed. This is in my yearbook in one of the group photos in which I posed. I have no idea what I was thinking. Did fashion not exist back then? When were mirrors invented anyway?

Paisley shirts with Peter Pan collars and a “dickey?” Coupled with bell bottom jeans and half boots that zippered up? And could I not have chosen a wider watch band? It’s no wonder I never got any dates in high school.

Now, my hair I can explain. That was straight up rebellion. My father (a straight-laced middle school gym teacher) is the one who took me to get my hair cut as a child. He dragged me to his barber shop – run by a bunch of guys from Jersey who he met at the track. Not only did they practice the bowl cut, I think they invented it. Razor cut on the side, scissor cut up top. And they used a grease stick to make the bangs stick straight up. Hated it.

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So when I became a teen, I decided to skip the haircuts. And for some reason, my parents let me have my way. Hence the long locks in the first picture. It was unkempt, uncomfortable, unattractive and deep down I knew it but was too stubborn to admit I was wrong. However, when senior picture day was approaching I decided it was time to do something about it. Instead of visiting Vinnie and the bowl cut gang, I opted to spend the big bucks and go to a high class “salon.” I still remember the name. It was dubbed “Rape of the Lock.” Why that didn’t send up a red flag, I’ll never know.

So, I went with my tangled mop of hair and told them to give me a cut suitable for my high school senior photo.  I paid for it with my own money. Here’s what they gave me:

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Only one word for it… shagerific!

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.

SAFER AT HOME – Day Five

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April 7, 20200

Trying to look ahead to the unknown things that may await us in our future can be, especially in times of crisis, somewhat unsettling. For that reason, we often take comfort at looking back at memorable times in our past that make us smile. At least I do.

When I think of my past, I invariably return to the summers of my “teenhood.” My family belonged to our community pool. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day was spent, more often than not, at that concrete oasis where I first learned to swim, later to match myself against others in swimming competitions.

Being part of a summer swim team was the first time I completely immersed myself in a communal society of sorts. Being part of that team; wearing their colors (usually in the form of a rather ugly speedo racing suit) was my sole identifier during those formative summers.

And I have just recently discovered that I was not alone in that assessment. I recently found an Super 8 reel of film that contained footage of my old swim team during one of their away meets. I decided to post it on a closed Facebook group comprised of people who went to the same high school as I. I was shocked to see the reaction to that footage. People I haven’t seen in over 45 years started posting and sharing their stories and memories. They helped to identify people who appeared in their younger forms in that footage and ‘tagging’ other people who they thought would be blessed to see the past come to life again. It felt kind of good to get the whole gang together again.

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.

Ah, Sweet Mysteries of Life

 

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Customers come into our studio all the time with little mysteries they want us to solve for them.  It might be an unmarked VHS tape that they are unable to play; or a reel of audio tape from a long forgotten tape recorder the family used to own. They appear to be simple, innocuous objects but they could very well turn out to be a precious family treasure. If only there was a way to play them to find out.

Fortunately we specialize in that. And like I said, it happens all the time. But I never thought that it would happen to me. I had thought I converted all my families memories long ago. I was wrong. The last time I was visiting my mother I happened upon a small unmarked reel of Super 8 film. “What’s this?” I asked her. “No idea,” was the response.

Home Video Studio to the rescue. After we got through transferring the footage to a digital form, we were treated with a glimpse of our lives that took place in the late 1970s.

The movie opened with a neighborhood party that looks like it was a combination of pot-luck and clam bake. Adults only and I only recognized a few. This was my parent’s crowd and I’m sure will help my mom bring back some memories.

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The scene then shifts to my younger sister, now in her 60s but back then fresh-faced and clad in her graduation cap and gown, patiently enduring the requisite photo op in the backyard.

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The movie ends with a little puppy action. A cute terrier playing fetch with someone (we can only see the legs below the knees.) I don’t think I ever met this pooch but I suspect it might have belonged at one time to my sister (the graduation girl).

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These forgotten images of a life that seems so long ago are not particularly memorable… until they become so. Anything that helps connect us to our past is valuable. I can’t wait to show them to my family to see what further memories they might trigger.

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, visit our website, or stop by our studio now located at 930 N Donnelly St Mount Dora FL 32757.

A Tall Ship with a Tall Tale

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I happened to visit the neighborhood where one of my clients from last year lives and, thinking that I would be seeing her, decided to bring along the Hanley Award that her project won.

Muff Ewer Pettinos was the eldest daughter of Nat and Betty Ewer, retailers who owned a shop in Beach Haven, NJ. In 1947, in an attempt to solve the annual problem of flooding that took place on the island where they lived, Nat Ewer bought at auction a 166 foot wooden three masted schooner and had it towed to the shores of New Jersey where it was beached, dragged ashore and converted into the most unusual gift shop anywhere in the United States.

The Lucy Evelyn and its surrounding collection of retail beach shacks or shanties was purely a family affair. Muff, her parents, and her three siblings all had various responsibilities and obligations as it pertained to the family business. They each would have their turns learning various aspects of the business up to and including running their own retail store. At one point some 6,000 people a day would come on board the Lucy Evelyn to shop and sightsee. 

Muff had contacted me and asked me to help them tell their story. It took 9 months, hours of interviews, and many more hours of reviewing archival photos and film footage. But at the end, we were able to craft together a 60 minute documentary that the family now owns as their own personal family history. It won the award for best documentary at the Home Video Studio gala event last July but, more importantly, it is now a family treasure that will be passed down through the generations.

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.

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.

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.