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Moving Day

It is easy to forget how hard life was in the early years of our country’s founding. One way to remember is to read the first-hand accounts of people who were there. The following narrative was written by Lavinia Morris, my aunt’s third great-grandmother who, with her Baptist minister husband, moved their family of eight from Kentucky to Ohio, some 200 miles north. It was in the early 1800s.

“The road from Bellefontaine, Ohio to Lima, Ohio was hub deep in mud and the trees and brush had to be cut out part of the way. We landed here on the 8th of October and built a house 16 feet square out of poles. A door served for a window. We built a fire in one end of the house, without any chimney, allowing the smoke to go out through the cracks and crevices. We lived this way until my husband could build a chimney and a door, and chink and daub the house. The house was built without any floor, and we lived this way for one year. We then built a log cabin with puncheon floor, and a square hole with paper pasted over it for a window. This was equal to the finest parlor in those days. We brought three barrels of flour with us which lasted one year with corn meal. We had plenty of wild meat, such as deer and turkey, and wild fruit, such as grapes, plums and berries. I remember one instance, I think it was in the fall of 1834, we were without bread for four weeks, as the nearest place we could get grinding done was Cherokee in Logan County or Sidney in Shelby County, but we had plenty of pumpkins, squashes and potatoes.”

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.

Big Man On Campus

I have been reaching back through the centuries to draw out stories of old that are somehow related to my family tree. I find them fascinating. But the stories that resonate the most with me are the ones involving family members who are closest to me. And what son would I be if I didn’t brag on my dad just a little bit… especially on Fathers’ Day?

Edward John Ondrasik was quite the “Big Man on Campus” in his day. At Roanoke University, he was a star basketball player, nicknamed “The Big Scoop” for his skills under the basket. He was voted thrice to the All State team and earned a spot on the All Century Team. He was eventually inducted in Roanoke University’s Hall of Fame.

His illustrious playing career was interrupted by a little disturbance most people knew as WWII. He left school to enlist in the Army Air Corps where he joined the 448th Bomb Group of the Mighty Eighth Army Air Force. He originally wanted to be a pilot but on his test run got a little too close to some telegraph wires so he got relegated to the bombardier seat. He flew 24 missions over wartime Germany and thankfully made it back home safely. He later told his family that all 24 wartime missions over Germany had to be flown without the benefit of a parachute because at 6’3” he could not fit in his compartment with it on. 

Upon his return to the states, he completed his education at Roanoke University and even played for another season where he racked up awards, accolades, and the attention of one Red Auerbach who invited him to come play for him. At the time, Red was coaching the Washington Capitols. 

Unfortunately, once my dad graduated and was free to accept the offer, Red had no open positions so he returned to his family home in New Jersey and got picked up by the Paterson Crescents, a team in the American Basketball League. He only played a couple of seasons before he decided to shift his attention and talents elsewhere.

He became the Athletic Director for a Naval Base in Bainbridge MD, and then decided to embark on a career in public education. It was a career that carried him through to retirement age. And he left an indelible impression on scores of children who were fortunate enough to have had him as a coach or teacher.

I still remember walking down a city street as a child with my father at my side only to be continually interrupted by what appeared to me to be grown men shouting out, “Hey, Mr. O!” or “Hey Coach!” Even at my tender age, I could see the love and respect these men had for my father because he had provided them instruction and a role model to emulate when they, as much younger versions of themselves, were his students.

He left an unmistakable legacy… and enormous shoes to fill. I can’t imagine being the man he was. I can only hope to be a son of whom he would be proud.

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.

Happy Belated Birthday

Do you remember your very first birthday party?

Odds are that you don’t. Who among us has a memory that good? This past week one of my customers was able to relive that momentous occasion, thanks to an old reel to reel audio tape she had discovered in a long forgotten storage place. 

And, to be honest, it wasn’t even the original recording. At the time of her first birthday, which occurred over seventy years ago, her parents were using an old wire recorder which captured sounds by imprinting them on a stainless steel wire about the width of a human hair. 

The technology was invented in 1898 by a Danish engineer named Vlademar Poulsen, although it did not enter into its popularity until WWII, around 1946. It quickly fell out of fashion some eight years later when, using the same basic technology, 1/4 inch magnetic tape became the recording standard. My client’s parents, at some point along the way, had transferred the original wire recording to the more accessible magnetic tape.

Regardless of the format, the point is that my client had never heard the recording before and even though she was present at the event, at one year old clearly had no recollection of it. To hear her mother and father, aunts and uncles, now long since gone, all singing happy birthday to her as she sat in her high chair… that is certainly a memory she can now always cherish.

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 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.

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.