Wedding Memories

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I don’t know if anyone noticed but there was a little wedding that took place yesterday. Congratulations to the newly wedded Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Nice ceremony. And I should know. I’ve certainly transferred enough wedding videos to recognize the good from the great (there’s no such thing as a bad wedding. There may be bad marriages perhaps but weddings are always happy occasions). And I’ve seen my share because they are usually among the first memory people want to digitally protect and preserve.

There was the outdoor wedding that had to be moved under the caterer’s tent when the weather took an unexpected turn for the worse. People coped. Couple got married. Everyone was happy… wet but happy.

There was the wedding that took place around Halloween. It was a costume affair. Bride was a princess. Groom was a frog. Minister was a vampire. I would have been… you guessed it… a cowboy. People seemed happy beneath the masks they were wearing.

There was the Indian wedding and reception that from beginning to end needed three DVDs to hold all  the video that was shot. Lots of colors. Lots of music. Lots of cultural traditions. Lots of happiness.

There was the wedding that had members of the wedding party seemingly competing with each other as to who could give the most emotional toast. Lots of tears but they were happy tears that flowed from an abundance of love and joy in the room.

My favorite wedding video of all time is, of course, mine. And it was the very first videotape I transferred when I got into this business of digitally preserving memories. What is the state of your wedding memories? If they are still on film or videotape, let me protect them for you by converting them to a DVD or digital file.  And if you never had a video done of your wedding, bring me your wedding album. I’ll make a movie for you using your photographs and your favorite songs.   You’ll be glad to have it so you can pass all that happiness onto future generations. And what a wonderful surprise gift for your spouse!

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

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My, How You’ve Changed

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There have been evolutionary developments in many different products over my lifetime but I think what feels to me to have grown the most and quickest is the telephone.

I still remember party lines (that’s when you would pick up the phone and hear someone else’s conversation taking place because they were on the line first. Listening in was discouraged but I’m pretty sure we all did it.)

I remember calling the operator to have her place the phone call. She would stay on to make sure you were connected.

I remember being excited when our parents got an extra long cord on the kitchen phone so we teens could have “privacy” during our calls. We would dial our number, walk with the receiver in our hand out of the kitchen, down the stairs into the basement, stretching that cord to its maximum length and have our conversation there.

I remember when “hanging up the phone” meant that you literally had to hang up the phone’s receiver on a hook which disconnected the call.

I remember having to wait to use the phone because my older sister was always using it first. I knew because the kitchen phone was “off the hook” and the cord taut around the corner of the wall where it disappeared behind a closed door that led downstairs.

I remember the rotary dial and how I hated to call numbers that had an 8, 9, or 0 in them because it took longer for the dial to rotate back to its starting position before you could dial the next number.

I remember when phone numbers were assigned exchange codes by using letters for the first two digits (like the old Glenn Miller song, PEnnsylvania 6-5000; the PE standing in for the digits associated with that number – 73).

Surprisingly, I can still remember the number of our family phone where I grew up. WHitehall 2-5349. Please don’t call it. It is rather funny to think some stranger is now probably using a number that has burned itself into my memories.

I remember that when you moved, you had to change phone numbers. You could not take them with you. You just had to pray that your new one would be easy to remember. It almost never was.

As telephones continued to evolve over time, so did mankind. It’s just that the phones evolved into being more efficient devices of higher quality, capability and versatility. I’m not always sure we can say the same about us.

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

Frozen In Our Tracks

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Now that spring has arrived, I don’t mind telling you that this has been one heck of a winter. Not that I experienced it first hand mind you… I am in Florida after all. But I do have television and access to the Internet so I know what you Northerners have been going through.

I am no stranger to the cold. I grew up in Maryland, just outside of the DC area, and I have seen my share of winter storms. I think the coldest I have ever been in my life was during a father son trip through Pennsylvania and Ohio. I was a junior in high school and needed to narrow down my college choices. My dad and I decided that during my spring break, we would do a road trip and visit nine of the campuses I had picked out as the leading contenders.

To save money, we were determined to camp along the way. We packed the family tent along with some clothes and looked forward to a great bonding time between us.  In retrospect, we probably should have checked the weather forecast.

Somewhere outside of Lewisburg PA where I visited Bucknell University, we decided to make camp. We set up the tent poles, erected the tent, rolled out our sleeping bags and promptly fell asleep. The next morning we awoke, freezing where we lay. The temperature must have dropped some 40 degrees overnight.

There was frost everywhere. In order to get on the road again and back into the warm confines of our Ford Fairlaine station wagon which was our sole means of transport, we had to break camp… which meant collapsing the tent and it’s metal tent poles.

The problem was that, overnight, the metal poles became solidly encased in ice and, due to our lack of foresight, gloves, heavy coats, and a chisel were not among our provisions. We took turns tag-teaming on the poles and then sitting in our car which was running with the heater on.  I must admit, I spent more time in the car than outside of it. Sorry about that Dad.

We finally got the poles collapsed and threw them into the back of the wagon. The next night, after visiting the campuses scheduled for that day, my dad nosed the Fairlaine into the parking lot of a Motel 6. No words were spoken between us. We both just knew… our camping days were over.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, los and slides. For more information call 352-735-8559 or visit our website.

 

Duck, Duck, Goose

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Did you see that story about the goose who went Rambo on that high school golfer who got too close to her nest?  No joke. There is a reason they are called fowl (foul).

Now, I don’t have any memories involving a goose of the avian type. However, I am mortal enemies with one of their close relatives. Here is my duck story.

Early on in my marriage, my wife did most of the cooking but as we had two small boys, I thought it necessary every so often to grill some meat. Arrrrgh. (my best Tim Allen caveman impression.) So I went and bought a mini grill – a Smoky Joe – table top edition. Having no outdoor table, I set it up on our concrete landing pad in the back yard overseeing a lovely lake view. The grill stood no higher than my calves.

I bought some beautiful sirloins, seasoned them, lit the charcoal, waited for the flames to die down, and then put the meat on the grill fully expecting a wonderfully manly meal. I was so much in the testosterone zone that I decided to go inside and crack a beer to toast our temporary departure from salad and tofu.

When I came back to the grill, and I was gone for only a moment, I saw a duck circling my grill. I froze in my tracks. He looked at me. I warned him, “Oh no you don’t!”

I swear… he smiled. And then he did a snatch and run. He plucked a steak off the grill and took a duck line straight toward the lake.

I grabbed my spatula and gave chase, dropping my beer. As I began to gain on him, he must have recognized the futility of his position. He dropped the steak in the grass and sped up toward the lake.

I picked the steak up, brushed off the dirt and duck saliva and put it back on the grill. I told my family the story and we all had a good laugh. I assured them that I served myself the duck steak but in all honesty, I kind of forgot where it was on the grill when it came time for dinner.

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

Fit For A King

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So I’ve mentioned before that I’m a pretty good cook. But I certainly didn’t start out that way. Quite frankly, it would be kind of hard to make that claim since I’m on record somewhere as saying Spaghetti-Os is my favorite Italian dish.

However, as a young boy, I did have a go-to lunch selection that, in my mind, was perfection. In fact, the combination of ingredients needed to be so precise I was the only one who could make it correctly. And I would love to share this secret recipe with you at this time:

You’ll need bread. White of course; Wonder is preferable.

Pickles. Dill, whole, kosher.

Mayonnaise. Kraft. Is there any other kind?

Braunschweiger (aka Liverwurst): comes in a yellow wrapper.

Make sure all your ingredients are on the counter. For a proper sandwich, assembly must be done quickly. This is key.

Step one: Place bread slices in toaster.

Step two: While bread toasts, thinly slice the Braunschweiger and slice one pickle lengthwise.

Step three: Open the jar of mayonnaise then hover over the toaster.

This is the important part. Next steps should come in this order and in quick succession.

As soon as the bread pops us (bread should be warm but not fully toasted), slather one slice of bread with the mayonnaise, put down a layer of the Braunschweiger slices followed by a layer of pickle slices. Braunschweiger may slightly overlap the sides of bread but not excessively. Pickles should be oriented so they lie vertically (their ends should be at the top and bottom of the bread slices.) Cut the sandwich in half widthwise. Never diagonally.

Eat immediately while bread is still warm. There’s a small window of opportunity. Be advised that eating a cold Braunschweiger sandwich is a different culinary experience. Chase with a glass of cold white milk.

It takes practice to get everything exactly right. But I promise you, if done correctly, it will be 60s kitchen counter dining at its finest. If memory serves.

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

A.R. Gurney Wrote My Pickup Lines

 

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You’ll have to indulge me… I’m having a bit of a spousal pride moment. Yesterday, I attended a party held in honor of my wife who is retiring from her position with Orlando Health after 17 years. It is always nice to hear kind words of esteem and appreciation directed towards the woman I love. It came as no surprise – she has always impressed me.

I met her in 1991. I had just moved to Orlando and didn’t really know anyone in the area. I decided to audition for a community theatre production of A.R. Gurney’s The Cocktail Hour to help pass the lonely nights. During the process I noticed an attractive actress who was auditioning for a supporting role. I was delighted when we were both cast.

If you have never worked in community theater before, the process is a bit different. In professional theater, the object is to move the production from rehearsal stage to live audiences as quickly as possible in order to begin recouping production costs. In community theatre, there is an extended rehearsal process followed usually by a short performance run.

I got to know my future wife fairly well during the six weeks we rehearsed. Well enough for me to not want the show to end. When the show opened, the time we spent together was dramatically reduced.  Concocting a reason to stay connected and continue the flirtation, I suggested we run our lines backstage before the show started. I had never done that before in any other play.

The other cast members noticed our mini-rehearsal routine and wanted in. It wasn’t long before our four person cast was doing a full backstage performance of the entire show before the show actually started. I can’t say it served the play well. I know I had more than one deja vu moment onstage where I felt like we had already done a scene before we actually did it. But the audiences didn’t seem to mind. The show was held over by popular demand and a year later that actress and I got to deliver some more rehearsed lines… our marriage vows.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides (and yes, we do have a digital copy of the show we did together as part of our memory collection.) For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Sink or Swim?

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I am currently transferring a large number of a family’s videotapes that span a decade or two. Today I went through a series of tapes where the parents lovingly worked with their children in the pool, teaching them to swim. That sparked a memory within me.

I believe I mentioned earlier that I used to be a lifeguard. I was also a swimming instructor. I typically taught beginner classes because, as I said in an earlier blog, I do enjoy working with children.

One day, I was in the lifeguard tower when I heard a high-pitched, terrified scream. I focused in on the sound and saw a young boy struggling to reach the side of the pool. He made it and a male adult, who I assumed was his father, pulled him out of the pool and threw him back into the water. The crowd was watching. I jumped down from my station and began walking toward him.

Not a good scene. Here I am, a 17 year old kid in a speedo with a whistle around my neck, approaching a grown-ass man who, in my view, was abusing his child. This could get ugly.

The child, once again, managed to get to the edge of the pool and before the adult could throw him back in, I spoke softly: “I can help you.” He looked at me. “If you want to teach your son to swim, there are better ways. I have a class starting next week. I can leave a spot open for him. No charge.”

I thought the father was going to create a scene but he backed down, perhaps sensing the crowd was not on his side. The mother, after he left, came up and thanked me and offered to pay me for the lessons. I declined.

I have never taught anyone as fearful of the water as that child was. It took the better part of a week to get him to let go of my arm when we were in the water together. Another half week to get him to trust me enough to lie still with my hand beneath his head as his body floated on the surface. On the last day of class, I removed my hand and he floated on the water all by himself.

The entire poolside of parents stood and cheered. I high-fived the young boy and then looked over to his mother and her expression of pure joy and gratitude will always stay with me. A few weeks later, I saw the boy, happy and playing in the water with other children his age. I never saw his father again. And I had no problem with that.

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

Trivial Pursuits

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Flipping around the channels last night, we settled on Genius Junior. Have you seen this show? Kids, twelve and under, face off against each other to solve memory challenges. On the surface, they demonstrate some pretty amazing feats of brain power for any age.

I always considered myself to have been a bright kid but there was nothing like Genius Junior when I was growing up so I couldn’t test myself on national tv. Instead, we had the board game Go To The Head of The Class. And I’ll have you know I crushed anyone who dared challenge me at that game… which is why other kids stopped playing it with me. I must have been an obnoxious winner.

I’ve always enjoyed trivia. It is strange, because I was never a great history student while growing up. But give me a piece of useless information and that weird factoid I would store away for the opportunity to use it at a future date. Usually that opportunity never presented itself. That is… until the home computer came along.

I remember back before the Internet was the Internet, electronic bulletin boards were the growing rage. I would sit in front of my Commodore 64 computer and use my dial up modem to access a board that ran real time trivia games. The “host” would post a question and all participants who were on the board that night would have to type the correct response before the “host” called time. Modem speeds being what they were back then, players could have anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds to form their answer, depending on what kind of equipment the host was working with.

I wasted many a night in front of that Commodore – just me and my computer where the only sound that I heard all night long was this:

 

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

Here Comes the Bride

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One of yesterday’s jobs consisted of a tub filled with video tapes (mainly VHS and hi-8) that contained all the family’s memories of their years together. The mom and dad brought them to me with a rush request. Their daughter is getting married soon and they need to put together a video presentation with footage of the bride as she was growing up. It is to be featured during the reception planned for after the ceremony.

Unfortunately, all those memories are trapped on the obsolete format of videotapes. The problem is how to put them into a medium that can be viewed, edited, reassembled and exported into a playable form. The solution: bring them to Home Video Studio. This happens to be our specialty. Rush jobs don’t scare us. We like the challenge.

In fact, as they were leaving, trusting me with all their tapes, I showed them an example of a quirky little service we developed to use for graduations, milestone birthdays, and yes… weddings that they might want to consider including in their presentation.

We call it Face to Face: A Video Portrait. All we need is a series of photographs of the same person in different stages of their life. Headshots work best. School pictures, if they were saved through the years, are perfect. But any clear picture of the subject that has the face in focus against a neutral or non-distracting background will do.

We do the rest. We set the pictures on a video timeline, but instead of cutting from one picture to the next, we force the picture to morph into the next one. It gives the illusion of the face actually growing from childhood to adulthood before our eyes. With the right song playing as its soundtrack, it’s a clever and unique way to commemorate a special milestone event and will certainly delight those who are there to celebrate with the happy couple.

Here’s an example of a Face to Face presentation:

 

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

That Championship Season

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I was transferring a videotape yesterday that contained some footage of a Little League Baseball game. Boy did that take me back. I was quite the little star as I was coming through the ranks of baseball.

My father, who was a professional athlete, took great interest in my sports activities but did not want to show any kind of favoritism so he supported the league by volunteering to be a coach on the one condition that I would not allowed to be on his team. I never did understand that logic but eventually learned to appreciate the depth of his integrity that drove him to think it was important. So, for a season, I was on a team that would play against a team coached by my father.

That spurred an incredible level of competition in our household that season. I just wanted to beat his team so badly I could taste it. And our two teams were pretty evenly matched. Their team was better coached; we had the better players. We were neck and neck all year and it finally came down to the last game of the season… which my dad’s team won.

I was so disappointed. But there was a saving grace. I was chosen to be on the All-Star team which in a post-season game would play the first place team of that season… my dad’s team.

It was a rout. We won 18-2 and I drove in 12 of those runs with an incredible batting performance.

I so wanted to gloat on the ride home but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it because I could see how proud my dad was of me. It was a weird season, never to be repeated. The next year I graduated to the next age level where I quickly learned I could not see, let alone hit, a fast ball. I gave up the game soon after.  But I will always have that one season and that one game to remember.  Thank you Dad. Thanks for the memory.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio tapes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.