Light Up The Sky

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We had a great time in Mount Dora on Tuesday night at our local Freedom on the Waterfront celebration which culminated with a spectacular fireworks display. It made me think back to what might have been the most memorable 4th of July in my memory.

There was the time my family drove to a local Maryland park and we laid out a blanket and had sandwiches and sodas while listening to an army band and watching the explosions in the sky. I was probably 8 or 9. It was my first major fireworks display that I saw in person.

Then there was the time I was driving on I-95 on my way from DC to Cape Cod. I just happened to pass NYC as they were lighting off the fireworks. The year was 1986, the year we celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. I’m told the fireworks were incredible – I didn’t dare look at them, traffic was intense and we were traveling at 70 mph plus. My eyes stayed locked on the bumper of the car in front of me.

There was the one year in Orlando where my family and I, along with thousands of others, gathered around Lake Eola even though a lack of rainfall caused the fireworks display to be cancelled. City planners instead quickly arranged for a laser light show in its stead. It fizzled.

But the fourth of July that stands out the most in my mind occurred a few years ago. We were visiting my son, who is in the Coast Guard, and we were invited to take part in their 4th of July family day. Servicemen and women were invited to bring their families onto the base to celebrate the day together. What made that particular celebration most meaningful was not necessarily the pyrotechnics, although they were impressive… It was that, as we stood there looking up at the night sky, surrounded by men and women who had made the decision to join the military to serve our nation, we could not help but have a deep appreciation for that service and their sacrifice. Celebrating our country’s Independence Day with them and their families put the day’s celebration in its proper perspective.

Wherever you may be, have a Happy Independence Day but try to remember the why of the celebration. As John Adams once wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail:

“I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.”

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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Dust-filled Memories

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I filmed a section of a LifeStory last week. This is when we set up our cameras in the studio and give people an opportunity to record some of the memories they have of growing up in their day and time. This one involved a woman who, as a child, lived through what is sometimes called “The Dirty Thirties” – a period more commonly known as the Dust Bowl. Her recollections were harrowing, leading me to try to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of this US environmental disaster.

Here are some little known facts about the Dust Bowl, reprinted from an article by Christopher Klein which first appeared on History.com in 2012.

Families were driven out of the once fertile great plains by massive dust clouds–one that rose to 10,000 feet and reached as far as New York City.

1. One monster dust storm reached the Atlantic Ocean.

While “black blizzards” constantly menaced Plains states in the 1930s, a massive dust storm 2 miles high traveled 2,000 miles before hitting the East Coast on May 11, 1934. For five hours, a fog of prairie dirt enshrouded landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the U.S. Capitol, inside which lawmakers were debating a soil conservation bill. For East Coasters, the storm was a mere inconvenience—“Housewives kept busy,” read a New York Times subhead—compared to the tribulations endured by Dust Bowl residents.

2. The Dust Bowl was both a manmade and natural disaster.

Beginning with World War I, American wheat harvests flowed like gold as demand boomed. Lured by record wheat prices and promises by land developers that “rain follows the plow,” farmers powered by new gasoline tractors over-plowed and over-grazed the southern Plains. When the drought and Great Depression hit in the early 1930s, the wheat market collapsed. Once the oceans of wheat, which replaced the sea of prairie grass that anchored the topsoil into place, dried up, the land was defenseless against the winds that buffeted the Plains.

3. The ecosystem disruption unleashed plagues of jackrabbits and grasshoppers.

If the dust storms that turned daylight to darkness weren’t apocalyptic enough, seemingly biblical plagues of jackrabbits and grasshoppers descended on the Plains and destroyed whatever meager crops could grow. To combat the hundreds of thousands of jackrabbits that overran the Dust Bowl states in 1935, some towns staged “rabbit drives” in which townsmen corralled the jackrabbits in pens and smashed them to death with clubs and baseball bats. Thick clouds of grasshoppers—as large as 23,000 insects per acre, according to one estimate—also swept over farms and consumed everything in their wakes. “What the sun left, the grasshoppers took,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt said during a fireside chat. The National Guard was called out to crush grasshoppers with tractors and burn infested fields, while the Civilian Conservation Corps spread an insecticide of arsenic, molasses and bran.

4. Proposed solutions were truly out-of-the-box.

There were few things desperate Dust Bowl residents didn’t try to make it rain. Some followed the old folklore of killing snakes and hanging them belly-up on fences. Others tried shock and awe. Farmers in one Texas town paid a self-professed rainmaker $500 to fire off rockets carrying an explosive mixture of dynamite and nitroglycerine to induce showers. Corporations also touted their products to the federal government as possible solutions. Sisalkraft proposed covering the farms with waterproof paper, while a New Jersey asphalt company suggested paving the Plains.

5. A newspaper reporter gave the Dust Bowl its name.

Associated Press reporter Robert Geiger opened his April 15, 1935, dispatch with this line: “Three little words achingly familiar on a Western farmer’s tongue, rule life in the dust bowl of the continent—if it rains.” “Dust bowl” was probably a throwaway line for Geiger, since two days later he referred to the disaster zone as the “dust belt.” Nevertheless, within weeks the term had entered the national lexicon.

6. Dust storms crackled with powerful static electricity.

So much static electricity built up between the ground and airborne dust that blue flames leapt from barbed wire fences and well-wishers shaking hands could generate a spark so powerful it could knock them to the ground. Since static electricity could short out engines and car radios, motorists driving through dust storms dragged chains from the back of their automobiles to ground their cars.

7. The swirling dust proved deadly.

Those who inhaled the airborne prairie dust suffered coughing spasms, shortness of breath, asthma, bronchitis and influenza. Much like miners, Dust Bowl residents exhibited signs of silicosis from breathing in the extremely fine silt particulates, which had high silica content. Dust pneumonia, called the “brown plague,” killed hundreds and was particularly lethal for infants, children and the elderly.

8. The federal government paid farmers to plow under fields and butcher livestock.

As part of Roosevelt’s New Deal, the federal government purchased starving livestock for at least $1 a head. Livestock healthy enough to be butchered could fetch as much as $16 a head, with the meat used to feed homeless people living in Hoovervilles. The Soil Conservation Service, established in 1935, paid farmers to leave fields idle, employ land management techniques such as crop rotation and replant native prairie grasses. The federal government also bought more than 10 million acres and converted them to grasslands, some managed today by the U.S. Forest Service.

9. Most farm families did not flee the Dust Bowl.

John Steinbeck’s story of migrating tenant farmers in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1939 novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” tends to obscure the fact that upwards of three-quarters of farmers in the Dust Bowl stayed put. Dust Bowl refugees did not flood California. Only 16,000 of the 1.2 million migrants to California during the 1930s came from the drought-stricken region. Most Dust Bowl refugees tended to move only to neighboring states.

10. Few “Okies” were actually from Oklahoma.

While farm families migrating to California during the 1930s, like the fictitious Joad family, were often derided as “Okies,” only one-fifth of them were actually from Oklahoma. (Plus, many of those Oklahoma migrants were from the eastern part of the state outside of the Dust Bowl.) “Okie” was a blanket term used to describe all agricultural migrants, no matter their home states. They were greeted with hostility and signs such as one in a California diner that read: “Okies and dogs not allowed inside.”

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.

The Tale Of The Three Sisters

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I heard a new story today. Actually it is an old story… it was just one I hadn’t heard before. One of my clients was telling me about a place where he used to live. It was by the Blue Mountains of Australia. He described it by saying “imagine the Grand Canyon… only green and full of life.” He said he lived within walking distance from the three sisters.

When I said I didn’t know who the three sisters were, he told me the Aboriginal legend of ‘Meehni’, ‘Wimlah’ and ‘Gunnedoo’. They were three beautiful sisters of the Katoomba tribe. They were in love with three brothers who were from a neighboring tribe. Unfortunately, their tribal laws forbade any possible relationship from forming between them.

The brothers, being members of a warrior tribe, decided to take their chosen females by force. In order to protect the girls during the ensuing battle, a witch doctor cast a spell which turned the sisters into stone. The plan was to restore them to human form after the battle was over. Unfortunately the witch doctor was killed in the skirmish and no one else knew how to reverse the spell. And so the sisters remain – frozen in stone overlooking the lovely Jamison Valley in New South Wales, Australia.

What a sad story in such a beautiful location but it does answer a question I had. We were in Sedona Arizona last year when I noticed this unusual rock formation.

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I always wondered what happened to Snoopy.

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.

My First Blog… Over 20 Years Ago

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You may not know this but Memories Matter isn’t my first trip around the blogosphere. It has been a full ten years since I retired as The Christian Critic. Between 1998 and 2008, I wrote movie reviews and film commentaries under the name of Michael Elliott.  My reviews were published in the website/blog Movie Parables and in a few syndicated columns scattered across small towns.

My very first review was the Leonardo DiCaprio 1998 film, The Man In The Iron Mask. After that, over the next ten years, I reviewed pretty much every major film that was given a national release in the U.S. In addition to providing the traditional critical appraisal of the film, I added a unique twist. I looked for (and always managed to find) a way to use the film or an aspect of it to make a biblical connection.

For instance, the familiar quote from Mr. Spock in the Star Trek series “Live long and prosper,” is more than Vulcan greeting… it is a biblical promise that can be found in both Ephesians chapter 6 and 3 John chapter 1.

In the Disney animated classic, “Pinnochio.” Jimmy Cricket tell us that “a conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to.” The line has even more poignance when you replace the word conscience with God. After all, “a still small voice” is how He is described in 1 Kings 19.

Writing the Christian Critic blog was a great time of spiritual growth and development for me because it forced me to look at the world through the filter of God’s Word. In addition to reading the Bible for understanding, I began to see more clearly how it can be practically applied to our lives. God did not give us His Word just so we could read it… It is meant to be lived.

That blog led to the publication of two books, Thus Saith Hollywood (vol 1 and 2). They are still available on Amazon and, come to think of it, in my studio… I think I still have a carton left somewhere.

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.

 

545 people are responsible for the mess, but they unite in a common con

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The passing of noted columnist Charles Krauthammer made me pine for the straight talking, clear thinking columnists I grew up reading. They are becoming rarer and rarer to find. Krauthammer was one. In my day, the one columnist whose earned my respect and admiration was Charley Reese.  I appreciated his no nonsense style and common sense approach to observing the world around him.  Here is arguably his most widely circulated column first published in 1984.

February 3, 1984|By Charley Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don’t have the constitutional authority to vote in appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don’t write the tax code. The Congress does. You and I don’t set fiscal policy. the Congress does. You and I don’t control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices – 545 human beings out of 238 million- are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Bank because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I exclude all of the special interest and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.

No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

Don’t you see now the con game that is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O’Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits.

The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept. it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes. O’Neill is speaker of the House. He is the leader of the majority party. He and his fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto.

Just 545 Americans have fouled up this great nation.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted – by present facts – of incompetence and irresponsibility.

I can’t think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those people.

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise complete power over the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon, it’s because they want them in Lebanon.

There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.

Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical force like “the economy,” “inflation” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses – provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.

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

My Favorite Fathers’ Day Song

I came across this song when I was looking to pay tribute to my own dad. Here’s the short video I posted online last year.

The song, My Dad, was sung by Paul Peterson who played Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show. It reached #6 on the Billboard charts.

The song was written by Barry Mann after the death of his own father. Mann and his wife, Cynthia Weil were among the most prolific songwriters of their day having penned such hits as “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Somewhere Out There,” and my personal favorite “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp Bomp Bomp?)

A few years later, the song was covered by none other than Davy Jones of The Monkees. Now I’m a big Monkees fan but the only rendition of this particular song that I want to hear is Petersen’s. Maybe it is because when it was first broadcast on his TV sitcom, with his character singing this song to his TV dad played by Carl Betz, it was such an emotionally powerful and personal statement that the song just seems to belong to them.

If you’ve never seen it, I’ve posted it below.

To all the dads out there… thank you. You know why.

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.

 

Club Babalu

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As I’ve said before, one of the benefits of my work is not only meeting a wide range of people but also hearing of their stories and experiences. I find I’m always learning something new.

Recently one of my customers, who came to in have some music from a band he was in converted to a CD, told me a story about the father of one of his band members. Seems the dad cultivated a bit of fame back in the day using the name Rey Mambo. It wasn’t his real name, which was Marvin Baumel, but when he got swept up in the Latin craze in the early 50s, music promoters said the public would never accept a Latin band fronted by a Jewish man. So he made up a name more fitting for the music he was playing… Rey Mambo. And a star was born.

Back in the day, most hotels in South Florida would have a house Latin band… think Ricky Ricardo and the Tropicana Club (later renamed Club Babalu) from the I Love Lucy show (pictured above). Rey Mambo and his band was a part of that vibrant scene on the beaches of Miami.

Here’s a short educational documentary that tells a lot of his story. I found it fascinating and charming. I hope you enjoy it too.

The Story of Rey Mambo from Carl Hersh on Vimeo.

 

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.

Light in the Midst of Darkness

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Most of my blogs center on my memories and the oftentimes humorous situations in which I have found myself. I certainly don’t mean to suggest all memories are happy and funny. They aren’t. But that isn’t to say all memories don’t have value.

My wife works at Orlando Health. Its downtown Orlando hospital, ORMC, is located a few blocks from the Pulse nightclub. On June 12, 2016 ORMC unexpectedly received multiple gunshot victims following a horrific terrorist attack. As Corporate Director of Internal Communications, my wife was called into their Incident Command center that morning. I didn’t see her for another 24 hours as she and her team worked through the day and night to manage their part in an inconceivable and heartrending situation.

I will not attempt to describe the details of their contributions or the experiences of any who were involved in this incident by trying to blog specifics about it. I wasn’t there. The sole purpose of including this as part of Memories Matter is because memories do matter. And the more we share them, the more we are enriched.

Orlando Health has recently released a series of first hand observations of what people saw, how they felt, and how they managed to cope during this difficult crisis. I am so proud that my wife was able to tell her story as a part of this process but I am equally proud of all the other stories that stand with hers in this compilation. Orlando, as a community, should be thankful for the healthcare professionals that stand ready to assist them… even in the worst of situations.

I offer this link for any who would like to know more about how these healthcare professionals were able to handle a nightmarish situation. These first hand experiences about what transpired in those terrible moments help to explain how human spirit was able to rise above the darkness. God bless Orlando Health and all who give of their time, energy, spirit, and expertise to provide care for our community.

To read these first hand accounts, follow this link:

https://www.orlandohealth.com/campaigns/g6iv8jkzop719

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora 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.

Our Neighborhood Cement Pond

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I have many fond memories of growing up. And even though it has been decades since I revisited my childhood haunting grounds, I still vividly remember them as being important to me. Which is why it hurts when I learn that some of them no longer exist.

My home away from home every summer was our community pool, Aspen Hill Swim Club. It was within walking distance from my home. It is where we kids went every summer day when school was not in session; it was where we made long lasting friendships; it was where we connected with people before the Internet was invented. And I just found out that it no longer exists. It was sold to a development company almost 20 years ago. They used the land to build more houses. In my opinion, the community lost a valuable asset. It is a pity.

I remember the community pool playing an important part in my social development. I met my first girlfriend at the pool. My closest friends growing up were members of the community pool. I felt a sense of belonging and I so enjoyed the experience that I extended it through college. I became certified as a lifeguard, swimming instructor, and pool manager and every summer until I graduated from college, I could be found at a community pool working with young kids and fostering a sense of community that is sadly missing in today’s culture. It was my first job and in many ways remains my favorite job.

I recently found out that I lost a high school classmate the other day. She was an incredibly popular, attractive, and friendly person. Cheerleader co-captain. She and I worked together one summer at a local pool. We may have travelled in different circles at school and didn’t have much opportunity to connect there, but high school cliques did not exist at the community pool level. We were a melting pot. And so, for one brief summer, I was able to get to know her like I never did at school. And she lived up to all the hype. She was a special individual. I’m sorry we did not stay in touch Annie. May you rest in peace.

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

Ten Minutes

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“Ten minutes. That’s all I need.”

Those were the words my newest client spoke to me when he came to visit me yesterday. Ten minutes.

He handed me an 8mm videotape. “It’s cued up. All I need is ten minutes from where it is. Can you put it on a DVD for me?”

I can’t always satisfy immediate requests but he caught me on a good day. I had an 8mm tape player that was currently unoccupied, so I said “Of course.”

As I set up the equipment and began to capture his footage, he told me the story behind the video. What he captured was a moment during a fashion show of a beautiful young girl who, along with her brother, sang an original song to their mother thanking her for raising them.

Sadly, that brother died not too long after the video was taken and as far as my client knows, no one else recorded this special moment between the two of them. He came across the tape recently (it was in his camera that hadn’t been used in a decade or two) and he decided that the family would like to see it.  You think?

Ten minutes of a captured piece of personal history that was once thought lost or unrecorded is of immeasurable wealth. It is very thoughtful for my client to gift this to the family and I was happy to be able to provide the service that made it happen.

What’s on your video? Maybe you have some footage of a neighbor or friend that they’ve never seen or that they’ve forgotten even existed. It happens far more frequently than you may think.

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