The Bells Are Ringing

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Church bells ring for all sorts of reasons: Call to worship; special celebrations; or alarms to alert citizens of impending storms or attacks. Church bells have been rung both to commemorate a marital union as well as to ward off devilish attacks. The first record of a church bell used in such fashion took place in AD 400 (some 1620 years ago) and it has grown in popularity ever since.

Suffice it to say that residents of any small town with a church possessing a bell tower have become accustomed to hearing the regular chime of its tones. So whenever a small town’s bells become silent, people take notice.

When the First Congregational Church in Mount Dora (which is the oldest structure in our downtown area, having been built in 1883) discovered its bell tower was in such a state of disrepair that it required the discontinuation of its ringing, the church leaders immediately put out a call to action. Setting up a GoFundMe site, it requested the help of the community it served to try to raise the funds needed to repair the bell tower.

Our small town community responded in spades. Aided by a matching grant from our local Community Trust, we were able to quickly raise the funds needed to effect the repairs and get our bell ringing again.

There are small stories and there are big stories. But small stories can often make a big impact. The chiming of a neighborhood church bell is no small matter. We sometimes don’t realize how important it is until we no longer hear it. Because it can  and does serve as a unifying force. It reminds us that we are all part of the same community. This may sound corny but it is a message we would all do well to heed. We need to keep the bells ringing… not only in Mount Dora… but also in our own hearts.

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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.

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Owie, Maui… What a Gift

 

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We love our clients. And sometimes we get an inkling that they kind of like us too. The object pictured above was a gift – given to us by a client who appreciated the job we did for his family.

We recently completed an hour-long, documentary-style movie about their unique nautical story. And in appreciation, they gifted us with this desk set designed in the Maori style of hei matau.

I had to do a little research to learn the significance of this gift and I have to say that I am both touched and honored to have received it.  A hei matau is a stylized carving in the shape of a fish hook and is most closely identified with the Maori people of New Zealand. The carving is said to represent strength, good luck, and safe travel across water.

In Maori cultural tradition, it is said that the North Island of New Zealand was once a huge fish that was caught by the great mariner Maui using a woven line and a hook made from the jawbone of his grandmother. The Maori name for the North Island, Te ika a Maui, literally means “the fish of Maui.”

To own one is a great treasure. To own this one, which was hand carved by my client, an incredible craftsman by anyone’s definition, makes the treasure even more dear.

We only hope that they treasure their family video to the same degree. I know we do.

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.

Jernigan FL… Future Home of the Mouse.

 

jernigan.jpgYou never know on any given day who is going to walk into the studio. Today, a member of one of the most prestigious names in Central Florida graced our doorstep. Today, we got to meet a genuine Jernigan.

No, that is not an heir to the hand lotion empire… that would be Jergens as my wife was so quick to remind me. For those who have not brushed up on their local history (like me apparently), up until 1857, the city of Orlando was known as Jernigan, named after the area’s first white settler.

Aaron David Jernigan moved to Orange County FL in 1843 and settled on the shores of Lake Holden in what is now downtown Orlando. He raised cattle and planted corn, cotton, rice, sugar cane, pumpkins and melons. He grew so influential in the establishing of the community, his family home was even designated as the post office.

In fairness, my client was more closely tied to Aaron’s brother Isaac who also moved to Central Florida at the same time and settled in at the same time. Why Aaron is given all the accolades for being the first settler and not Isaac is probably due to some sibling rivalry thing but, be that as it may, being a Jernigan in the area that your ancestor helped to settle is a pretty impressive thing.

How the city came to be known as Orlando is up for debate. There are multiples theories:

  1. Judge James Speer who worked hard to designate the city as the county seat named it Orlando after a man who once worked for him.
  2. Speer named it after a character in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
  3. A man named Mr. Orlando was traveling through the area with oxen, became ill and died. He was buried on the spot and as people passed by they would say, “There lies Orlando.”
  4. The most commonly accepted story is that the city was named after Orlando Reeves, a soldier who, during the Seminole Wars, spotted an Indian assault upon his camp. He warned the camp and in doing so successfully drove back the invaders but was felled during the skirmish. He was buried on the shores of Lake Eola. And the area was subsequently named after him.

Whichever version you accept, it is always a thrill to welcome these reminders of the past into our studio. If you ever choose to trust us with your family memories to preserve, I hope you’ll be able to stay for a while and tell us some of the interesting back stories that make up your history. It is one of the perks of our business and it really does help to put things into perspective.

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.

Devil Boats

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My reference points regarding PT boats have always been restricted to two sources: JFK’s exploits described in his book, Profiles in Courage; and the TV sitcom McHales Navy. Needless to say, neither really explained much about this unique and highly specialized craft. While the stories I read or watched regarding PT 109 and PT 73 captured my interest, they did not shed a lot of light upon this particular type of warcraft.

I have been working on a documentary for a nautical family and one of the facts that came out during the interviews was that the patriarch of the clan fulfilled his WWII service by building PT boats for Vetnor Boatworks in New Jersey.

I was surprised to learn that the PT boats were made from plywood, not steel. They were fast, highly maneuverable, and relatively inexpensive to build. The PT stood for Patrol Torpedo Boats. They were nicknamed Devil Boats by the Japanese or, as a whole, the Mosquito Fleet because they were small, fast, and a continual nuisance to the Japanese Navy.

A little research shows that the PT boats came into existence because in 1938, the US Navy sponsored a design competition for companies to devise a highly mobile attack boat. When the US entered into WWII, there were no less than 12 companies designing and building these attack boats for the US government. As time went on, the design became more standardized and two companies stood out among the rest: Elco, based in Bayonne NJ; and Higgins, based in New Orleans.

When I learned that the boats were wooden, I expected to discover a high casualty rate among them but instead found them to be surprisingly resilient. Of the 531 ships that were put into wartime service, only 69 (13%) were lost. And of the estimated 63,000 men who served on the PT boats, 331 (less than 1%) were killed in action. There are only a few of these boats that remain in existence today as most were destroyed at the end of the war due to the high maintenance that wooden boats require.

My client attributes his woodworking skills (which are considerable) to those days in the Vetnor Boatworks. This is just one story among many that were revealed while interviewing family members for this documentary. We are honored that they have chosen us to tell their story.

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

Mr. Trumpet Man

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Passion can be both inspiring and contagious. It is also immediately recognizable. I saw it for myself recently as I was transferring some videotaped footage for a client.

The footage was of her father, renowned Grammy award winning jazz musician Doc Cheatham, who at 91 was still traveling the country, touring and playing to packed venues. He died while doing what he loved, playing the music he loved to play.

Doc’s career spanned over seven decades during which he played with such notable talents as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, and Benny Goodman. He continually worked at perfecting his technique and successfully managed the transition from lead trumpeter within various bands to having a career as a soloist – a feat he accomplished at the tender age of 60.

He didn’t begin singing, in addition to his playing, until he passed 70 but it was well received and he continued the practice until his death. His final performance was at the Blues Alley Club in Washington in 1997. He died two days later, eleven days short of his 92nd birthday.

That is an accomplishment we should all believe to achieve – to be able to work at what we love right up to the time we take our last breath. To continue to learn and grow, developing our passions and providing them with the fuel that keeps them burning strongly within our souls.

Thanks Doc, for the music and the memories.

PS. His passion was certainly contagious. His grandson, Theo Croker, is an accomplished trumpeter in his own right having just been named as one of the top jazz artists to watch in 2019 by Jazziz Magazine.

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

A Personal History Restored… Never To Be Forgotten

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Dear Readers,

I apologize for the long blog absence. I kind of got caught up in the holiday season/rush and fell out of the habitual practice of writing about the memories I am privileged to capture and preserve.

I had always planned to get back into the swing of things but the longer I waited, the more difficult it was to find a topic that somehow justified breaking my unintentional silence.  Until today.

I am not often surprised when I do videotape transfers. Over the years, I have observed that we, as a people, all record the same kind of events – birthdays, vacations, sports, school concerts, etc… But every so often something comes along that just floors me. And it reminds me that people are always more than they appear and have histories that run deep and wide.

Today, I transferred to DVD a videotaped interview of one of my clients. It appears to have been recorded in the early 80s. He was born in 1934… in Berlin Germany…of Jewish parents. So as a young boy he was witness to and victim of some of the hateful, unconscionable acts that occurred in Nazi Germany.

The interviewer took him through his earliest memories and into his families’ experiences during WWII. It was horrifying but at the same time riveting. I could not imagine living through what he was describing… and yet, he had little choice but to live through it.

Memories are not always pleasant but they are always important. The past informs our present and can help to shape our future. The quote attributed to George Santayana says it best: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I am honored to have been able to have heard and preserve this slice of personal history. I would like to think that we, as a people… as a culture… will remember and learn from it so as to be spared from having to repeat it. As I look at the world today and hear the hateful rhetoric being spewed daily across the airways and internet… I’m sad to say that I’m not so sure we have.

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.

Once A Shellback, Always a Shellback

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A Shellback walked into my studio today… not that I would have noticed. I had never heard of one before. Fortunately for me, he decided to tell me his story. 

He came in to have a series of 35mm slides transferred. They were taken during his Navy days  and as he related his tale, I learned how and when he became a Shellback. It is a designation given to seaman who cross the equator (which can be found at 0 degrees latitude.)

But he was no ordinary Shellback. He achieved the rarified status of Emerald Shellback which is reserved for the few who managed to cross the equator precisely where it intersects with the Prime Meridian.  In other words, he passed through the intersection of 0 degrees latitude and 0 degrees longitude. There aren’t that many who can lay claim to that status. But my client is one of them.

In doing a little research, I’ve found that there is a strange little shipboard ritual that takes place during the Shellback initiation that dates back centuries. On that my client was a little close-mouthed. But apparently Neptune makes an appearance, there’s a bit of hazing that goes on, and an embarrassing time is generally had by all… or at least by those slimy Polywogs who are undergoing the initiation into trusted Shellback status.

After reading some of the descriptions of the rituals, I’ve come to the mindset that it is probably a good thing that they happen at sea.  I think it’s kind of like Fight Club… The first rule of the Shellback ritual is… you don’t talk about the Shellback ritual.

But I found a few photos…

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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 info, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. Reminder: our Fall Food Drive continues through Oct 15. Bring in an order along with a food donation and receive a 30% discount. Food donations will be given to Lake Cares Food Pantry.

Forever Lighting The Way

Today’s blog is a repost taken from The Real Estate Reporter and ERA Grizzard Real Estate. Thanks for the history reminder.

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Set against the backdrop of the Harris Chain of Lakes, Mount Dora is a historical city that dates back to 1846. Nestled along the shores of its namesake lake is arguably the city’s most iconic landmark, the Mount Dora Lighthouse. 

The Mount Dora Lighthouse was built to serve as a navigational aid for boaters and water enthusiasts. Sitting along the edge of Lake Dora on Grantham Point, the lighthouse guides boaters along the shoreline to local boat ramps at Gilbert Park and Simpson’s Cove as well as the Mount Dora Marina.

Those who call Mount Dora home have grown to know the lighthouse as one the most recognizable and beloved landmarks in the city. 

The Story Behind the Lighthouse

Boasting some of the largest lakes in Florida, the Harris Chain of Lakes is an area treasured for its natural beauty as well as the ideal destination for boating and fishing. This chain includes Lake Dora – the lighthouse’s home.

These interconnected lakes were an important draw for the area’s first settlers and remain a fisherman and boater’s paradise today. Encompassing 4,475 acres, Lake Dora is one of the largest bodies of water in the area and therefore has become a prime location for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. 

Its origins  stem from local fisherman and boaters who were finding it difficult to travel from nearby Tavares to Mount Dora in the dark. Civic leaders and members of the community took this need to heart and began researching ways to alleviate this issue. 

With an appeal to members of the community, over $3,000 was raised to erect this 35-foot lighthouse that stands watch over the Port of Mount Dora. Open since March 25, 1988, the Mount Dora Lighthouse was built using a brick base and a stucco outer surface.

Powered by a 750-watt photocell, the lighthouse utilizes a blue pulsator to help guide boaters around Lake Dora after dusk and stands as the only inland freshwater lighthouse in Florida today. Its trademark look was created using alternating stripes of red and white paint as well as a white hexagonal lantern. 

Today’s Beloved Icon

Visitors are encouraged to walk along Grantham Point and enjoy its spectacular views. Referred by locals as “Lighthouse Park,” this area is a short walk from the quaint streets of downtown Mount Dora and is ideally situated next to Gilbert Park and Simpson’s Cove.

Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the point and follow a pathway to the nearby Palm Island Park Boardwalk. This stretch of boardwalk offers picturesque views back to the lighthouse, particularly when the sun is setting.

Residents of Mount Dora treasure their beloved lighthouse and celebrate its history and beauty with events held during the year. A boat parade kicks off the holiday season with local boat owners displaying an array of lights and decor as they cruise along Grantham Point and the Mount Dora Lighthouse.

On New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July, the Mount Dora Lighthouse comes alive as fireworks light up the sky along Grantham Point. Regattas and boat races are also a regular event along the waters of Grantham Point, offering scenic vistas of the sailboats as they pass this iconic lighthouse.

From reminding us of the city’s historic past to holding a special place in our hearts today, the Mount Dora lighthouse is just one piece of what makes calling this city home so special. 

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

White Dove Of The Desert

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When married to a history buff, you kind of get used to making little unexpected side trips.  Yesterday, it was to the Tohono O’odham Indian reservation, located about 40 minutes from our hotel.  There, in the middle of nowhere, appeared an attractive, gleaming white multi-storied structure. Nicknamed “the White Dove of the Desert,” the Mission San Xavier del Bac is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.

The Catholic mission was founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692, and the structure itself was built some 100 years later. It is still in operation, serving the local community, the village of Wa:k.

The history is kind of interesting. When the mission was built in the 1700s, Southern Arizona was actually part of New Spain. Following Mexican independence in 1821, San Xavier became part of Mexico. And it finally became part of the United States with the Gadsden Purchase of 1854.

Renovation and restoration efforts continue as the mission has survived an earthquake in 1887, a lightning strike in 1937 and years of neglect as changes in territorial rights and authority led to an absence of oversight.

Still, thanks largely to the local population, the mission continues to fulfill its purpose while attracting thousands of visitors to the area. If you happen to find yourself in the Tucson area, it is certainly worth a side trip.

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.

Note: Michael & Kate remain in Tucson, Arizona while attending the 18th annual Home Video Studio Getaway. Our gala awards banquet is Saturday night. Our studio has been nominated in seven different categories. We’ll post the results once they are known.

The Tale Of The Lucy Evelyn

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First day in AZ… It’s hot. Really hot. How hot is it? It is so hot nobody here has body hair… it has all been singed off. We wisely stayed inside the hotel most of the day. After all, we’re not here on vacation.  We’re taking part in the annual Home Video Studio Getaway. It’s a time to recharge our batteries and re-educate ourselves on industry trends and new developments. The morning’s session… Documentary-style filmmaking: from proposal to final product.

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This comes at a great time. One of the jobs waiting for me once I return home is a commissioned project for a family who wants to tell the story of the Lucy Evelyn.

Briefly, the Lucy Evelyn was a three masted schooner which from 1948 to 1972 sat aground as a permanent fixture of the boardwalk in Long Beach Island, NJ where it served as a landmark, tourist attraction and home to a series of unique gift shops. It’s going to be an interesting story to capture on film and I look forward to getting started.

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Normally, I would blog about this project after it was completed however, I have an unusual request. If any of my readers, who are local to the Mount Dora area, can remember visiting the Lucy Evelyn during the time it was beached on Long Beach Island, we’d love to capture you on film sharing those memories for possible inclusion into the film.

If you are willing, contact me at michael.O@homevideostudio.com. We’ll set up an appointment and get the cameras rolling. It’ll be fun. 

In other news, nominations for this year’s Hanley Awards are being announced Wednesday night. We’ll keep you informed of any developments.

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.

(Note: Home Video Studio of Mount Dora will be closed until Monday, July 30th while Michael & Kate attend the 18th annual Getaway Conference in Tucson, Arizona. See you when we get back.)