Light Up The Sky


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.


You Can’t Dress Me Up


If you study your home movies closely enough, you may begin to see the origin of certain character traits or peculiarities you may have. It just happened to me. I had an epiphany. You see, for as long as I can remember, I have always hated costume parties. Just getting an invitation to one would make me cringe.

Halloween, for all its candy, is absolutely my least favorite holiday. Why? It’s the dressing up part… which is a bit odd for someone who spent a large part of his life on stage in costumes playing different characters. That didn’t seem to bother me. But I have almost always had an aversion to costume parties and Halloween celebrations where dressing in costume was a prerequisite.

I think I’ve discovered the reason why I have such a negative bias of a practice that so many others enjoy.  I came across this rare footage of me as a child in the midst of what must be a Halloween parade.


First off, let me say the sight of so many white sheeted costumes with pointy hats is a bit off-putting. I’m pretty sure they were supposed to be ghosts (Casper was popular back then) but when viewing the past through the lens of today’s social filters things can tend to take on unintentional meanings.

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So, here are my sisters.  Angelic looking aren’t they? No, I’m not the creepy kid behind them looking like a zombiefied caped crusader.  I wish I was. It would have been much cooler. Here I am in my costume:

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Seriously? Of all the costumes in the world to choose from, I got to dress up as a fashion challenged Mickey Mouse in a Pepto Bismol colored fat suit with pom poms? Granted this picture doesn’t do it justice but in all honesty, I’m not even sure that’s a genuine Mickey Mouse mask. Looks a little deformed.  But get this:

costume 2.jpg

Again, hard to see but this is a different year. The pink outfit is gone but the same mask is being used? I must have complained about the oversized clown suit so this was the solution? Dress the boy all in black and send him out into the night? I’m amazed I got to live through puberty.

With this as my entry into a world of costumes, it is no wonder I shy away from them. Since I still get the inevitable invites, I have, though pure necessity, devised the only getup I’ll wear.  I’ve got jeans, boots, and a plaid shirt. If your party ever needs a cowboy, I’m your guy. Hat is optional.

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.

Christmas Disappointments


I transferred some video footage today that could have come from my own family archives. It was a VHS tape that contained previously transferred footage from old 8mm film. It was a Christmas video and the kids were enjoying all their new toys.

Two brothers were intently focused on “knocking the block off” their opponent as they played with their “Rock-em, Sock-em Robots.” I had one of those. But I didn’t have a brother and my sisters were too into Barbies to have any interest in my cool game. It is hard to enjoy a robot boxing game without another player operating the other robot.

And then the scene shifted to the brothers playing with their new slot car race track. Even at 62 years of age, my envy kicked in. I always wanted a slot car race track. I remember one year, it was the only thing on my Christmas list. I asked Santa for it. I cut out ads for it. I circled in red the pages where it appeared in the toy catalogues. I was sure I was going to get it.

That Christmas morning, I sprang from my bed and waited like a crouching predator for the go sign from the parents. I rushed to the Christmas tree expecting to find a slot car race track all set up and ready to go. But no.

Maybe I was too eager and my parents knew I would waste all my free time playing with the track. Maybe it was too expensive and my parents thought it would be better to feed and clothe me. Whatever the reason, my slot car race track was not there.

What was there was a lame substitute. Some stupid battery operated car chase game where you couldn’t control the speed of the cars. All you could do was flip a lever on the track to make the car change direction and then just sit there and watch as it chugged its way around its track. I was bored with it before I even started playing with it. I don’t even remember what its name was.

I’m sure I did not hide my disappointment. It is hard to admit but I may have been a bit of a snot as a child. And for that I do apologize. In retrospect, I probably did not need a slot car race track as badly as I thought back then. Still, deep down inside I know… it would have been a lot of fun to have.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio 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

$1 Dollar Win


Easter is just around the corner and with it the annual Easter egg hunt. Over the years, I have transferred a lot of video that parents took of confused children holding baskets while they roamed around the yard or house without really knowing why.  On the surface… strange custom.

But maybe that is sour grapes because I never really mastered the skill of finding eggs hidden by giant bunnies. Most years my little basket would be empty until my sisters shared theirs with me or my parents took pity and did the old “you’re getting warmer” trick.

But there was one glorious year when we traveled as a family to a public park for a community-wide Easter egg hunt. Prizes were being offered for most eggs found (boy and girl) and there was one golden egg hidden that, when found, would bring the finder a special grand prize.

The word was given and what felt like a thousand excited children ran uncontrollably into the park. I lagged behind, all too aware of my inadequacy in the egg-finding skill set. Until, all of a sudden, a golden glint caught my eye. All the other kids, so anxious to get to the heart of the park, raced right past the grand prize. I gingerly picked up the golden egg and placed it in my basket.

At the end of the event, I was handed my prize. It was a 1927 silver dollar, already 35 years old when given to me. As he put it in my hands, the grand leader of the hunt, like a Mary Poppins banker, admonished me to tuck it away and save it as it is sure to increase in value. I heeded his advice… for a while. But then, well… McDonalds came out with their dollar menu and I was hungry.

By the way, I just checked and today, that same silver dollar might be worth somewhere between $23 and $42 dollars.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit