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.

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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.

They Just Don’t Write (or Think) Like This Anymore…

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We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

—————–

“Is There a Santa Claus?” reprinted from the September 21, 1897, number of The New York Sun.

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

The Accident

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It is funny the things you remember.

I was a junior in high school. During spring break, I went on an extended camping trip with my dad to visit nine college campuses in hopes to narrow my preferences. It was a profitable but tiring trip (I ultimately decided upon Westminster College in New Wilmington PA) and we were both glad to be heading home. We were about twenty miles from our house on Interstate 95 when our rear tire exploded. From then, everything seemed to go into slow motion (even though we were traveling around 65 mph.)

All of our camping gear was loaded into the back of our trusted Ford Fairlaine station wagon. When we lost the tire, we drifted into the left lane and as our luggage and camping gear shifted in the back, we lost control of the now unbalanced car which spun around 180 degrees so we were facing the oncoming traffic as we slid back across the 3 lanes of the highway and onto the shoulder and adjacent hillside.

After checking to make sure I was ok and giving thanks that we did not impact any other vehicles, my dad came up with the game plan. He would stay with the car and our possessions while I flagged down a motorist and catch a ride to the next exit where I would arrange for a tow truck to get us off the highway. I was also tasked with finding a pay phone to call home and tell my mother that we had been in an accident. This was before the age of cell phones.

No matter how nonchalant you try to sound, when you call collect to tell your mother that you’ve been in an accident, you should prepare yourself for a world of worry and concern to come your way. I tried to convey that we were ok and just needed a ride home but I’m not sure she believed me.

In just under an hour, my mother raced into the gas station where our car was brought. She was wearing a housecoat, slippers and I remember distinctly, a pair of ankle socks with puffy pom poms sewn above the heels. As she hurried anxiously to us, our well-being her only concern, I reacted as only an oblivious teenager could.

“Jeez, Mom… Did you have to wear those socks?”

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of 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.

Tree Huggers

Over the years, we have provided service to a wide variety of clients from all walks of life but yesterday was the first time (to my knowledge) that we actually had a singing tree in our studio. Not the entire tree of course, just one of its leaves or branches.

Our client performed in an annual Christmas pageant at First Baptist Church in Orlando familiarly known as The Singing Christmas Trees and it is quite the spectacular. It got me to thinking about Christmas trees in general and how they became a thing in this country.

According to Wikipedia, the first Christmas trees were brought to the US in the 1740s by Moravian settlers. They came from an area that is now part of the Czech Republic (where many of my ancestors are from). The first commercial tree lot was set up in New York City in 1851 and not long after, President Franklin Pierce set up the first official White House Christmas tree in 1856.

While celebrants often would gather around their decorated trees and sing carols, the idea of actually placing carolers inside of the trees has been traced back to Bellhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi who held their first Singing Christmas Tree concert in 1933. Since then it has been duplicated and modified at schools and churches around the world.

The First Baptist version taking place in Orlando is an elaborate stage show that began in 1980 and grew to include a quarter million synchronized lights, a 300 member choir stacked to the rafters in 2 giant tree shaped structures, and a 50 piece orchestra.

According to my client, there’s a lot of unheralded work that takes place behind the scenes as well. To prevent injuries or discomfort that may come from standing in place for the length of the show, designated “tree rests” work backstage massaging legs and checking on choir members while the show is in progress. Thankful choir members have taken to taping pieces of candy to the back of their legs as a little thank you to these tireless workers for the welcomed relief they bring.

It is almost time to open the curtain on this year’s Singing Christmas Trees. Here’s how to get tickets.

First Baptist Church of Orlando – The Singing Christmas Trees

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of 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.

Gobble, Gobble

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Another Thanksgiving is upon us and while we should all take time to reflect on those things we are or should be thankful for, there’s no escaping the fact that so much of this holiday will be focused on or around the dining room table.

I got off easy this year. My contribution to the family meal will be met with a simple cauliflower dish. I plan to make a cauliflower ‘mac n cheese’ concoction which has been a big hit in my household.  Here’s how to make it:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with salt.
  • Spray an 8×8  baking dish with vegetable oil spray
  • Cook the florets of 1 head of cauliflower in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and pat between several layers of paper towels to dry.
  • Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish and set aside.
  • Bring 1 cup heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan, and whisk in 2 oz. of cream cheese and 1 1/2 teaspoons of dijon mustard until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of  shredded sharp cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and garlic (to taste) and whisk just until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, pour over the cauliflower, and stir to combine. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and bake until browned and bubbly hot, about 15 minutes.
  • Serve.

In years past, when I’ve been on turkey duty, I’ve relied on Giada’s citrus-stuffed recipe which results in a moist and flavorful bird.  It’s my go to recipe whenever asked to provide the main course. If only she would show how to carve the darn thing. I make the family leave the kitchen so they aren’t witness to the carnage when I attempt it. Here’s a link to that recipe.

Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus

But my most vivid Thanksgiving memories are courtesy of my maternal grandmother whose house hosted most of our turkey dinners when I was growing up. The one thing I most looked forward to was the Thanksgiving giblet gravy which was made only for this particular meal. It’s a southern variation using the giblets of the turkey and hard boiled eggs and it was all I could do not to drink it right out of the gravy boat. 

It’s been a while since I have had it. I may have to rectify that next year.  Here’s that recipe.

  1. Remove liver from giblets and refrigerate.

  2. Place the remaining giblets into a saucepan and cover with 4 cups cold water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the giblets for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. At this point add the liver to the saucepan and simmer for another 30 minutes.

  3. Place a mesh strainer or colander over a bowl. Drain the giblets and set the liquids aside to use in the gravy, if needed. Let the giblets cool. Remove the meat from the neck and chop with the rest of the meat

  4. Melt 4 TBs of butter in a heavy saucepan and stir in 4 TBs of flour. Cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the roux just barely begins to turn golden.

  5.  If you don’t have drippings from a roasted turkey or chicken, or if you only have a small amount, add the giblet broth or chicken or turkey stock to make 2 cups. Slowly stir in the drippings and/or broth into the roux. Add 1/2 cup of milk or half-and-half. Continue cooking and stirring until thickened.

  6. Taste and season the gravy with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  7. Stir in two chopped hard-cooked eggs and chopped giblets and serve.

  8. The recipe makes about 3 cups of old-fashioned gravy. Enjoy!

     

To all my readers and clients, may you have a Happy Thanksgiving! We hope to see you after the weekend!

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; Home Video Studio of Mount Dora will be closed from Thursday Nov 22 through Sunday Nov 25. We will reopen at 9:30am on Monday, Nov 26.

What’s Important

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It is sad to say but sometimes it takes a tragedy to get us to recognize the true value of things.  We often take things for granted until faced with the real possibility that we just might lose them.

I’m working with a woman whose parents own two homes just outside of Paradise, CA which has been devastated by the wildfires that are ravaging that part of the country. Thankfully, their parents heeded the evacuation orders and they are safe but they have not been able to return to check on their properties. They are preparing themselves for the possibility that everything they own may have been lost to the fire.

The one saving grace is that a few years ago, the parents shipped to my client a box filled with Betamax tapes. They are old, unlabeled and nobody seemed to know what’s on them or what to do with them. My client has just been storing the box for her parents all this time. Suddenly, due to the recent events, she has realized exactly what she had been sitting on. That box potentially contains the only evidence that exists of the long life her family has shared together. It has gone from just one more piece of clutter under foot to the most precious possession in her house.

I feel privileged to unlock the memories that may be stored on these tapes and deliver them back to the family. I hope it provides some solace or comfort for the family as they prepare to face whatever they find awaits them.

Here’s a link to a site that describes how people can best help victims of the California wildfires.

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.

Lest We Forget (re-blog)

 

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In honor of Veterans Day, here is a repost from my blog of 2017:

On this Veterans Day I would like to give pause to remember three men from my family who are no longer with us but served this country with honor and distinction. From left to right:

My father, Edward J. Ondrasik, who, with the Eighth Air Force, flew 24 missions over Germany as a bombardier during WWII. We learned afterwards that he flew each of those 24 missions without a parachute as he could not fit into the bombardier compartment with it on. He died in 2009.

My uncle, Charles C. Parish, served as Lt. Commander in the US Navy. Was a pilot of a #2 F-4J (Phantom) during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over North Vietnam and declared Missing in Action in 1968. His status was changed to Killed in Action in 1973. His name is among the tens of thousands engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC.

My maternal grandfather, Herman O. Parish, who, as captain and commanding officer received the Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit for services rendered during WWII. He retired as a US Navy Rear Admiral. He died in 1989.

We honor their memory and thank them for their service and sacrifice. As we do all veterans.

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Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the protection and 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.

We All Make Misstakes…

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We’re in our 5th year of serving our community and helping families protect and preserve the memories they’ve recorded over the years. During that time, we’ve seen some wonderful videos, photos and slides that capture the essence of what it is to be a family.  I’ve also been in a position to observe some of the common mistakes made by people who wanted to record their memories.

#1 – Scenery is nice but not always memorable. It’s ok to take a picture of a mountain – just be sure to put someone you love in front of if. If you want to point a video camera out of a moving car to capture a road trip… try provide a running narration so we’ll know decades later what we’re seeing.

#2 –  I know it can sometimes be annoying to have someone point a camera at you but you’ll be thankful he or she did twenty or thirty years from now. So just grin and bear it. Why ruin a memory by showing your annoyance to the camera? Is that really how you want to remember this time?

#3 – Time stamping or mentioning the date and year will help you organize your video clips in the future. It is easy to lose track of time and place as the years pile on. Little clues go a long way when trying to fill the gaps of our older memories.

#4 – Keeping the camera steady will greatly add to one’s viewing enjoyment. Fast pans, quick zooms and shaky footage can actually bore or tire viewers out. When available, use a tripod or camera stabilizer. If you must go handheld, keep your elbows close to your body when shooting.

#5 – The bigger the family, the fewer the pictures or videos of the youngest members. I know it may feel a little like deja-vu to capture yet another 1st grade concert or Pop Warner football game but it’s all about capturing the young one’s first experience – even though you feel like you’ve seen it 100 times before.

#6 – If you find an old piece of media and you’re not sure what’s on it, please don’t throw it away. It’s like tossing away an old wallet before checking to make sure it doesn’t contain anything valuable.

#7 – Don’t assume that no one in the family would want to see the old stuff. Nostalgia can unexpectedly strike at any age. Teens may not want to sit for long periods of time watching themselves as babies but when they have tykes of their own, they’ll be asking “what ever happened to my baby tapes?”

#8 – Family memories are best viewed, when possible, as a family. It is what we used to do in the 50s and 60s before our entertainment options grew to seemingly infinite bounds. Gathering in front of a projector or TV and telling the old family stories and jokes that come to mind as we watch the “olden days,” is part of the family bonding process. One that is sadly in short supply. With the holidays fast approaching, consider having a tape or two transferred to digital so it can be played at your next family function.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora 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.

Mischief Managed

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One of the truisms I’ve learned over meeting and speaking with a wide variety of people is this: Different parts of the country develop different customs and traditions. This past weekend we were interviewing a couple for a documentary we’ve been hired to make and, as we were getting some background information from them, the conversation turned to what plans we had for Mischief Night.

My wife and I looked at each other and it was clear that neither of us had ever heard of it. The couple was shocked as it was a big night back where they were from.  They’ve been “celebrating” it since they were kids.

It seems that, in some areas, on the night before Halloween, it is customary to pull harmless (or relatively harmless) pranks on unsuspecting friends and neighbors. This includes but is not restricted to: the papering of cars and houses, the “relocation” of porch furniture, and the random knocking on doors and dashing away. It was with great pride they remembered the time they found these huge concrete planters at a neighbor’s house and managed to drag them into the neighborhood street to barricade the block from all vehicular traffic.

It is known by different names in different parts of the world. It has been called “Devil’s Night,” “Goosey Night,” “Cabbage Night,” and “Tick Tack Night” among other things. How it escaped our radar all these years is beyond us but it appears it is well known in certain areas.

The increasingly inventive antics that this couple pulled off eventually culminated with the police showing up at their door with a heartfelt plea to knock it off and give them a break. It seems their reputation as pranksters was well known in their small town community. At that bequest, they toned down their “celebration” of this particular event. But they still hold fond memories of the fun mischief they caused back in the day.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora 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.