Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds

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I really do love getting to know the people who walk into my studio. Just the other day I was privileged to meet a woman who had a VHS videotape of a amateur video interview she conducted of her friend Ken Carson.

Ken was a member of the internationally known and multiple award winning group Sons of the Pioneers. For my younger readers, you can think of them as an early version of a boy band (without the choreography and with a western twang). Roy Rogers, as Leonard Slye, was one of its founding members in 1933. Ken joined the group a little later and it is his voice that is featured on the songs Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds and Cool Water. He appeared with the Sons of the Pioneers in 22 of Roy Rogers films. The group exists and performs to this day, making it one of the longest surviving country western music groups.

The interview I transferred to a DVD was made in Ken’s home with his wife in 1994, shortly before he died. It was enjoyable to hear him, in his own words, reflect on his life and career. And, even at 80, his tenor voice had not lost any of the crystal clarity for which he was known as he was taped singing many of the songs he made famous, accompanying himself on his guitar.

What a treasure to have and pass on to the next generation of western music fans.

Little known fan note: My client shared with me some memorabilia she has collected through the years. One was a picture of Ken with an early girlfriend. It was none other than Dale Evans, back in the days before Ken introduced her to Roy Rogers.

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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Bear With Me

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There is something about holding a stuffed animal that has a calming effect on a person.

Hospital workers, paramedics, and police officers have long recognized the comfort that a teddy bear can bring to children who find themselves in a stressful situation. So, when the residents of Carriage House Gracious Retirement Living in Oxford Florida heard about a teddy bear drive that local first responders had put together, they decided to get involved. And get involved in a big way.

The word was put out and circulated throughout the communal building. And the bears started trickling in. Different sizes, different colors, different shapes. The menagerie continued to grow. Soon plush dogs and fuzzy rabbits began to join the teddy bears. They outgrew the original donation box; they had to be moved out of the manager’s office for lack of space. They finally took over the staircase in the central lobby where they are temporarily watching over the same people who so lovingly provided them to help children in need. Local officials will be by early next week to collect this cuddly zoo and put them into service.

Well done seniors. It would appear there’s no age limit on acts of kindness.

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 352-735-850 or visit our website.

Mysteries Solved

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You’re doing some Spring Cleaning and you come across something you didn’t know you were storing. It may be an unmarked videotape. Or a reel of film that has no label on it. It could be some audio recordings you don’t remember ever making.

Whatever the case, in almost every home, in almost every state, there is some unmarked, unlabelled piece of media that can’t be viewed or heard because the equipment to play it no longer functions. No one alive knows what is on it and the current owners can’t play it to find out. But they just can’t bring themselves to throw it away because of what it might contain. So they continue to hold onto it. Move after move. Generation after generation. 

We are happy to say we can convert such items to a digital form so our clients can view what up to that point was un-viewable. We recently converted some unlabeled 16mm film and delivered to our client footage of his parent’s honeymoon vacation from the 1950s. Something he had never seen before.

On the other hand, we salvaged some badly damaged film from the 1920s for a client who had no clue as to what it contained. After we cleaned it up some and converted it,  we played it back to find that what we had captured was some silent movie footage (Harold Lloyd I think) as well as some silent video cartoons of that era. (Anyone remember Dick Tracy?) I was expecting the client to be upset that the film did not contain footage of his family. Instead he expressed his gratitude for delivering to him the footage that contained his grandfather’s great passion for the arts of his time. 

I suppose the point is, we all have these mysteries caused by obsolete media that we keep stored in boxes or closets. We can’t bring ourselves to throw them away but we can’t watch or enjoy them either. Home Video Studio is the solution. We take the old media and transfer it to a format that can be played on today’s equipment  Who knows what is contained on those old unlabelled tapes or film taking up space in our homes? It could be nothing… It could mean everything. We can help you find out.

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 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.

Dancing Queen

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We do a lot of tape transfers. In addition to our work with film, photos, audio, and editing, we will typically have two or three videotapes playing in the background of our studio as we convert them to a digital form. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise to realize we don’t have a lot of time to sit and watch every moment of every tape as it is being transferred. So, when we do, you know that it has to be something really special to capture our attention.

One of my clients is a videographer who travels the country to capture footage from the many ballroom dance competitions and events that are held throughout the year. He’ll then send me the footage to convert to the specific media format requested by the dancers.

Recently, I received some footage he took at the Michigan Dance Challenge and as it began to play, I found myself riveted to the screen watching the performance from beginning to end. It was mesmerizing.

In 1983, as a teenager, Cheryl Angelelli was practicing with her YMCA swim team when an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. She would eventually become a para-Olympic champion, competing in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 games. When she retired from swimming, her passion turned to the world of ballroom dancing and she has been turning heads ever since.

The grace, fluidity, and seeming effortlessness that she and her partner, Tamerlan Gadirov, bring to the dance floor is both beautiful and inspirational. While watching her dance, one forgets that she is confined to the chair. As she has said, “I don’t dance with my legs – I dance with my heart.”

Their performance in Michigan (seen below) was awarded first place in the Best of the Best Bronze Show Dance which means they will be moving on to compete in the Best of the Best grand finale at the prestigious Ohio Star Ball. We wish them all the best. Keep on dancing.

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.

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.

Schnitzel Me This

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We here at Home Video Studio have a pretty cool business. We are in the unique position to have access to a huge storehouse of personal memories because families bring their recorded treasures to us to preserve and protect. And in the process, we get to vicariously experience things of which we may have no personal memory. For example, I had never before heard of or listened to Professor Schnitzel. And yet, I had the opportunity to hear three of his recorded comedy routines that were presented to me on vinyl 45s.

But in researching this name, I came across something very interesting. There were at least two Professor Schnitzels that became popular in America. One operated on the west coast in the 1920s and the other on the east coast during the 50s and 60s. There is no indication that the one was aware of the other’s existence.

The first Professor Schnitzel was played by a man named Clarence Coleman in the 1920s.  A realtor in San Francisco, Coleman created the character for a radio show in 1927 called Blue Monday Jamboree which aired on KFRC-AM. While CBS eventually picked the show up and syndicated it nationally, Professor Schnitzel was sadly never added to it as a regular character. Over the next few years he would make appearances on other shows up and down the AM dial.

The second Schnitzel made his home in Reading PA. Theodore L. Rickenbach was best known for performing his character in front of live audiences and for producing a series of 45rpm recordings for Butch Records.  It is this Professor Schnitzel that I heard yesterday when I transferred those 45s into CDs for my customer.

Both men based their humor by adopting a thick, almost unintelligible Pennsylvania Dutch accent along with a folksy demeanor to tell jokes and make funny observations about life, language and everything Pennsylvania Dutch. Audiences of the day howled.

By the way, the word schnitzel, if you didn’t know, comes from the German for “slice” and refers to a dish where a cut of meat is pounded flat, coated with breadcrumbs and fried. Typically made with veal, chicken, beef, turkey or pork. The veal version is known as Wiener Schnitzel.

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.

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.

What’s in a Name?

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All of my grade school life, I never sat in a classroom where there weren’t a few other boys who shared my first name. It turns out that there was a very good reason for that. According to the Social Security Administration, from 1954 until 1998, with the exception of one year, Michael was the most popular boy’s name in America. The exception came in 1960 where it came in second behind David. That’s still an impressive run of 44 years.

But it did cause some confusing moments. In the classroom, I could never figure out if the teacher was talking to me or one of the five other Michaels who sat near me. And at recess, out on the playground, I’d be forever turning around to find out who was calling me only to find out nobody was calling me… just my name. It happened every day…multiple times a day.

So I was tickled by a customer yesterday who had come in to the studio to have some old photos from the early 1900s restored. And as he was sharing with us who these people were that were in the pictures, ticking off their names, I commented on how unfamiliar their names seemed. It turns out it was a thing in their family. Their grandmother didn’t appreciate conventional names so she opted for naming her children with words that she would just make up. If it was in the baby book of names… she would simply come up with something else.

Over the years, the family adapted to their unusual monikers by taking their first and middle names and whittling them down to just the first initials. Thus Jerimillia Crimereo called herself JC; Podifer Amitelik would answer to PA; etc. That worked for most. Unfortunately, no one thought what it would be like for little Ventroy Delwhilm who, once grown, would to the family be forever known as Uncle VD.

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.