I remember once sitting with my grandfather, some 25-30 years ago, and staring into the screen of their tiny color TV (only recently updated from black and white). The house was quiet, but the TV was loud, as he was nearly deaf at this late stage in his life. I was there to stay with him while my grandmother was in the hospital, and our days generally consisted of hanging around each other silently, each to our own. That's how our family could be.
Little House on the Prairie was playing, and I had assumed he was paying as little attention to it as I was. But then he suddenly turned to me, serious. "When you get older, shows that show the old times really mean something to you."
I was taken aback by two things. First, that he had actually spoken to me directly (he was a silent, pensive sort), and second, that he had just stated something very personal (again, silent, pensive, etc.)
That moment has always stayed with me, even if I didn't fully understand the truth of it at the time.
As I have grown older, I've seen my childhood (from the 70's; yes, you may guess my age now) grow more and more unrecognizable to me. Nothing in my current life and culture reflects what life was like back then. And as I get older, I ponder that more and more.
My grandpa was born in 1901 on a farm in Missouri. He witnessed two world wars. He remembered the first time he saw an automobile. And a plane. Never mind a calculator and computer, as I remember from my own childhood. I have often wondered how my childhood will seem so antiquated when I am in my 80's. How will it look to me?
My grandfather had few pictures or mementos from his childhood, and I always regretted not being able to see that far into our family's past. So, I find it all the more thrilling that such a project as Historic Motion Pictures of Saranac Lake's Past is finding traction in the Saranac Lake community.
Described as Saranac Lake's "home movies," this 25,000 feet of film footage offers a rare glimpse of everyday life in one's own small community. Far from the polished and sanitized Hollywood version of life from 1924 through the 1960's, these films present authenticity. And not only do they provide a glimpse into everyday life and special events through these decades, they are also chock-full of Saranac Lake's own people, own family memories. Will you see your great aunt in these films? Your cousins? Perhaps your own father or grandfather?
This is an archive that the whole community can join into, naming places, dates and faces until an entire town's story comes alive in film.
This is a rare opportunity, and a project that I hope to follow closely as it grows. I encourage everyone to attend this Friday's presentation of the Kollecker Film Project in the Cantwell Room at 7 pm. Consider donating to the Kollecker fund to keep this project alive and strong.
You may find your own grandchild sitting beside you one day, pondering the truth of your childhood. Wouldn't it be nice if you had something more to share with her?