Looking Back: Home Movies Can Be Mysteries

Do you recognize any of these people? They appear in a rescued home movie. They are in a boat going down the outlet of Lake Chautauqua toward the boat landing, maybe in the early 1960s. If you can identify any of them, please call Karen Livsey, 665-3168, and leave a message if there is no answer.

If one is interested in local history, curiosity can be a boon or a curse. If one goes to a household sale, garage sale, auction, or reads old newspapers, the curious person may just take a right turn and follow a new path to figure out something seen at one of those places. Even looking at old photos from your own family may present an unknown person, event, or place that piques your interest to learn more.

Such is the case that presented the accompanying photograph. It comes from a home movie that came from who knows where or when! A slip of paper that was with it, lists Chautauqua Lake so that made it of interest. Another film from somewhere had an interesting notation on the label – “August 1946-Chandler’s Valley.” Knowing that Chandler’s Valley was settled by Swedes in 1846, maybe this showed some of the centennial celebration that took place there in 1946. Yes, it did show a little of it with the Flag of the United States of America and the flag of Sweden on the flag pole, a large boulder covered by the American flag, a group of people on a platform when suddenly we recognized a few seconds of Mayor Samuel Carlson at the podium. But alas, no sound.

Watching at a few of the rescued home movies from different sources, we tired of watching small children being coerced into looking at the camera and waving, or adults trying to get the dogs to sit still and look at the camera.

There were interesting toys being unwrapped at Christmas, and sometimes we could guess the approximate ages of the children at the party if we could count the candles on the cake!

While looking at all these home movies there was often some kind of label with a few words that made it sound like there was something we may want to see. Often the date was only estimated from the clothes or any cars that appeared in the movie.

But back to the film that included the above picture. Who are these people? They are in a boat traveling down the outlet of Chautauqua Lake. We know this from recognizing the Lawson boat house, marina, the steamboat “City of Jamestown”, and ending at the boatlanding bridge. The young man in the front we believe to be one of three boys, most likely brothers, who appear earlier in the movie. The two men are a mystery, not really sure if they may have been in the movie earlier. Judging from the cars in the movie, it was probably the early 1960s. If anyone knows who these people are, please contact Karen Livsey, Town of Ellicott Historian at 665-3168 and leave a message if I am not there.

I have often encouraged people to be sure to label photographs so the people, places, and time are known to later viewers. This should go for home movies and now videos, DVDs, etc. The lists that have been with many of these rescued home movies have sometimes been lost or mixed up as films are moved from one can to another. Plus the lists are usually only a list of maybe the place and sometimes, events, and even just people’s first names. There is one movie that lists among other things “Lynette and the dogs”. And by the way the dogs would not sit still, and we don’t know which one of the women with the dogs was Lynette.

One of these days I will retrieve my own home movies, see if I can remember how to use the projector, watch the movies, making notes of what, who, when, where for each movie. Then I will have to decide if I should convert them to a more up-to-date media that could even include a list of who, what, where, and when embedded in the new media!