Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Real to Reel

Hollywood's got nothing on my mom. 
The 25 8-millimeter films above are all Joyce Friese productions, shot on an old Kodak Brownie movie camera between 1963 and 1973.
Isn't she cute? Mom didn't own the movie camera yet (in fact, she wasn't even a mom yet) when the above photo was taken (I believe in my Grandma and Grandpa Harmsen's kitchen). She would have only been 19 years old and married to my dad for just over a year in 1956.

I think my sister has Mom's Brownie still camera (from the picture) today; but the movie camera no longer exists. The manual that came with it, though, was packed away in the same cardboard box that Mom stored the family movies in.
It's a treat to page through (even though it's not in the best of shape). 
It's filled with lots of photos and diagrams explaining how to use the camera.
It even offers instructions on how to take a movie selfie.
Judging by the dates on the film boxes, it seems Mom was at her most prolific in the early to mid '60s. (She also gave birth to four kids between 1959 and 1966, so it's probably understandable that her filmmaking trailed off a bit over the years.)
For the most part, the films are pretty standard family movie fare, featuring highlights of birthdays and baptisms, holidays and hay-making.  

The production values are a bit lacking, and there is no sound to speak of. (Literally. They're all silent movies.) The early ones are in black and white. But they're a piece of our family history, and I am so glad Mom documented the important events in our lives.
When we'd have family movie nights when I was a kid, we'd sometimes watch the films forward and backward (because they had to be rewound back onto the original reel anyway). My brothers and sister and I thought it was the funniest thing in the world to watch the movies of Dad and Grandpa Friese mowing and baling hay in reverse.
Most of the films are on small reels, but a couple are on larger ones that can hold up to 400 feet of film (which takes about half an hour to watch). 
Mom used a splicer to cut out the parts of the films that didn't turn out and also to combine a number of the smaller reels onto one larger one, so we wouldn't have to constantly be changing reels when we watched the movies.
The splicer is still with us, in the box with the movies, and in like-new condition.

Also in the box were a few of these "You're the Director" pamphlets that the Kodak lab must have included when they sent back the processed film. 
Even though my mom was the filmmaker in the family, my dad's name appears on the "customer" line on the form that was attached to each box when the film was sent out to be developed. 
Mom always bought film at Stoffel's Drug Store on Main Street in Waupun. The movie camera and projector that we used to view the films came from Stoffel's, too. I have no recollection of Stoffel's, but my oldest brother remembers it. I looked online in Waupun and state historical archives for information about the store but didn't find much there. But once again eBay came through for me; that's where I found this postcard:
It shows Main Street in Waupun, in what I'm guessing was the 1960s, judging by the cars. (There's no date on the postcard.) The Stoeffel Drug Store sign is hanging on the south side of Main Street in the building that Radio Shack is in today.

My parents also bought their first Polaroid camera from Stoffel's, and the clerk who waited on them took a picture of my dad and my sister in the store to show them the miracles of the Polaroid Land Camera. (You snapped a picture, pulled it out of the camera, waited 60 seconds and then peeled the paper off and, voila: instant photo.) I believe that picture still exists somewhere in the Friese family archives, but I looked high and low through my mom's house last weekend and couldn't find it. I would have loved to have included it in this post, because in addition to featuring Dad in his cool horn-rimmed glasses, the photo offered a glimpse of the inside of the store back in the day.

Mom gave the old projector to my son recently, and he has it displayed in his movie-themed apartment (which I blogged about here). 
Unfortunately we haven't watched the movies in a long time because the bulb in the projector is burnt out. But I have been scouring eBay for replacement bulbs in between writing this post, and it looks like there are a few out there. So hopefully we can revisit some of Mom's best work (like "Summer of '69" and "Lisa's Baptism") again soon.