It was pretty thrilling to see my family films, which I edited down to a montage, displayed on a huge screen. I narrated over a microphone, "Oh, and I'm the kid with the underwear showing," as me, circa 1967 at three, sang on stage in an over-starched crinoline skirt sticking straight up in the air revealing my frilly white underpants. "Notice the people passing joints in the background," I pointed out as my sister and I innocently danced on the grass of Golden Gate Park's Hippie Hill in San Francisco, oblivious to the other kind of "grass" being smoked at the time.
"Obla Di Obla Da" played as my suburban family - mom in a flip and dad in crew cut - change from one clip to another into long haired twenty-somethings in bell bottoms doing hippie dances on a sunny day in the hills of Berkeley - or was it Marin? - as "Here Comes the Sun" fades out and the screen goes to black. Yep, it was quite a thrill.
After I narrated my film, some guy came to talk to me from the audience, something about showing my film in San Francisco at a Summer of Love Anniversary. But another film was already starting in the dark and someone else was trying to narrate, so I asked if we could talk later. But I never saw him again.
The films were a potluck of stuff - 1940s dads mowing lawns and matronly women in floral dresses shooing away the camera. And there was some really interesting footage: Beverly Hills, circa 1932, covered in snow; P.O.P (Pacific Ocean Park) amusement area in Venice, California with high-diving mules and transportation pods dangling over the ocean; camp kids in the 1930s doing Indian dances and canoing; a 1930s transvestite film; Yvonne De Carlo and her movie star boyfriend playing in the snow and deserts of California; 1950s family vacations of the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and motels across the nation; birthday parties and barbecues of families from the 1920s to the 1960s - providing a history of hair-dos (Louise Brooks-style bobs to Annette Funicello-Beach-Blanket-Bingo-bouffants of the 1960s.)
One woman brought some film she shot as a young college student of the New York 1964 Worlds Fair. "Oh, there's my sister who I don't talk to anymore," she pointed out. Members of the audience yelled, "You should call her!" "You two need to talk. Life's too short!" and the lady groused into her microphone, "That's not gonna happen." Someone else in the crowd piped up, "Does your sister have kids?" The narrator's answer was short and sharp: "Unfortunately, yes."
We watched family of many eras who all seemed perfectly happy waving, dancing, eating, laughing... but who knows what's become of them. Do they talk to each other any longer? Are they still living? Did their lives unfold as happily as their brief film moments? What would they think of an audience of strangers watching them as they dive into public swimming pools or blow out candles?
Many of the films shown were from family collections, but some were brought in by people who collect films from estate and garage sales. While they were interesting to watch, I got sad wondering why the families don't own the films themselves. There was one beautiful 16 mm colored film of a family in the suburbs of Westchester, California. The doorway of their yellow and white ranch-style home was the focus of many shots. The five or six blonde girls and boys - the boys in cuffed jeans and the girls in circle skirts - streamed out of the home, waving and smiling. The blonde mom in her salon-set hairdo, waved and smiled a red-lipsticked smile - looking proud of her brood as she walked behind them. Later, the kids as teenagers are shown on a family camping trip. The boys are playing horseshoes and one of the girls, in a red and white gingham shirt and denim clam-diggers, is now a teenager with her hair in a flip. Another scene, one of the girls, maybe the teen in gingham, is getting married. The family, now grown, is streaming out of the yellow and white house in suits with corsages and silky dresses with hair upswept. The parents are older and beaming with pride as they surround the young bride at her reception.
The woman who brought the film said she bought the family's movies from the same Westchester house that is shown in most of the scenes. How could one family with so many kids not want to keep those films of vacations, weddings and growing up in one home? I still can't figure that out.
But it was definitely interesting to watch how people lived once. The homes seemed smaller, the families seemed to spend a lot of time outdoors in backyards - maybe because they didn't have air conditioning. Large families seemed to think nothing of traveling the country with a car full of kids. Today, people are more likely to take cruises or fly somewhere where the parents can drink while the hotel or cruise staff placate their children.
Anyway, thanks to the archivists and all for putting on this event. They are very passionate about all film - not just of the Hollywood star variety - and that it should be preserved for generations to enjoy for years to come.