The Curse of The Home Movies

Yep, that's one of ours!

                           Yep, that’s one of ours!

Frankly, I love home movies. But over the years, as the technology has evolved, they have become even more powerful.

As humans, we experience things–we remember things. As time rolls along, our brain filters out the lesser events and we remember those incidents with a different point of view: good times are now great and the bad things that happened were just a blip on the radar.

Growing up mid-last century (wow, that sounds old) the technology in my day was something called an 8-millimeter camera. It was approximately the size of the box your last cell phone came in, you had to wind it up, listen to it click like a purring cat and hope that, whoever was behind the camera, remembered to keep his thumb out of the way. Oh, and when shooting movies inside, the camera needed the help of a “light bar”, which amounted to four 100-watt bulbs strung across a bar that rested above the camera. The brightness helped with the filming process, but for the performers it was like staring into the sun. My sister Debbie is convinced that the light bar was the reason all three of us kids needed glasses.

Oh, yes, and then when you had finished using the roll of film, you had to take it to a processing place and wait a week or two for it to come back.  Then, you’d set up the screen, strap the film into a projector, turn off the lights and enjoy your home movies.

In the 1980s, the era of the VHS camera arrived, just in time for me to capture my kids growing up.  Fortunately, the radio station where I worked invested in the gear and I would borrow the camera to videotape everything and anything. I was thrilled by the technology and quickly became that guy who inspired people to say, “Oh, here he comes with that camera again.”

I’m so glad I did.  Sort of.

Here’s the deal–watching those silent movies of my family back when I was a kid is fun. It helps stir memories and remind me of people and times I could have forgotten about.  The quality is OK and there was no sound.

However, after recently digitizing some old VHS home movies and watching them–the combination of the much better quality plus the addition of sound turned me into a blubbering idiot.  Yes, I was happy to see them, but there they were again–that 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son I remember spending so much time with.

I’m not going to bore you with the hours of video I shot.  I’ll definitely go through all of it and set aside some highlights.  Here’s a clip I grabbed during one simple afternoon in the backyard with my daughter, Christina, and my son, Tyson.

It’s those ordinary moments that are right in front of you every day that, years from now, you’ll cherish.  Seeing this clip reminded me of one of the greatest times in my life.  It brought back the memory, but at the same time–hearing those voices, seeing those wide-eyed smiles and the backyard they spent so much time in–it forced me to admit those days are now gone forever.

However, they will always live on in my mind & in those home movies and, for that, I’m eternally grateful. And, in my mind, I’m able to hug them again.

Tim Hunter

 

In the Crazy, Crazy Month of May

Yeah, for me, May is an insane month.

Now, it’s a GOOD crazy.  But we’re talking everything from Opening Day of Boating Season, being the auctioneer at our church auction, Mother’s Day, birthdays including my wife, my granddaughter, my aunt, my sister-in-law, my father-in-law and several other family members. Yes, later in the month, Memorial Day officially kicks off summer.  But smack dab in the middle of May is Syttende Mai–Norwegian for “the 17th of May.”

Lots of people see a bunch of Norwegians (and by the way, reminding you that I married into all this) celebrating a holiday and think, “Oh, it must be Norwegian Independence Day.”  Actually, the holiday is in celebration of Norway’s constitution, which occurred before it became an independent country in 1905.

Seattle has been celebrating Syttende Mai longer than Norway has been a country.

Our personal celebration has evolved into a two-day party based out of a Ballard hotel. We move in the night before, use the place as our headquarters, play a little home-town tourist and just have a great time with friends.

To that end, I thought it might be fun to take you along on this year’s adventure, so here’s an audio highlight reel of some of the sounds and people from the Syttende Mai celebration in beautiful Ballard, Washington.

Hope you enjoy it and maybe we’ll see you in Snoose Junction next year!

Tim Hunter

IMG_4003

THAT OLD GANG OF MINE

While rummaging through photo albums for a Mother’s Day photo to post on Facebook, I stumbled across this picture from a long, long time ago.

The Old Gang edited

This was my gang. Not all the members, but the ones that were lucky enough to attend this particular birthday party gathering, whichever year it was.

We all had that collection of kids that we played with in our younger years. You’d get home from school, find out who was around and then organize a tennis ball baseball game or touch football or hide ‘n seek.

My guess is that we went bowling for this birthday.  That was a popular thing to do back then and we had a bowling alley just down the street from where I was raised in Torrance, California.  In fact, to this very day, that alley is still operating and occasionally the scene of a PBA event.

It’s hard to imagine the actual number of years since this photo was taken and how much has gone on in my life and the world since then.  This is most likely in the middle 1960s.  It was back when our  TV was still black & white, when only select baseball games were actually broadcast on television, stores were closed on Sunday, you probably had a party line at your house—meaning, when you picked up your phone to use it, someone in your area who shared the line could be talking and you’d have to wait for them to be done until you could make your call.

This was before contact lenses and VCR’s.  We had lost John Kennedy, but Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were still around. We had yet to land a man on the moon and we drank gallons of a Kool-Aid type drink called Funny Face (Goofy Grape, Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry, Lefty Lemon) that was sweetened with Cyclamates, which they later banned because it caused cancer in rats.  Why rats were drinking a soft drink, I do not know.  We didn’t wear bike helmets, seat belts were a new thing and despite it all, somehow we survived.

A quick rundown of the players, starting in the back row (apparently the boys’ row) from left to right:

  • Glen Rico—Glen was a year older than me, with parents from Mexico. As you can see, he didn’t get the plaid shirt memo that day. It was thanks to his older brother Oscar that I saw my very first Playboy magazine!  Well, Oscar didn’t show me. Glen just knew where the stash was hidden.  Glen also introduced me to the game of chess and years later, would not only attend the University of Washington, but also become an ophthalmologist over in Kitsap County. After suffering a detached retina several years ago, I was left with a blurry left eye. It was Glen who pointed out to me that it was a cataract and referred me to a doctor over here in Seattle. Once again, I have clear vision in both eyes which will come in handy should I ever stumble across some of Oscar’s old magazines.
  • Kelly Toman—Kelly was a year younger than me, but of all the friends, we were probably the closest. His dad and mine coached our Little League team together. We were both junior lifeguards own at Hermosa Beach.  Not only were we Cub Scouts, but we both had moms named Fran and they became our Den Mothers.  Kelly went on to become a firefighter and I would get occasional life updates on him through the years, but we didn’t really stay in touch. He was kind enough to come to my dad’s funeral last year and it was incredibly awesome to see him again.  We haven’t communicated since, but I’m sure when we do see each other again, we’ll just pick up where we left off.
  • Kenny Vaughn—Kenny lived down the street and came from a family of 8, if I remember correctly. There are several things I remembered about Kenny.  He had the neighborhood hip mom. While the rest were living the 1960s housewife dream, Kenny’s mom was seriously into pop culture.  I remember hearing that she took her kids to “Yellow Submarine” on opening weekend because she was such a huge Beatles fan and I remember thinking, “That’s a COOL mom!”  Kenny’s oldest sister was Penny…slightly younger Lori was the stunner of the group….and Sandy was the freckled-faced younger sister who I think we all had crushes on at one point or the other.  I always wondered what happened to them. Not a clue.
  • Kerry Freeman—Another “I wonder what ever happened to him” flashback. Kerry attended the same parochial school as me, Emmanuel Lutheran.  It was probably the following year that the church voted to close the school and all the kids that were a day-to-day part of my life suddenly scattered. Kerry also had a cute sister, Tina. Then again, when you’re that age, maybe everyone’s sister is cute.
  • Me—Yeah, I know too much about me. Let’s move to the lower row, where the girls apparently needed to be.
  • Karen Belcher—Karen and I were the same age and she loved playing sports with the guys.  That probably earned her the label, “a tomboy”, but she was kind, happy and her parents talked funny.  They had that southern drawl thing going. It turned out they were from West Virginia, where my Scottish father was raised.  Karen eventually worked for a local police department, but I believe she is retired now.  We saw each other at high school and such, but by then we were just on different paths.  Although I should mention that she did help play a role in telling another girl that I liked another girl, who eventually became a girlfriend, so I should thank her for that.
  • Terri Hunter—Yes, my sister, the middle child. Oh, the things I did to my sisters. One was a procedure called “Von.” Terri would have her hair exactly the way she liked it, I would reach up and my hands would act like egg-beaters on her hair as I said, “Vonnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!!”  I have no idea where that came from.  I also liked to make her and my other sister Debbie, laugh, especially when it wasn’t appropriate, like at the dinner table. I’d get them to crack up, milk would come out of someone’s nose and mom would yell at them.  But being flustered she didn’t know where to aim her attention and would confuse the names: “Dairy! Tebbie! Awwww!!!!”  And that made it all worth it.
  • Debbie Hunter—Yes, apparently she and Terri were twins that day.  You gotta remember, this is back when moms stayed at home and some moms even sewed clothes for their kids.  Their look was probably a McCall’s pattern that mom mastered on her machine.
  • Shelly Toman—Kelly’s younger sister, the same age as Debbie and apparently bowl haircuts were the ‘in’ thing that year. (probably a Sound of Music aftermath) Shelly and Debbie were besties for quite a few years growing up, at least, that’s how I remember it.   Plus, more kids at your birthday party means more presents, right?

Those years seem like forever ago, but start heading down that path and a flood of memories get knocked loose.  I remember them as good years, learning years and everything The Wonder Years would talk about decades later.

As you’re growing up, you can’t wait to get older. To move on to the next phase of life.  Then, after you’ve done that a bunch of years, you start realizing the importance of the now and how, maybe, you should have appreciated those years a little bit more.

It’s never too late, so let me just say thanks for all the great memories to that old gang of mine. You were an important part of my own long, strange trip.

Tim Hunter

Lost Memory Recovered

payphone

When you think about it, we all experienced thousands–perhaps, millions–of events while we were growing up.  Going from first recollection to fleeing the nest, so much happened.  The older you get, the more the little details slip away and you simply hold on to those big events.

So I was pleasantly surprised by a memory of a little thing brought back this week by my sister Terri. She was the middle one, closest in age to me, so our high school years over-lapped. Terri was chatting with my mom on the phone the other day and she flashed back to the system by which we were picked up from high school, in the days before we could drive.

Apparently, each of us were given a dime. Back then, that was the price of a phone call from a phone booth. Whenever we had an after-school activity like band, a sport, drill team, whatever, we would let mom know approximately what time we might call.  Then, we’d place the dime in the pay phone, rotary dial the number, let it ring three times and then hang up.  That way, mom knew it was time to pick us up and we got our dime back.

A way to beat the system and save a dime.  I would have never remembered that by myself. Just thought I’d share this memory of a little thing from long ago and a much different time.

Tim Hunter                                                                  dime

 

 

 

PLEASE BEAR WITH ME

Bear

You can now rent “The Revenant” and so, in the near future. we’ll make the commitment and plow through that Oscar-winning movie.

My wife, Victoria, and I try to get out and see as many of the Oscar-nominated films before the big night each year, but that one kept getting bumped to the bottom of the list. The next thing we knew, we were just out of time. So we promised ourselves, “We’ll rent it when it comes out on DVD.”
When you wait that long to see a much talked-about movie, you hear things, you read things. SPOILER ALERT—I’m about to talk about what I heard that supposedly happens in the movie. Not necessarily things that do happen, but the rumored plot lines that seeped my way.
When you’re trying to psych yourself up to see a highly-awarded movie, the rumor that Leonardo DiCaprio was raped by a bear, or had to hollow out the guts of a horse to spend a night there (imagine how the horse felt) just made it a little harder to push that button at the Redbox kiosk.
At this point, we still haven’t seen the movie. I know it’s out there. We will rent it eventually. But until that time, when I think of The Revenant, I think of the bear, which takes me back to a week-long vacation when I was five-years-old.

I grew up in a Los Angeles suburb called Torrance, nestled in what they call the South Bay area.  When I was but 5-years-old, my Aunt Colleen, Uncle Chuck and cousin Charlie invited me to come along with them one week to their cabin in the mountains.  The place where it was located? Big Bear Lake.
I have spotty memories of that week, but here are the few things I remember:

  • The cabin they owned was in the mountains a good couple of hours away in a pine-scented neighborhood dotted with other vacation homes. It made you feel like you were a million miles from Torrance.
  • On our way to a fishing trip out on a rented boat, my Uncle Chuck gave Charlie and I some money to buy  drinks at a store for us to enjoy out on the rowboat. I picked out a chocolate milk soda for him because I thought he would like it.  He didn’t.
  • While out on the boat, I honestly don’t remember catching any fish, but I do remember being really hungry.  I decided to try a salmon egg (remember, I was 5) and I ended up eating most of the jar.  My uncle thought it was hilarious.
  • My cousin Charlie and I liked to wander around the woods above the cabin.  At one point, the two of us Einsteins thought it would be a good idea to go deep into the forest and build a fire.  But we weren’t going to take any chances.  We would build it inside a wood box so it wouldn’t spread.  Uh-huh. Fire department came, had to put out a mini-forest fire and, thankfully, we didn’t go to prison.
  • At one point of my first vacation away from mom & dad, my aunt & uncle tried to wear us down by taking us to the local community swimming pool.  There were signs everywhere saying, “Don’t run on the cement.”  A lifeguard yelled at me, “Hey, you—don’t run on the cement.” You know what happened next–I ran on the cement, slipped and went sliding on my side, scraping my left check pretty badly.

I was pretty low key after that—hurt and embarrassed. To make matters worse, a huge scab formed on that cheek. Upon arriving home, my parents were informed I had slipped at the pool and scraped my face. That was pretty much a non-event.  But what would I say to the neighborhood kids?  I can’t tell you how the mind of a 5-year-old works, but my brain decided to tell Glen, Karen, Kelly, and both Mikes that I was attacked by a bear. After all, we were up at Big Bear Lake.  It must have been by a big bear, right?

Did they believe me?  Maybe for a while. Maybe not. I know I tried to sell it.

Doing the math, that incident probably took place during the summer of 1960. Over the years, the scar has faded away and the story went to the back of my brain until The Revenant reminded me of my own personal bear attack.

So I guess Leo and I do actually have something in common—a bear attack that didn’t really happen.  Only he’s the one that gets the Oscar. Yep, kid actors don’t stand a chance.

Tim Hunter