Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Super 8 Memories


One of Hubs' nephews found a huge box of Super 8 reels in the shed while visiting my in-laws at their cottage last fall.  After receiving permission from the in-laws to take them home, he had them remastered and converted into DVDs for the family.

Last Sunday night, we were at our sister-in-law's birthday party and we watched the videos, which were absolutely priceless. We watched the 1970s footage first, most of it consisted of Hubs' infancy up until his first haircut at the barbershop in 1976 - thankfully he behaved himself and didn't cause a crying scene!  So cute!  The 1970s footage was like scenes out of The Wonder Years (remember that show?)  Hubs' siblings would have been elementary school age to high school age then  -- the kids were so creative!  They put together a hilarious Star Wars skit complete with costumes, and they also put on a skit of the closing ceremonies from the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.  There were many scenes of Ukrainian dancing footage as Hubs' sister and brother competed in Ukrainian dancing for years, as well as footage of all the cousins playing together while the grown-ups visited in the house.

Hubs' siblings remember how they used to play outside for hours and hours, sometimes with supervision, most times not.  They would be called in for supper, then they would play outside again right after, usually up until bedtime. 

Our sister-in-law now lives in the house that Hubs grew up in.  When my in-laws retired to their cottage, she and my (now deceased) brother-in-law bought the house from them.  My in-laws bought the house new in 1963, so it was fascinating to see how the house (and house decor!) evolved from then until now...oh yes, the living room had the orangey-red thick shag carpet and floral furniture in the 1970s, and the walls were covered in striped, velvet-y feeling wallpaper.  My mother-in-law had beautiful flowers everywhere in the front yard and in the backyard.  My in-laws had converted their garage into a big family room, as their family was huge and they were always entertaining people.  It was interesting for me to see the house new with the garage!

Then we watched the 1960s footage, which was even more fascinating.  My in-laws were newly married then and had four kids by 1961.  (Three more children followed thereafter).  The early 1960s reels were straight out of an episode of Mad Men: my mother-in-law was glammed up in every shot (she had major style!), everyone including the kids wore nice clothes, the men wore dress pants and dress shirts with skinny ties, everyone paid attention to how they dressed.  On Easter Sunday, all the women wore hats.  The kitchen was very retro with 1950s green painted walls and everyone piled around the dining room table; eating and drinking and smoking (sometimes right in the kids' faces!)  Most of the older people in the videos are now deceased, but Hubs' older siblings remember the family members.

The colours in the videos are very bright.  I was impressed by the quality.  Of course with Super 8, there is no sound, but you can just imagine what everyone must have been saying if you know their personalities.  There was one funny scene of Hubs' oldest sister C dragging little Hubs around on a sled around the backyard in winter, and he kept falling out....of course we all piped up in screechy voices "Get back on that damn sled!!" when C would help him get back on the sled.  C sat there, nodding and laughing as that was probably what she would have said!   (You could see it on her face in the footage...hehe)

And the smoking!!  Mad Men has it completely accurate when they show the amount of smoking everyone did back then.  In almost every single scene we watched, at least one person was smoking....most times when the kids were around.  We laughed at one scene that seems absurd to us now -- my mother-in-law was sitting in the backyard one sunny afternoon, cradling my then baby sister-in-law L and smoking one cigarette after another, Betty Draper style...while all the kids played in the backyard. 

There are a few more videos to watch, we didn't get through it all on Sunday night but I am looking forward to seeing the rest.  So entertaining!


  1. Hello:
    What priceless archive footage this is and what a marvellous time you must have all had viewing it. So intriguing to see how interior decorating styles and clothing fashions have changed over the decades and, perhaps, how much has been reinvented anew!!

    Still, for all its positive aspects, it is so good that smoking has reduced significantly these days.

  2. I think its wonderful that you had them converted. What a nice find too.
    Yes, back in the 60s people still dressed up for airline flights, shopping, etc.
    Boys in high school still had crew cuts and DA's as they called them complete with 'waterfalls' down the back.
    The preppy look was in for most.

  3. What an incredible treasure to have! Priceless. Interesting about the smoking. Both in Mad Men and the recent BBC series The Hour the amount of smoking is extraordinary, and I found myself wondering if they had laid it on a bit thick to make a point. But perhaps not... scary thought. Virginia x

  4. Jane and Lance - My Dad quit smoking 37 years ago before my sister was born and now he absolutely cannot stand the smell and how people can smoke these days! My mother-in-law quit smoking in the 1980s, thankfully!

    Annie - So neat to see the different styles, even some of the 70s clothes were neat too. My mother-in-law had a groovy leather trench coat and matching boots in one clip!

    Virginia - It is scary - I was quite shocked to see all the smoking in the footage but I guess back then it was their 'normal'. Interestingly enough, my father-in-law never took up smoking, my mom never did either!

  5. What great fun! I love seeing old movies, though sadly there aren't many in my family. My parents were professional photographers, but they didn't have much to do with moving pictures. Even from still photos it is striking how much more formal people once dressed. And yes, there is hardly a photo of my parents without a cigarette in their fingers. Even posed photos of my Dad include a filterless stick with smoke emanating from the end - the epitome of cool back then. They both quit in the very latter years but sadly both died a 71 from smoking related disease (lung cancer and emphysema). We have a cigarette burn on the wood mantel of our dining room fireplace that Bill and I both consider an 'interesting' feature of the house, though smoking is not allowed here. Great that you like looking at those movies. For a while it was sort of the dreaded party having to look at the slide show of someone's vacation. I suppose the films are more like family history, which is always fascinating.

    1. I have always loved looking at photos, going through photo albums, watching videos, etc. Watching family videos can be boring sometimes but give it 10, 20, 30 years and you are glad you have that footage! I plan to have one of our VHS tapes converted for my family, we have video of when Mom & Dad had the addition built on to their house back in the early 1980s. They filmed the footage on a random Saturday at the house, but the video is priceless. My siblings and I were younger then but everyone's personalities were very evident then! :) Sorry to hear about your parents, my maternal grandfather died of lung cancer (also caused by smoking). My Mom was only 13 when he died, he was a heavy smoker.