The Big, Boring Picture

Being an avid genealogist, I have scanned and catalogued every existing photograph, document, and memory, audio tapes of my paternal grandfather and great grandmother, and 1920’s video of my maternal family. The amount of data has far exceeded the capacity of my computer and required housing on a 300 gig external hard drive. In order to share the wealth and make some space, many boxes of originals have been packaged up and sent off to the living descendants of ancestral lines. Having nearly completed this treasure chest of family history, a small collection of movie reels were the last remaining, or at least “obvious” unknown still in my hands.

The Latest Exciting Project

When Tim and I took out a second mortgage for a barn we are no longer going to build (a story I’ll tell later), he asked me what one thing I wanted to do for myself with the money. Eyeing up the set of three 8mm film reels on my desk, I decided it was time to bite the expensive bullet and convert them to DVD.

The Bigger Mystery

The blue reel came from my father and I knew it was my parents’ wedding, but the two gold reels were discovered in my grandfather’s basement among a pile of things stored by an assortment of nearby relatives. The date at the tail end of one film suggested that it could be my aunt’s wedding, but the other was unmarked in any way. Could this be footage of my cousins’ childhood? Another wedding? The possibilities were endless and thrilling.

The Big Surprise

Finding the best deal on frame by frame transfer with film cleaning, I boxed up my reels, tossing in one of my husband’s father’s movies for good measure. I shipped them off with my PayPal charge of $341 allowing for the sound transfer option, but since there was no sound, I receive a notification of a partial refund with this note:

We put 3 reels on 1 DVD. One reel contained adult content and we put that on its own reel. I hope you enjoy your movies once you get them and we look forward to serving you again in the future.

Adult content?!?!?

The Torturous Suspense

Both my cousin and I had been looking forward to seeing our grandparents dancing on the silver screen, not to mention all the great aunts and uncles who have since passed on. But adult content? Our minds raced through the horrific possibilities. Was it her parent’s honeymoon? My parents’? Could it have been on the reel from Tim’s side of the family? I tried to reassure us both that it was probably some harmless mooning or a flip of the bird. We held fast to that thought for a full two weeks.

The Box o’ Goods

Andy, the mailman, hand delivered my box as I was knee deep in staining our new 12 x 24 Dutch barn. The barn, complete with two garage doors, had been delivered and installed that Friday.

“Hey, nice building! Is that from the Shedman?”

Normally, I would have loved to socialize with Andy and tell him all about how the Shedman removed two trees, leveled the lot, used a remote controlled hydraulic trailer to ease the pre-made building onto the six inches of gravel surrounded with 6×6 pressure treated beams, and how all this cost 1/4 of what a shell of a barn would cost to build — allowing us to install new heating in the house, get new wood floors, remodel the kitchen, and turn the basement into a studio… but I really just wanted to finish staining my last wall, clean up, and hit the DVD player.

“Yep, Andy. It’s from the Shedman. Have a great day!”

The Big Reveal

I fumbled with the phone as I tore the tape from the box with “natural cedar” colored fingers.

My cousin must have seen my number on the caller ID, answering with the words, “Did you get it?”

“Oh my God. The case says, ‘Kim Clune’s Memories – Contains Extreme Adult Material.’” I opened the case.

“No! They did not! They inscribed the actual CD with the same thing! There is no label to peel!?I can’t even take this to the dump!”

My cousin flat out laughed. Between snorks, she told her husband and I could hear him laugh too.

“Is it in the player yet? What IS it?”

“I think it’s from the forties. There’s a nun looking at herself in the mirror with a very classic hairstyle. The image quality is more gray than black and white. It’s grainy, like a film of a film… yet the framing is artsy. This reminds me of Un Chien Andalou.”

“Un What? A nun? Tell me it’s nobody we know.”

“I can’t tell yet… Um. Okay, she’s a very sensual and disrobed nun now… one with a facial massager… that’s no longer being used on her face. Oh, and she’s not from the forties. This is definitely the fifties.?”

“How do you know?”?

“The guy spying on her has a greased back DA haircut…

“Tell me we don’t know who he is.”

“No idea, and particularly not from this angle. I’m getting better quality images, but not of faces. Wow, hairstyles were much different back then, and I don’t mean on top…

This is definitely hard core and professionally done…

…I think I just blew about seventy bucks on bootleg fifties porn.”

Mystery Unsolved

Well, we know one thing for sure. Our familial camera crew had a very bad eye for composition. Comparing the well centered adult material vs. the lack of heads on bodies in both of the wedding and toddler videos, not only were none of our family members in this film, we can rest assured that none of them were behind the camera either. As for the source of this piece of… art, some things might be better left unsolved.

The joy of genealogy.