Visit the MIRC Digital Video Repository

The University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collections is excited to announce the launch of its Digital Video Repository site: mirc.sc.edu

This pilot site provides access to more than two hundred moving images from a diverse set of collections, including the Fox Movietone News Film Collection, the Roman Vishniac Collection of cinemicroscopy, the Chinese Film Collection, and home movie collections dating back to the 1920s. And we’re adding more all the time!

MIRC will continue to develop the Repository this fall, enhancing user interactions and improving the digital preservation layer. Click here to learn more about the project timeline and here to learn about the related Fox Movietone News Digitization Project.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore the site, and ask you to bear with us as we continue to develop and test it. We look forward to your valuable feedback.

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Feature Video–July 24th–Old Cooper River Bridge

Let’s Take a Ride on the Old Cooper River Bridge by Cherrie Redd-Brown (MIRC)

For readers who may not be familiar with the Low Country area of South Carolina, let me introduce you to the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge (also known as the Old Cooper River Bridge), which was completed in 1929 to link Charleston, South Carolina to its neighbors to the east – Mount Pleasant and Isle of Palms.  The bridge was named for the former two-term mayor of Charleston John P. Grace, who organized the project. Seventeen months after its construction, the bridge opened with a grand 3-day celebration on August 8, 1929 with a formal ribbon cutting ceremony, automobile races, parades and concerts.

At that time, it was the fifth longest bridge in the world at 1,050 feet and it soared 150 feet above the river. The engineers of the bridge humorously referred to it as the “first roller-coaster bridge” due to its sharp curves, dips and the narrow two lanes which were only 10 feet wide. From my own personal experience I can attest that the engineers definitely stated this correctly!

As a resident of Mt. Pleasant, SC in the early 1980s, I was employed by The Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC, which required that I drive the bridge every morning to get to work.  Lucky for me, in 1966 the Silas N. Pearman Bridge was constructed alongside the Grace Bridge so that each bridge became a two-lane, one-way bridge instead of the original two-way bridge.  In the mornings, if I had not had a chance to drink my second cup of coffee by the time I left home, that was okay because when I arrived to the entry onto the bridge my adrenaline would kick in which  would keep me well alert enough to get me down to the bottom.  With my hands tightly on the wheel at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, I’d always give an audible sign of relief at the end of my morning roller coaster ride. As time went on, I became a little more comfortable with this carnival ride each morning but I do confess that when my husband and I decided to purchase our first home on James Island, I was thankful to know that my new commute would become a little less stressed.

Both bridges (the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge) have now been replaced with the New Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge also known as the New Cooper River Bridge, pictured here.  The old bridges were demolished in 2005 and a big week-long celebration was held that included a public bridge walk, concerts, dinners, and fireworks. This bridge is a beautiful piece of art with eight lanes, four in each direction, and a 12-foot bicycle and pedestrian path which runs along the entire south edge of the bridge overlooking the Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, and is often featured on publicity material for the City of Charleston. (You can watch a clip of the demolition of the old bridge on YouTube, link below)

During the demolition, the SC Department of Transportation collected some pieces of the steel railing of the bridge and produced 4,000 commemorative medallions in honor of the two demolished bridges.  Our son gave us one of the medallions as a gift knowing of our love of the Charleston and Mt. Pleasant area.

 

That Old Cooper River Bridge was indeed a scary drive, so much so that many of my family, close friends and acquaintances refused to go over this bridge. Regardless of my fears of driving over this scary old rusty bridge, my memories of it are fondly etched into my past as it had its own character, charm and beauty.  When I discovered the Lever-Karst Film Collection and viewed this footage I was excited and so happy that the Lever Family had taken the time to shoot this footage in 1952, which has become even more endearing since the demolition of the old bridge.

The Lever-Karst collection held at MIRC includes many films donated by Carolyn Karst, daughter of Bernie Lever. Mr. Lever was the founder of Southeastern Film Processing, which was the first motion picture laboratory in Columbia, SC. The collection consists of many home movies of the family, such as the one featured here of the bridge, as well as advertising and educational films, and film equipment.

You can view the feature video here: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A1907

A few interesting facts on the Old Cooper River Bridge:

  • The bridge was a private toll bridge owned by the Cooper River Bridge, Inc. The state of South Carolina purchased the bridge in 1945. In 1946 the 50 cent tolls were lifted.
  • In 1929 the bridge was built for Ford Model A cars and horse-drawn carriages.  When it opened, a sign was posted banning livestock from crossing.
  • On February 24, 1946, a freighter called the Nicaragua Victory plowed through the bridge on the Mount Pleasant side, which caused a 240 feet section of the bridge deck and roadway to collapse.  Bill Lawson, his wife, mother, and two young children died when their car fell into the river.  All five bodies were still inside the car after the vehicle was recovered.
  • U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings commented that he didn’t see the bridge the first time he went over it as a 7-year old; he was cowered on the floorboard of his family’s car at the time.
  • The bridge was used as the set for a scene from the 1995 film ‘Die Hard: With a Vengeance’ where the two main characters, McClane and Zeus jump from a bridge onto a container ship. In the film, the bridge was supposed to be near Bridgeport, Connecticut. The production crew chose the Cooper River bridge because there were two of them, meaning that they could film the action that was happening on the Grace from the nearby Pearlman bridge.

Interesting links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGS6tijAdH0 – Video of the demolition of the bridge.

http://oldcooperriverbridge.org/ – A photo article of the dismantling of the two old bridges.

http://www.cooperriverbridge.org/history.pdf – Souvenir article, entitled Cooper River Bridge Celebration, which was written by John P. Grace in August of 1929.

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Feature Video–11th July–Scott Nixon Home Movies

The Scott Nixon Home Movies Collection by Charles Sinclair

Anyone who browses the Scott Nixon collection will begin to get to know the man behind the camera.  Mr. Nixon had many passions which he explored and documented habitually.  The stories reveal that he had a great interest in the mechanical marvel which is the railway train, a respect and pride for his local and extended communities, and an expansive love for his friends and family.  The collection contains hundreds of stories, spans decades, trots the globe, and captures moments in time that exhibit the history and culture of America.

Whether riding the rails, rolling down the road, soaring through the skies, or sailing the seas, Mr. Nixon was a man on the move.  Featured prominently in his collection is the railway train of which he captured many types. While training his lens, he obtained many creative shots including angles from locomotives, cabooses, passenger car windows, and even shots that appear to be from atop trains.  He shot trains from fixed locations in stations and beside tracks, and from moving automobiles traveling alongside them as they sped off toward their destinations.  The most prominent subjects of the collection, though, are Mr. Nixon’s two children, Brailsford and Cobbs and his second wife, Evelyn.  He used up a great deal of film shooting them as they played at their home, as they celebrated birthdays and holidays, as they attended family functions, and as they vacationed to places near and far.  Mr. Nixon documented many of his trips to great American cities and landmarks.  The collection contains footage of the monuments of Washington, D. C., Central Park and Rockefeller Center of New York City, Theaters of Chicago, Michigan, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Colorado, Washington, California, Florida the Carolinas, Georgia, and many other fine places.  He filmed mountains, beaches, rivers, swamps, waterfalls, lakes, oceans, plants and animals, and he always seemed to find a beautiful sunset.  Other impressive footage comes from his international travels to Bern, Switzerland, the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.

Mr. Nixon also filmed sporting events including various college football games and the Masters Golf Tournament.  He documented political happenings as he followed the Eisenhower Bandwagon, and he was there with his camera in 1960 when then Vice President Richard M. Nixon gave a speech at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina.  On a more local level, he filmed events, parades, and fairs that took place in his Augusta community.  It is in these stories where the most tender moments of the collection can be found: children playing with toys and pets, family and friends laughing, a man and a woman sharing a dance, wedding ceremonies, and Evelyn, who always seemed to draw the focus of Scott’s camera whether she was lounging on a beach, reading a book on a blanket in the grass, strolling through a forest, or simply posing next to the sea.

The feature video shows a family trip to Hunting Island State Park in 1956 as they enjoy a nice summers day at the beach with a cook out and a picnic. You can watch the video here: http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=156 

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“Tapping” the Liberty Bell for our Nation’s Birthday

Mayor Harry Mackey poses with the Liberty Bell, February 22, 1931

It takes time to prepare and transfer over eleven million feet of film; in fact, we’re still at it.  But discovery is one of the great joys of working with the Fox Movietone News Collection.  This week’s featured video is one of those pleasant surprises and it is now screened to the public for the first time since 1931.

Fox Movietone News Story 9-161: The Liberty Bell Rings Again documents a celebratory ‘ringing’ of the Liberty Bell to mark the 199th birthday of George Washington.  It was the first grand event of a bicentennial celebration that would reach its crescendo a year later. The Fox Movietone News film clearly shows an NBC microphone beneath the bell.  The New York Times radio schedule for February 22nd confirms that  NBC’s WJZ broadcast the event in its 2:30 to 3:00 pm time slot.

For this event, Mayor Harry Mackey of Philadelphia says a few words and “taps” the bell thirteen times in honor of the original thirteen colonies, whose names are read in the order in which the colonies ratified the Constitution.  The idea for the event originated with the George Washington Bicentennial Commission.  According to correspondence  held by the Library and Archives of Independence Historical Park, Congressman Sol Bloom (NY), wrote on behalf of the commission to Mayor Mackey.  This letter initiated an internal discussion between the mayor’s office and Charles W. Needle, Chief,  Bureau of City Property and H. T. Carpenter, Superintendent of Independence Hall.  Chief Needle and Superintendent Hall both expressed concerned about the physical health of the Liberty Bell and sought the advice of specialists at the Franklin Institute (a note of thanks to the park librarian, Christian Higgins, for providing access to this correspondence).  Mayor Mackey and Congressman Bloom prevailed–apparently politicians like to pose for cameras and speak to radio audiences…

While radio audiences across the country had the chance to hear the liberty bell, not all Movietone audiences did.  In an unusual (though not unprecedented move) the Liberty Bell story was not released to audiences in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

This wasn’t the first time the bell cleared its throat for mass media audiences.  In the mid 1920s the Liberty Bell was struck to ring in the New Year for radio audiences.  And one month before this this event the Mayor of Philadelphia posed for Fox Movietone News cameras and tapped the bell to celebrate Benjamin Franklin’s 200th birthday.  While this film still exists, the mayor spoke so long that the camera ran out of film before he tapped the bell!

The Liberty Bell cracked in 1846 when rung to commemorate Washington’s birthday–the crack ruined the bell’s harmonics but elevated its symbolic status because it was then put on display.  From 1885 through 1915 the bell traveled extensively and in the process became a truly enduring symbol of American freedom and liberty.  An exact replica of the Liberty Bell was cast in France on the 60th anniversary of D-Day.  We can reach back in time for an echo of the Liberty Bell’s tone by listening to that of its replica, http://www.ushistory.org/libertybell/more/normandybell.htm

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Feature Video – 27th June – Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman

Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman

Lulu Belle and Scotty

Lulu Belle and Scotty ranked among the biggest country music stars of the late 1930s. Both launched their careers on WLS’s “National Barn Dance,” broadcast out of Chicago. Myrtle Eleanor Cooper started appearing on the Barn Dance as the comic character “Lulu Belle” at age 20, alongside Rambling Red Foley. When Foley got married, program director George Biggar needed a new straight-man to pair with Lulu Belle, and found one in recent college graduate Scott Wiseman.

According to folklorist William E. Lightman, Lulu Belle’s first impression of Scotty was that he was “stuck-up:” “He had a white shirt on, and a necktie, and his hair neat. I hadn’t seen anybody like that at the Barn Dance.” Nevertheless, she asked him join her road show beginning in the summer of 1934, and married him in December of the same year.

The pairing worked professionally, as well. Lulu Belle was arguably the bigger star, while Scotty was more famous for his songwriting. In 1936, she won Radio Guide’s National Radio Queen–something of a coup for a comedic country performer. He wrote many of the pair’s biggest hits, including the standard “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”, reportedly penned whilst he was recovering from colitis in a Chicago hospital.

Linda Wiseman feeds a squirrel at the zoo

Scotty and Lulu Belle’s daughter, Linda

Family life was not only vitally important to Lulu Belle and Scotty personally, it was also a cornerstone of their shared star image. They were, after all, both a real and a performed couple. Lulu Belle attributed her 1936 crown to the birth of their daughter Linda in January that year, just hours before a Barn Dance broadcast. Naturally, Scotty announced the happy event on the air.

Yet, the demands of Lulu Belle’s professional life presented very real obstacles to more domestic pursuits. In an interview with Lightman, she said it was difficult to set limits at the Barn Dance: “When I was expecting Linda, … the way they had me coming on stage was to come running in and fall over a chair. I’d been doing that all the time: falling over chairs! I was doing it when I was pregnant! They finally put a stop to it. They said, ‘You can’t have her doing that!’ But they were letting me do that, and I thought I had to.”

After the baby was born, the couple’s touring commitments remained grueling. In a typical week, Scotty and Lulu Belle would appear on “Barn Dance” on Saturday, and then “run like mad to get on a train.” According to Lulu Belle, “In the summers we were out on the road Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and usually Friday, and we’d come in late on Friday night and do the Barn Dance and go back out on Sunday. … I may have gotten mean or ornery once in awhile, having to be away from  the baby; that’s what really got me: having to be away from Linda.”

Lulu Belle and a Thanksgiving turkey

Lulu Belle shows off her turkey

The home movies in the Lula Belle and Scotty Wiseman collection are fascinating documents of the not-quite-public home lives of this far-from-private couple. At moments, these films could easily be mistaken for the home movies of any other Chicago family in the late 1930s or early 1940s (or at least, any other Chicago family that could afford to make home movies). At other moments, it’s possible to see glimpses of Lulu Belle the performer, as when she sticks her tongue out, curtsies, and laughs while pulling her Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven.

On the other hand, the collection also includes ample footage of planes, trains, stages, and performers. This week’s feature video was made while Lulu Belle and Scotty were shooting a movie at Republic Studios in Hollywood, probably the 1938 Roy Rogers feature SHINE ON HARVEST MOON. Lulu Belle and Scotty played themselves in the film, which was, like the majority of Roy Rogers’s films, a western with songs.

Roy Rogers on a rearing Trigger

Roy Rogers atop Trigger

The couple’s home movie footage is a lovely, color, moving-image document of low-budget Western production. Idle horses swish their tails between bounce boards. Lulu Belle’s hair is retouched under the shade of a tree while a palomino rides by in the background. Scotty rides alongside Roy Rogers on horseback. Roy Rogers and Trigger show off their iconic pose. Scotty and Lulu Belle pilot a fire truck down a backlot main street set.

Linda Wiseman as a toddler

Linda Wiseman and her toy horse

One of my favorite moments in the film, though, is a rather bewildering insert of young Linda, towing what appears to be a toy horse. It has a kind of resonance: her appearance in this particular home movie–about Hollywood filmmaking rather than family life–seems strange and out of place. On closer inspection, though, this image also conforms to a home movie trope. The preceding shot ends with Scotty leading his Hollywood steed toward the camera, so there is a sort of graphic match created between the two shots. Like father, like daughter?

You can watch the video here: http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=155

– Heather Heckman

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Feature Video – 20th June – Amelia Earhart

My favorite part from this great clip of Amelia Earhart is actually the outtakes that are seen at the very end, which show Amelia on board of the Mayor of New York James Walker’s boat. She is being questioned by reporters in a light hearted manner about her solo transatlantic flight from which she has just returned. In the background there is much fanfare and blowing of boat horns and as a result Amelia’s answers are constantly being overwhelmed with noise. She laughs a lot as she tries to make her answers heard and it is in this moment that we see her in a more natural state than the official ceremony where she receives the medal of honor in front of the crowd.

According to some reports, she was discouraged from smiling in front of the camera and for official photographs because of the gap in her front teeth, so it makes an even nicer find to not only see her smiling but laughing out loud at the scenario that she is in despite the publicity and razzmatazz.

Another nice feature of this clip is that of Amelia, whilst talking about her courage in her acceptance speech, mentions her new husband, Mr Putnam, who she had wed the year previous to this event, and states that it is ‘much harder to stay behind than to go’.

You can watch the film clip here: http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=153

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Images from Normandy, June 6, 1944–featured video

On June 6 1944, over 160,000 allied soldiers landed on the beaches Normandy or dropped behind the German coastal defenses.  The D-day invasion was the largest amphibious operation ever undertaken.  This week’s featured video draws on films of the event from the Fox Movietone News Collection and the C.E. Feltner, JR. Collection.

The first 23 seconds are from Feltner’s collection of Signal Corps films. The opening scene shows U.S. soldiers in a Royal Navy Landing Craft Assault (LCA) approaching  what may be “Dog Green” on the western expanse of Omaha Beach, the section of beach depicted in Saving Private Ryan.

Approaching Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944

The soldiers are likely from the 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division.  The second sequence features the more famous landing craft (the Higgins boat—technically called Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP) approaching Omaha at a different sector.

Scenes three through five show the desolation of the early morning at Omaha.  Exposed American soldiers struggle step by step forward.  One falls alone on the beach after being struck by a German bullet, which can be seen splashing into the surf after passing through the soldier. The final sequence from Omaha was taken from the safety of the chalk cliffs of the Omaha beachhead, looking westward as the Omaha landings founder.

Members of the Queen's Own Rifles land at Juno Beach

The Feltner collection also contains the famous film of Canadian forces from the Queen’s Own Rifles debarking from an LCA at Juno Beach—this sequence was filmed by Canadian Film Photographic Unit (CFPU) cameraman, Bill Grant.  There is also a still unidentified clip of British or Canadian forces landing somewhere along the beachhead.

The films from the Fox Movietone Collection begin one minute into this compilation and feature British forces in action at Sword Beach.  Unlike the films of Omaha from the Feltner Collection these films were censored and released to American newsreel companies.  Cameramen of the British No.5 Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU) shot all of these films.  The initial scenes of British forces debarking from the LCA depict elements of Lord Lovat’s 4th Commando coming ashore near Ouistreham. These sequences were filmed by Ian Grant as he is known to have come ashore with the Commandos. Other scenes feature units of what is probably the British 3rdInfantry Division fighting in and around Ouistreham off Sword Beach.  We can identify these cameramen by the hand written slates they used to indentify their films.

Slate for AFPU No.5 cameraman, Sgt. Richard Leatherbarrow

They are: Sgt. Richard Leatherbarrow, Sgt. George Laws, and Sgt. Norman Clague (who was killed in action six days later).  The comparison between the more rapid movement inland of the Canadian and British forces on Juno and Sword and the American struggle to hold onto Omaha is striking.

Why were films of British units distributed to American newsreel companies?  There simply wasn’t much motion picture film of the American beaches available to distribute.  Much of the film shot by U. S. Army Signal Corps was lost in the English Channel when the ship carrying the undeveloped film back to London for processing was sunk.

The complete film can be seen at http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=152

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Feature Video – 23rd May – Bonnie and Clyde

The feature video on the MIRC website for this week is presented on the anniversary of the day that the wanted outlaws, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, were killed in a police ambush as they were driving a stolen Ford Deluxe along a road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. They were being hunted in the aftermath of the murder of three policemen. Two of these policemen were motorcycle police, H. D. Murphy and Edward Bryant Wheeler, that were shot down on a country road and witnessed by a farmer who lived nearby, in April of the same year. Sadly, for Officer Murphy, it was his first and last day on motorcycle duty. William Schieffer was that witness and in this newsreel he describes the shooting.

It was this event that apparently turned the tide against the couple, fuelled by Scheiffer’s account, which got widespread coverage in the press.  This graphic account, coupled with recent photos found of the couple showing off their gun collection, encouraged press reports to hound them as gun toting vigilantes and especially tarred Bonnie as the heartless ‘moll’. Schieffer stated that Bonnie stood over the body of an officer, finishing him off by rolling him over and firing into his chest. However further witnesses claimed they saw a tall man firing shots into a body on the ground. Scheiffer’s ever-changing story was soon discredited, but not in time for Barrow and Parker. After this event, the massive negative publicity, against Parker in particular, accelerated the public clamor for the extermination of the remaining elements of the Barrow Gang.

This featured video was a newsreel that came out just after these slayings at the intersection of Route 114 and Dove Road near Grapevine, Texas, now the neighboring city of Southlake. This event warrants the end of the downfall of the outlaws ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and predicted by Bonnie herself, in a poem found at one of their hideouts:

“Some day they’ll go down together

And they’ll bury them side by side

To few it’ll be grief,

To the law a relief

But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”

You can watch the feature video, entitled ‘The Hunt for Bonnie and Clyde’ here.

 

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Feature Video – 17th May – Dambusters Raid

As we are changing our feature videos on a weekly basis, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of the interesting facts and research material that I find out for each video that we post on our website.

This weeks feature video is to commemorate the anniversary of Operation Chastise, carried out by Squadron 617 of the Royal Air Force on the water supply system of the Germans. This daring raid took place at night and the specially adapted Lancaster bombers were carrying bombs that had been specially invented for this task by the aircraft engineer Dr Barnes Wallis, the designer of the Wellington bomber. The raid became popularly known as the Dambusters Raid, and immortalized in a film in later years. (1954) Despite the high rate of casualties, amongst the bomber squadron, and on the ground, as well as the fact that the bombs did not disrupt the amount of water supply to the German war machine that was expected, the operation was considered a success.

This is all information that is well known to scholars, researchers and general interested parties of World War II events but gives you some background information to the historical day in question that we have chosen to display our featured video. In this case the clip, short though it is, shows footage from a medal ceremony at Buckingham Palace to honor the Canadian pilots that took place in the raid. The men shown on the video have been identified as:

Flight Lieutenant J. C. McCarthy, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Distinguished Service Order.

Flying Officer D. R. Walker receiving DFC.

Pilot Officer H. T. Taerum, DFC.

Pilot Officer K. W. Brown, Distinguished Flying Medal.

Pilot Officer G. A. Deering, DFM.

Sergeant S. Oancia, DFM.

They are accompanied by:

Royal Air Force Wing Commander G. P. Gibson receiving DSO and DFC.

The interesting thing about this clip is that 2 of these men were killed  a month after this film was taken, on the 16th of September 1943, in another raid over Germany, as a part of Operation Dortmund. These were: Pilot Officer H. T. Taerum and Pilot Officer G. A. Deering, Navigator and Front Gunner on Wing Commander Gibson’s crew for the raid. Gibson himself was killed a year later on the 19th of September 1944. As far as we know, this short film clip could be the only footage of these men together.

You can watch this video here: http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=148

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Unidentified Fencing Object?

This wonderful piece of film shows a man displaying Japanese swordsmanship techniques but we have no idea who he is – do you? This was filmed for a piece that was included on Local Television station WBTW and aired in 1976. Please let us know if you have any idea about this person or remember seeing this news story on television. The whole of the film clip can be viewed here: http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=52

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