October 27, 2016 is World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. From the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA) website: “the theme of the World Day this year is ‘It’s Your Story – Don’t Lose It.’ Every culture, every country has its own story to tell. These stories remind us of our shared humanity and build connections between people. Every story we keep in our archives means that we keep memories alive. Stories should be kept safe, stories create an invaluable archive for future generations – it’s your (and their!) story – don’t lose it!” In honor of this year’s theme, MIRC Assistant Director and Curator Lydia Pappas shares some examples of how some of the stories kept safe at MIRC remain important to people, institutions, and communities.
The story of a town: Bennettsville 1946
In 1946 a film was made about the town of Bennettsville in the upstate of South Carolina on the Great Pee Dee River. The town was named for the Governor of South Carolina, Thomas Bennett. The film of Bennettsville, SC, is from the My Home Town series of films produced by noted independent filmmaker Don Parisher and his production company, Park Motion Picture Productions. Parisher was a director and producer who worked for studios such as MGM and Paramount, as well as for the March of Time film series. From the 1940s to the 1960s he created many films for towns on the East Coast of the United States from New Jersey down to Florida, but only about half of these films now survive. They are promotional films for towns that feature the leading citizens, businesses, schools and landmarks of that municipality. Parisher remained active in filmmaking until the late 1960s. His last films were of towns in Florida, where he retired and died in the 1980s.
In 2016, I found the film of Bennettsvile, SC, in the MIRC collections and had it digitized to share online. I contacted the Librarian at the public Library in Bennettsville to see whether copies were needed for the local reference section. The Librarian then invited me to come and screen the film at a local history meeting at the library. In the meantime, I realized that the film itself, although credited with a narrator, was silent, and set out to track down the soundtrack for this film to take to the screening. Unfortunately the sound track was never found and all surviving copies of the film were silent. Fortunately it was possible to take the soundtrack of a similar film made by the same company of a different town in NC and apply it to the Bennettsville film. It was then possible to screen this film with sound to the Bennettsville local history group to great acclaim and the addition of much descriptive metadata for the catalog record of the film as many unidentified people appearing in the film were recognized by locals attending the screening.
The story of a family – Weir home movies
This collection of black and white and color acetate film came from a newly donated home movie collection from Dr. Robert M. Weir, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina. The home movies of this family depict expatriate family life in early 1930s Berlin, their travels to America in the late 1930s, and trips around Europe in the 1940s. The American family travelled and lived in Europe in the early and mid 1930s before returning to the United States in 1939. Films show family scenes of travel and home time, children learning to ride a bike and a trip to the zoo and many other innocent scenes of people getting together and going about their daily business.
These films also depict scenes of a parade on May Day in 1937 that shows swastika flags and Nazi officers. Notable highlights include images of famous buildings and landmarks that did not survive the bombing raids of WWII, such as the Cathedral and City Palace in Berlin, and the Hamburg Zoo. The family also vacationed in various places before returning to America in the late 1930s. There are color shots of such places as London, Paris, Bruges and the Riviera, as well as scenes on various ocean liners as the family traveled between Europe and the United States. These are the original master positive reversal elements, some of which are in color, making them quite rare as there are very few extant amateur films that capture Berlin and Germany in the 1930s. Some home movies depict the Blitz in London, and films shot by American visitors and Army filmmakers capture the later years of the war but very few extant films capture the period leading up to and including the early years of the second World War, particularly in Germany at the start of the Third Reich and especially in color. Some new discoveries have seen the National Archives of Norway publishing some color photography from a Norwegian engineer based in Berlin in the 1930s that show similar scenes, and the BBC has issued scenes of the Third Reich in color, using early German uses of color film for their propaganda. There remains very little amateur color filmmaking that survived the war. These films are currently being preserved as a part of an NFPF Basic Preservation Grant.
The story of the Touchdown Twins: University of South Carolina football
USC vs Wake Forest 1958, starring King Dixon and Alex Hawkins, during the time when Hawkins and King Dixon formed a formidable halfback combo for the Gamecocks under Coach Warren Giese and were known as the Gamecocks’ “touchdown twins.” The 1958 team under Giese finished 7-3 that season and with the combined talents of players like Alex Hawkins and King Dixon had the possibility of being really special, but two close losses spoiled the possibility of a major bowl. At the end of the season they were a close second to Clemson in the ACC title race.
1958 was Dixon and Hawkins’ senior year. Dixon was an outstanding halfback for South Carolina and tri-captain on the team and shortly thereafter graduated cum laude in his class. After graduation he built a distinguished 22-year career in the Marines, retiring with rank of lieutenant colonel and had earned many military decorations including the Bronze Star, the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V for Heroic Services and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star. Around three decades later he came back to the University as its Athletics Director.
Hawkins was named Third Team All-America by members of The Associated Press in his senior season of 1958, when he was also named as the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. USC went 7-3 that year and defeated rival Clemson 26-6 for the only time in his career. He ended with 1,490 career yards and led USC to 19 wins in three years – at the time, it was the second-most successful three-year period in program history, behind 20 wins from 1924-26.
The Wake Forest game was important because of the three Touch Down’s scored (via pass reception), a first in Gamecock history. In this play for the 1958 Wake Forest game, you can see one of these passes from Hawkins, leading to a touch down by Dixon. These scenes show Alex Hawkins throwing a 45 yd. bomb touchdown pass to King Dixon on a spectacular halfback sweep pass play. MIRC recently contacted Mr. King Dixon and sent him a DVD copy of this game, which he was not only delighted to receive, but also took to show his friend, Alex Hawkins, as a memory aid to alleviate the symptoms of dementia from which he suffers. Many memories were re-lived by the two old team mates from being able to watch this game and return to their college days, if only for a little while.
~Written by Lydia Pappas, MIRC Assistant Director and Curator