Old Gardner family 8mm films

This is summer of 1958. It starts with Sundalsora, where Morfar was director of the aluminum plant. I think that view of the factory across the river is the plant, and the man in the scene with the kid on the tricycle is Morfar. Paul David may have more to say about the second part – I had completely forgotten that we visited that farm, but can’t remember whose it was. I think it’s somewhere in Gudbransdal in the center of the country. I vaguely remember there being pigs kept under the barn, which I assume is where Mama got the idea of having Oscar reside under the carpenter’s shop at Trollhaugen.

The dog near the start is our German shepherd, King, the dog that ended up killing our sheep. This must be from the first winter in Vermont, like Jan/Feb 1964, since King still looks like a puppy. For the benefit of the generation after JP&S, the snow pile we’re sledding off is in the corner between the kitchen (which didn’t have the porch it has now) and the woodshed. That door you see used to open onto a rickety stairway that went to the upstairs above the woodshed and carpenter shop; both door and stairway (not to mention the bathroom window) are victims of redevelopment and long gone now.

The scene with the ladder onto the roof shows the old entry porch for the kitchen (which was just a little wider than the kitchen door). You can see the chimney above the kitchen – that let out the smoke from the coal burning kitchen stove. And there’s another chimney at the top of the house where one of the dormers is now; that was for a kerosene stove that was in the dining room. I’m not sure how the house supported the weight of those bricks, since that chimney certainly wasn’t sitting on the ground.

At about the 1:50 mark you can see an old toy of ours that sat in the barn for decades after we outgrew it…an ersatz snowmobile with no means of propulsion. I think the idea was that you’d drag it up a hill and then slide down, but I don’t remember any successful excursions with it.

At 3:50 – that’s Paul David’s blue boat that’s in the story of the beaver dam up by the Fifty Cent Bridge in Pieces of Rope. But by the time of the Rope story, he’d grown quite a bit.

This starts with a parade on Main Street in Manchester, CT, and since Paul David is a cub scout it must be the spring of 1963. The scene with Johanna pulling the wagon is in the back yard of the Manchester house. It’s funny, I don’t ever remember that wagon being shiny and new looking as it is in this scene – once we got to Vermont we started using it as working cart and a couple years of hauling rocks and dirt made it all rusty and bashed up.

The Manchester house was at the edge of a small-scale plateau of sorts. Right behind the house there was a strip of lawn level with the house and ten or fifteen feet wide; that’s where J has the wagon to start. The land then went down a hill to a lower level lawn. Most of the hill had shrubs growing on it, but there was a pathway down where that white latticed arbor is, and another grassy path on the right side of the lot (right side from the perspective or a street view).

The hill in the back yard curled around the left side of the house, but there were mature trees there. There was some sort of access road/trail through the woods that allowed getting into the lower lawn area from the street, and the swing set in the film was just inside the woods on that road.

It was a pretty good sized lot all told – the lower yard was big enough to have small whiffle ball games, and there was a nice stone barbecue down there along with a big tree we called a “Catalpa” tree – it grew long bean-like seed pods every year that we used for mock sword fights and general abuse.

I think I’ve seen this one once before; it’s from a trip to Norway Mama did by herself, I think, sometime mid to late sixties. I remember her being really impressed by the hydrofoil.

Starting at 2:48 there are a lot of people shots, and I don’t know everyone but I’ll try to help with some. Right at 2:48 there are three women; the one with her back to us is Mormor and the one in profile on the right is, I think, Tante Ba. But the woman facing the camera is a mystery to me. As the video proceeds you can see Wenche on the left.

At about 3:00 the scene switches to Mormor walking with Tante Sossen. I believe that’s outside the house Mormor and Morfar had in Drobak on the west side of the Oslofjord. At 3:20 you see Sossen and Morfar, and shortly after Mormor enters the picture. They look like I remember them – dressed as if going to church no matter the circumstances.

Not sure who the elegant looking woman is with Johanna at the start – maybe Mrs. Petrone from a couple doors up Spring Street? That’s taken at the lower lawn behind our Manchester house; you can see the stone barbecue to Johanna’s right, and behind the chain link fence is the big park that was part of the Mt. Nebo complex. There was a football field there and sometimes there were games. I always used to think that the fence was there to keep us out of the park; it was only many years later that it occurred to me that it was there so people from the park didn’t end up in our yard.

Nice boiler suit on Johanna; she’s at least eight years ahead of Pete Townshend with that outfit.

Ooh, at 0:58 there’s our two tone 1950 Chrysler; luxury you can afford, at least if you buy yours in 1962. It’s parked on a concrete pad that was meant for a garage to be built on it. There were steel bolts sticking out of the concrete so that the building, if built, could be secured to the pad. But without a garage, the bolts were a tripping menace, so our ever prescient father solved that by putting pineapple juice cans upside down over each bolt. It was a major violation to move these cans as I recall.

You can just see the steps up into the kitchen on the left, and as I recall there was a novel arrangement just beyond those steps in which a sunken garbage can held all the family rubbish below ground. The garbage man would walk all the way up to the house and lift the can out of its hole, walk back to the truck to empty it, and make a return trip to put it back in the hole. Nowadays, if you can’t do something with cloud computing, it’s not a recognizable problem and thus doesn’t happen, so that memory still impresses me.

After some shots of Johanna running in the lower yard in Manchester, at 2:05 the video jumps to Vermont, and Mama is doing a barbecue out in the bush. There’s the Chrysler behind her and behind that is the kitchen entrance, which isn’t very far from where the door is now.

The camera angle shifts and then you see Papa’s 195-5(?) Hudson, which he used to say was the fastest car he ever had, although I mostly remember it sitting non-functionally in the yard after its rear-end blew. Papa of course got a replacement rear-end immediately, which leaned against the barn for years to decades, but he never put it in. Two other things about the Hudson: at one of his jobs, Papa had a friend who was considerably heavier than he was, and the guy got in the car and broke the passenger seat back. Papa’s solution for any problem like that was using a piece of two by four to prop the failed structure in something like its normal place, but of course that quickly tore a whole in the seat-back upholstery. And the final tidbit on the Hudson was that it had a rather amazing radio in it for its time, with two big rear mounted speakers behind the back seat, and I took both these out when I was in college to build my own speakers to have in the dorm. Not sure I got the OK for that one.

And at 2:12 there’s the 1948 Plymouth, which had a trunk big enough for any mafia bus to drive the result of any whacking that needed doing along with a bag of cement to the nearest swamp. I remember one trip from Manchester to Vermont in that car where it started pouring rain when we were about 30 miles into the trip. Papa turned on the wipers, and the blade immediately came off and disappeared somewhere on the road behind us. He drove with his head out the window until it stopped. Crazy.

That’s the way I always remember the grass when we’d arrive, too – it’s be so tall that I felt like Johanna could easily get lost in it. And by the house, the bamboo would be like a jungle and full of bees – you had to fight through that to get in.

After that, you can see that Papa is trying to get max value for money out of the film, with like three frames of each topic. With the ability to pause that digital affords, you can actually get a decent look at each of them, which is helpful.

By comparison, Papa apparently thought that Johanna’s exploration of an empty detergent bottle was one of the highlights of her early life.

Wow, I didn’t remember dressing so well for chess games. I even have cufflinks on. The funny thing about this is that the light is so bad, yet I remember the movie camera having a light rig for indoor shooting that was as big as the rack on a moose. Film was pretty poor in those days.

Really exciting walking around the tree. But if you stop it at 1:54 there’s a good frame of Mama with Paul David and Johanna. Mama looks really young here – in my head I never picture her being this young. I suppose she’s 42.

And OK, so maybe there’s too much rocking horse action, but right behind Johanna is our family’s first ever TV. It looks more like an oven, but an oven would have a better picture – at least it would be in color. You might guess that the two big knobs are for volume and channel selection, but the three smaller ones are for brightness, vertical hold, and horizontal hold, functions that were absolutely crucial in their day but that nobody knows what the heck I’m talking about now. But if you can imagine watching a TV show with the top half of the picture on the bottom and vice versa, or worse yet, rolling around constantly, which we did routinely, you get an idea.

I’m sure this is humiliating for Johanna, but there are lots more good shots of Mama here. Man, Paul David and I have ears and teeth that have grown about eight years ahead of the rest of our bodies.

That stairway is the main staircase in the Manchester house. Paul David and I created a lot of havoc leaping down from as high up as we dared.