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Throwback Thursday: Happy Birthday Smokey Bear!

August 14, 2014

You might have heard that this week marks the 70th birthday of one of the most iconic symbols in American culture: Smokey Bear.

In celebration, we at Priceless Photo Preservation in Ann Arbor, Michigan are posting an older Super 8 film conversion. It is a c. 1972 film clip of the actual bear named Smokey who was the living symbol of the anti-wildfire campaign for many years.

An American black bear cub who in the spring of 1950 was caught in a New Mexico forest fire, Smokey lived at Washington D.C,’s National Zoo for 26 years until his death in 1976.

Some other facts about Smokey:

  • The Smokey campaign was founded in response to a Wartime threat from the Japanese, who used to send balloons to start wildfires.
  • Bambi was the original cartoon character used for the campaign, but Walt Disney only granted the government permission for one year of use.
  • It’s “Smokey Bear,” not “Smokey the Bear.” The latter term entered the American vocabulary after a 1952 hit song. The songwriters added “the” to preserve the song’s cadence.
  • Smokey shares the same birthday (Aug. 9) as actor Sam Elliott, who coincidentally has been the voice of Smokey for many years.

Throwback Thursday: The 1967 Expo in Montreal

July 17, 2014

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the New York World’s Fair. And some publications, such as the New York Times, have done a wonderful job of commemorating the occasion with some unique feature stories.ExpoPostcard

Three years later, an event took place closer to Michigan’s borders that was equally momentous. Today, on Throwback Thursday, we’d like to commemorate it.

The 1967 International and Universal Exposition, more commonly known as Expo 67,  took place in Montreal, Canada, April 27 to October 29, 1967. More than 500,000 visitors showed up for its third day, which is still an all-time record for such an event.

It took place after four years of stormy political drama and ceaseless construction that included the formation of man-made islands in the St. Lawrence River. Given the theme “Man and His World,” it was a fair dotted with country pavilions – something Disney’s Epcot Center would attempt to duplicare several years later.

One of the fair’s most unique contributions was Habitat 67 (in the postcard at right), or simply Habitat, a new style of apartment construction pioneered by Israel-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, who originally came up with the idea as part of a thesis project at Montreal’s McGill University. Now an internationally known architect whose work has included the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Safdie is still widely credited  for pioneering a new concept in pre-fabricated and modular housing that – surprisingly, to some – never was fully embraced. “CBS Sunday Morning” recently did an interesting profile of Safdie.

So why are we highlighting Expo 67? Because in the course of our work over the last few years, we’ve come across slides, photos, postcards and even films of the event. So we thought it might be time to spotlight them.

First, let’s take a look at a few Kodachrome slides we scanned of the pavilions and other highlights.


Finally, here are two movies that we converted: The first is the official 8mm Expo film, which could be purchased at the fair as a souvenir. Like many educational films of the day, it was made with cheap chemicals. Hence, the garish red tint to the print.

More interesting (at least to our eyes) is a Super 8 home movie filmed by a local family who happens to be one of our clients. It really captures the essence of Expo 67, we think. Enjoy!

Throwback Thursday: Remember the “Tarzan” TV series?

June 26, 2014

Pop culture is a wonderful guide when it comes to figuring out generational divides.

For example, ask someone with whom they most closely associate the character Tarzan.

If they grew up in the 50s or before, they probably think of Johnny Weismuller.

If they grew up in the 80s. chances are it’s Christopher Lambert – or even Bo Derek, who played Jane in an awful Tarzan remake back then.

The 90s? Probably Disney or Phil Collins.

But the biggest group – the Baby Boomers of the 60s and 70s – probably associate the classic character the most with the 1960s TV show starring Ron Ely.

On the air between 1966 and 1968, the show was one of the few adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famous character to do away with Tarzan’s mate Jane. Instead, according to IMDB, “Tarzan (Lord Greystoke), already well-educated and fed up with civilization, returns to the jungle and, more-or-less assisted by chimpanzee Cheetah and orphan boy Jai, wages war against poachers and other bad guys.”

Which brings us to today’s post.

The in-laws of one of our most recent clients were vacationing in Mexico during that time period – and happened to come across the show’s set. Not missing an opportunity to play paparazzi for the day, they shot photos of the unfolding action.

We definitely see Ely, who later gained fame as the man who replaced Bert Parks as the MC of the Miss America pageant. Plus child actor Manuel Padilla Jr. (Jai) and the chimpanzee who played Cheetah.

We don’t know who the woman sitting next to Ely on the set is. Most intriguingly, it could be legendary Broadway actress Julie Harris, who had a recurring role on theJulieharris series as a Christian missionary.

To the right is a still from “Tarzan,” featuring Julie Harris as Charity Jones.Compare them to the woman in the slides that we scanned, which you can see below. Special thanks to our client, who kindly gave us permission to share these scanned vacation mementoes with you.






Just to complete this nostalgic trip to the past, here’s what the show’s intro looked like:

Mystery Solved: Right Year, Wrong Team

June 20, 2014

Well, that didn’t take long.

Thanks to the good folks at UMGOBLUE,com, one of the top news sites and gathering places for Michigan football, we now can identify the Wolverine football film excerpt from nearly 60 years ago that we posted yesterday.

We guessed the year was 1956. We were right.

We guessed the opponent was Army. We were wrong.

You can read the thread here. But we think the uncanny detective work of a poster named Uferfan deserves to be spotlighted. His sleuthing led to the game’s identification as the Sept. 29, 1956 clash between UCLA and Michigan, which the home team won 42-13. Here’s what he had to say.

- The Quarterback (#24) is Jim Van Pelt; who played from 1955-1957. He was the only quarterback to wear this number in the decade. 
- The receiver (#87) is, in fact, Ron Kramer. He played with Van Pelt for two of those seasons: 1955 and 1956; so we’re down to two possible seasons. 
- There were only three games that Michigan played at home in those years where the opposing team wore gold helmets: 1955 against Army, and 1956 against UCLA and Army. 
I’m going to venture a guess to say that the film is against UCLA in 1956. The reasons are as follows: 

Empty end zone seats at Michigan Stadium, 1956

A screenshot from the film: Empty end zone seats at Michigan Stadium, Sept. 29, 1956

- Van Pelt did not throw a pass in either Army game in 1955 or 1956, but he can clearly be seen throwing a pass in this game – here is a link to the box scores for the Michigan games, showing no passes thrown by Van Pelt against Army in either 1955 or 1956): 
- The attendance for the UCLA game was 70,159 and for the Army game was 93,402. The capacity of Michigan Stadium in 1956 was 101,001. If you look at the video at 0:45, the end zone seats are clearly empty (see right). The Army game was only 7,500 short of capacity; while the UCLA game was over 30,000 short of capacity. Given the large amount of empty seats, it is more likely this is the UCLA game. 
- Lastly, Army’s helmets during this time period had black numbers on them. It does not appear that the opposing team helmets had these numbers. UCLA’s numbers were solid gold with no markings. 
All signs point to this footage being of the September 29, 1956 game against UCLA; which Michigan won 42-13.  

Absolutely brilliant is all we can say to you, Uferfan. Well done!

As a reminder, this comes from a privately owned 8mm film we converted for a client, who generously gave us permission to post it on this blog. At Priceless Photo Preservation, we are Ann Arbor archivists wo specialize in converting, restoring and digitizing 8mm, Super 8 and 16mm film for local families who want to bring their history back to life. Stop by with a few film reels that you can watch us convert while you are there!

Michigan Football Mystery: Color 8mm film of Wolverines in action, c. 1956

June 19, 2014

Calling all University of Michigan football fans who bleed maize and blue.

Today, on Throwback Thursday, we have a real treat for you – and a mystery you could potentially help solve.

Recently, we converted a reel of 8mm home movies for an Ann Arbor client that were labeled “1956-1959. “Near the beginning, we discovered a short segment of a University of Michigan football game. Based on the labeling of the reel, we are inclined to believe that this game excerpt is from the 1956 Michigan football season, where the Wolverines (coached by Bennie Oosterbaan) finished with a 7-2 record, second in the Big Ten and No. 7 in the final AP poll.

Based on the gold helmets of the opponent, we  think that the game is the Oct. 13 clash between Michigan and Army, which the home team won 48-14. We were also able to decipher crucial uniform numbers: The quarterback is No. 24 (James Van Pelt?), the running back is No. 41 (Terry Barr?) and – most intriguingly of all – the end is possibly No. 87: All-American Ron Kramer, one of the all-time Wolverine greats.

However, not all the information matches up with the facts so we might need some diehards to a little more digging. For example, although the box score (PDF) lists Van Pelt behind center during that game, the box score does not reflect any pass attempts by him. Yet we see several passes – none of them complete – directed to the player who might be Kramer. So our guess could be completely wrong.

Also, of note: Towards the end, we see the University of Michigan Marching Band in action. Based on their formations and their uniforms, someone might be able to definitively guess the year – and potentially the game itself.

Something completely unrelated to know: The segment spotlights our newest process for converting 8mm and Super 8 films. This conversion, in particular, is outstanding in terms of the level of detail, the color and the complete absence of distracting flickering.  Just compare it to other 1956 conversions on the net like this one and that one.

So do we have any guesses out there?

PPP Brings Another World War II Audio Artifact Back to Life

June 3, 2014

For those who loved the story of the audio “letter” home from World War II soldier Oscar Spaly to his wife Lois, we have another treat for (9)

In the wake of the Sunday May 25 A1 front page feature in the Ann Arbor News, we were visited by several clients with similar records.

Among those records, the one from Clark Duane Roush stands out the most.

Roush was a member of the U.S. Navy from 1942-1945. While serving in the Pacific, he co-piloted a PBM Mariner, a bulky twin-engine seaplane (or “flying boat”) that conducted bombing runs for the 7th Fleet in the Japanese-occupied Philippines.

In July 1945, just before Japan surrendered, Roush was interviewed as part of a Navy radio program called “Voices From the Fleet.” The interview never aired, but Roush received an acetate 78 RPM record of his three-minute conversation.

After the war, Roush moved to Livonia, Michigan, where he worked in advertising and copy writing. He married Martha Jeanne Roush in August 1945. They had three children, all boys. One of his sons, Stephen, kept the record after his father died in December 2005 – and earlier this month, he brought it to us at PPP.

According to Stephen, one of his father’s more exciting missions – which was not mentioned in the interview – involved the PBM having to land off a Japanese-occupied island to try to pick up a downed flight crew. They did rescue the crew. However, one man who spotted the plane landing started to swim out to the seaplane and was attacked by a shark. The man was rescued, yet he lost one of his forearms. The elder Roush would go on to write about the incident in the Spring 1979 issue of Air Progress/Aviation Review magazine.

Here is the original 1945 interview that we digitized and restored, complete with a photograph of the record label and some footage of the PBM Mariner in action.

PPP Restores Local Family’s World War II Recording

May 19, 2014

More than 70 years ago, Oscar Spaly enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to boot camp in Mississippi.

Shortly after he arrived at Camp Shelby, his wife Lois received a package in the mail: A 7-inch vinyl LP that contained a message Spaly personally recorded to her.

Oscar’s son. Doug, held on to the record through the years. But neither he nor his other family members had ever been able to hear what Oscar sounded like when he was a young GI.

Until now.

A few months ago,Doug hired Priceless Photo Preservation to digitize the record  so he could finally hear the voice of his young father. During the transfer, we also removed some scratches, boosted the volume of Oscar’s voice and otherwise made it more understandable.

In the one-minute message, the elder Spaly talks about the fresh air in Mississippi, the other soldiers in his unit being “true Americans’ and the fact that he is “in good spirits.”

Housed in a cardboard envelope that says “A Message From Your Man in Service,” the record is a rare example of an initiative established by Pepsi Cola during the War. Pepsi set up recording studios at servicemen centers in New York, San Francisco and Washington DC and sent a mobile recording studio to military bases around the country, according to Bob Stoddard, an authority on Pepsi memorabilia and the author of “The Encyclopedia of Pepsi-Cola Collectibles.”

You can listen to the recording at the Priceless Photo Preservation’s YouTube channel or watch it below.

The record has lots of scratches, gouges and is partly warped. Even so, we were able to capture Mr. Spaly’s voice with surprising clarity. We consider it a privilege to have worked on such an important historical artifact from World War II and help the  family preserve such a valuable part of its history.

A Czechoslovakian immigrant who arrived in the United States in 1922, Oscar Spaly enlisted in the army during the late stages of World War II after finally gaining his citizenship. He served in Europe and eventually retired as a major. He moved to Ann Arbor in 1954,  establishing a real estate company that became known as the Spaly Group. He died in 2008 at the age of 88.


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