Music Hall Memories

 

Oh, Ricochet.  “Dear, dear, dear.”

I tried out that phrase, beloved of my father when dealing with a screaming infant, on my 18-month-old niece a few days ago.  She immediately picked it up and responded, “deoo, deoo, deoo,” thus instituting the first two-way conversation we’ve ever had, even if only over the phone.

I’m feeling a bit glum and reflective and have finally–after years of putting it off, dug out the very large picnic basket into which I’ve thrown, over the course of about twenty years, every bit of video I’ve ever recorded (see photo).  It is a disheartening prospect, to say the least.  Hundreds (literally) of DVDs, both mini and full-size, dozens and dozens of digital video cassette tapes, and a considerable quantity of memory cards in all sizes, shapes, and formats.

And, speaking of formats, so many of them obsolete, and lots of the footage, however it’s saved, not even finalized for viewing.

Still, I’m my father’s daughter.  So, Never Say Die!  I’m determined to make a start and (gradually) to sort it all out.  And when I actually do pass on to my Great Reward, my [stepdaughter] will “rise up and call [me] Blessed” for not having left her with an obscure and inexplicable mess (apologies, Proverbs 31).

One of the first mini-DVDs I pulled out was labeled “Dad and Pat, May 2007,” and was, somewhat miraculously, playable after a “repair.” I remember the occasion well.  It was just a few months before Dad died, and I’d gone to spend a month with him in England to try to help him recover from a broken hip.

Pat spent the day with us, and I’d brought along a CD of music hall songs of the 1920s and 1930s, which I thought might light them up.  And so it did.  Dad’s family used to love them (although they were much frowned upon by his in-laws), and–almost 80 years later, Dad and Pat could both recall them fondly–and I can do a pretty good turn with a couple of them myself.  (The one in the middle, about riding to Bangor in the eastbound train, I don’t remember.)

Pat’s reminiscences about Marie Lloyd are especially poignant.  She was the queen of the British music hall, much celebrated, although leading a very sad life of her own.  Pat references a TV movie made about her (won’t play on most US DVD players) which I saw when it was broadcast here a number of years ago, and which I thought was quite good; as well as a few contemporary stories, including Miss Lloyd’s banishment from the annual Royal Command Performance (at which the King and Queen were present) because of her morals.

And so, without further ado, and because you’ve been so kind about them over the years, here are Dad and Pat:

And their contemporary, primary sources:

Wishing you all, my dear friends here, the best, most prosperous, and happiest New Year ever.

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  1. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Welcome to the Society of Obsolete Media. There is a growing industry of people who transfer everything from folks’ home movies to network television broadcasts. A friend of mine makes a nice living saving old 2″ quad tapes.

    And digital is the worst. A small crease along the edge of analog tape and 99% of the picture is recoverable. But interrupt that string of 1s and 0s and it’s “Good night, Irene.”

    I don’t have a lot of video of my kids when they were small. Having spent so much of my life looking at a monitor I wanted to experience their lives, not document it. Still, I do enjoy watching what I did save.

    • #1
  2. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    “dug out the very large picnic basket into which I’ve thrown, over the course of about twenty years, every bit of video I’ve ever recorded”…reminds me of a book of reminiscences by British general Edward Spears, who was Churchill’s emissary to France during the campaign of 1940.  The book was titled, The Picnic Basket, and here’s why…Spears had grown up in France, and in the 1960s he returned to the house he had lived in. There, he found a picnic basket filled with his grandmother’s old letters:

    The next letters I opened dropped me back two generations into a land of other people’s memories but with an occasional sharp glint as they recalled things I had heard of as a child. They were the letters of a poor sick young woman written to her absent husband whilst she was immobilised awaiting her first and only child, my mother. I never imagined my grandmother other than I had known her, white haired, stout, and dignified. The picture painted in these letters of a girl frantic with loneliness and longing, exasperated at the threat of a miscarriage which kept her lying on her back, begging her husband to come to her, all told in the reserved language of that day, filled me with a kind of fond protective amusement. It was so unexpected. Time, so long imprisoned in these boxes, was revealing itself in an entirely new guise, oscillating quite regardless of years from one generation to the next or back again–more, it was taking me, an elderly man in the 1960s, and leading me back to the year 1864, there to watch over, with infinite tenderness, a young woman I had never known, my grandmother as a young wife… See Time Travel.  

     

    • #2
  3. She Member
    She
    @She

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Welcome to the Society of Obsolete Media. There is a growing industry of people who transfer everything from folks’ home movies to network television broadcasts. A friend of mine makes a nice living saving old 2″ quad tapes.

    And digital is the worst. A small crease along the edge of analog tape and 99% of the picture is recoverable. But interrupt that string of 1s and 0s and it’s “Good night, Irene.”

    I don’t have a lot of video of my kids when they were small. Having spent so much of my life looking at a monitor I wanted to experience their lives, not document it. Still, I do enjoy watching what I did save.

    Oh, gosh yes, on all counts.  Although I can’t claim the experience as much of a novelty.  I think the first time I struggled with moving data from one obsolete format to another, soon-to-be-0bsolete, format was in 1980 or so.  At least at that time, and for a few decades following, I was getting paid for the inevitable frustration and sense of banging one’s head against a wall that would result.  I’d probably be a lot more sanguine about the contents of the picnic basket, and approaching it from much more of an “oh, how hard can this be?” standpoint if I didn’t have the background I do.  I know how ugly it is going to be.

    I do still have all the various cameras and recording devices in good working order, so I’m pretty sure I can retrieve what I want to, it’s just a matter of time, and sorting it all out. We shall see.

    I agree with you about not spending one’s too much time looking in the viewfinder (if there even is one on the device) at what’s going on around one, rather than looking life in the face.  Too much like Plato’s Cave, or The Lady of Shalott.  But I’m glad I took the video I did of the old-timers on my rare trips to the UK, and of a few other things over the years.

    A few years before Dad died, my sister took his 8mm cine film and sent it off to get it put on VCR tape.  Totally worthwhile, and we were able to spend an enjoyable afternoon as a family watching it one day.  I’ve since digitized it and included a bit of it in this post about Christmas 1956.  Much of it is priceless footage of colonial Nigeria.

    We’d never have sat down to view it on its many little reels, its often faulty splicing, and with the old 8mm projector.

    I wish we’d done the same thing and had the slides put on DVD.  Dad had hundreds of them, and we didn’t do it till after he died.  Before he did, it was just “too much trouble” to set up the projector and the screen, try to figure out if they were in the carousel or the boxes the right way round or upside down, or to deal with the occasional “getting stuck” or (worse) catching fire, so we just didn’t bother.  Now, as the oldest child, it’s up to me to try to identify everything on them.  I do my best, but some of the particulars are lost forever.

    Huge mistake.

    Peeps–please don’t do as I did, as described in this post.  Do as I say: If you have family memories, get them into an accessible and uniform format as soon as you can, and enjoy them often.

    • #3
  4. She Member
    She
    @She

    David Foster (View Comment):

    “dug out the very large picnic basket into which I’ve thrown, over the course of about twenty years, every bit of video I’ve ever recorded”…reminds me of a book of reminiscences by British general Edward Spears, who was Churchill’s emissary to France during the campaign of 1940. The book was titled, The Picnic Basket, and here’s why…Spears had grown up in France, and in the 1960s he returned to the house he had lived in. There, he found a picnic basket filled with his grandmother’s old letters:

    The next letters I opened dropped me back two generations into a land of other people’s memories but with an occasional sharp glint as they recalled things I had heard of as a child. They were the letters of a poor sick young woman written to her absent husband whilst she was immobilised awaiting her first and only child, my mother. I never imagined my grandmother other than I had known her, white haired, stout, and dignified. The picture painted in these letters of a girl frantic with loneliness and longing, exasperated at the threat of a miscarriage which kept her lying on her back, begging her husband to come to her, all told in the reserved language of that day, filled me with a kind of fond protective amusement. It was so unexpected. Time, so long imprisoned in these boxes, was revealing itself in an entirely new guise, oscillating quite regardless of years from one generation to the next or back again–more, it was taking me, an elderly man in the 1960s, and leading me back to the year 1864, there to watch over, with infinite tenderness, a young woman I had never known, my grandmother as a young wife… See Time Travel.

     

    That’s just lovely.  Thank you.

    • #4
  5. She Member
    She
    @She

    A note:  At the time, Dad  had just turned 88, and Pat was rising 84.

    • #5
  6. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    My parents took a lot of 8mm film.  Years later, they projected a lot of it onto a screen and recorded it onto VHS tapes…for some of them, they added voice-overs.   Still later, my mom bought a product from a company called Honest Technology (the name made me suspicious, but it actually worked pretty well) and transferred from VHS tapes to DVDs.  And lately, I’ve transferred the DVDs to digital format.

     

    • #6
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