Posts Tagged ‘iowa’


Photo: Des Moines Register
Michael Zahs, a retired history teacher, saved rare films that date to 1895 and became the subject of the 2017 documentary “Saving Brinton.” 

Did you ever read Hitty, Her First Hundred Years as a child? It’s about a doll who, through various adventures, ends up in the hands of a series of families in the course of a century. It suggests that old treasures bring joy again and again in new circumstances.

It would be lovely to find some rare, lost thing and give it new life. I know that readers like KerryCan and Deb do that all the time. In fact, Deb recently blogged about rescuing smelly old fabrics from oblivion to make a quilt. She likes to think about the former life of each piece as she works.

Suzanne, meanwhile, has been having enormous fun finding and cleaning up vintage lockets, offering resizing and placement of the customer’s family photos to give the lockets meaning for another generation.

Here’s a story about finding old silent film footage in an Iowa barn by Pamela Hutchinson at the Guardian. “Michael Zahs thinks of himself as a saver. ‘I like to save things,’ he says, ‘especially if it looks like they’re too far gone.’ This retired history teacher from Iowa, now in his 70s, has amassed quite a collection over the years: stray animals, farm implements, even a church steeple. …

“Nothing he has saved, however, has been quite as remarkable as the Brinton Collection – a mammoth set of films, lantern slides, posters and projection equipment from the first years of cinema, and even earlier. There are two exciting things about these artifacts. One is that during the more than three decades after Zahs took delivery of the collection and stored it on his property, he has been showing its treasures to local people and keeping the tradition of the travelling showman alive. The second is the discovery that the collection contains very rare material – films by the French cinema pioneer, George Méliès [remember the 2011 movie about his work, Hugo?] that were once thought to be lost.

Saving Brinton, an absorbing new documentary by Andrew Sherburne and Tommy Haines, tells the story of Zahs and the collection he saved. Between 1895 and 1909,one Frank Brinton crossed the Midwest with his wife Indiana and his travelling show, welcoming locals for a ticket price of just a few cents.

“At first he showed magic lantern slides, some of which ‘dissolved’ between two static images to create an illusion of movement. When moving pictures arrived, Brinton jumped aboard, ordering many films from distributors in France, one of the most prolific and creative producers in the early period. …

“Brinton’s programme included trick films such as those by Méliès, which used in-camera special effects to create fantastical spectacles, and many hand-coloured movies where the dye is applied directly to each frame. Projected in the dark, these vivid, bizarre images have lost none of their original impact.

“Everything the Brintons used was passed down through the family until 1981, when it arrived at Zahs’ front door. He packed all the ephemera away into what he calls his ‘Brinton room,’ while the films themselves were sent to the Library of Congress, which duplicated about two-thirds of them, quickly and simply, and sent the 16mm copies back to Zahs. The remaining third they apparently sent back to Zahs through the US mail, in a box labelled ‘explosive.’ Those original nitrate films, which are highly flammable, were stored alongside the 16mm films in a shed. It’s amazing that they survived.

“The 16mm copies were safe to project, and so Zahs did. He started the Brinton film festival in Ainsworth, Iowa (population: about 600), where he would show the slides and the films to audiences that might never otherwise have dreamed of watching a silent film projection.

“It is typical of Zahs’ commitment to not just preserving but sharing history, says Sherburne. ‘That’s how he engages people, by giving them the genuine article, putting it in their hands, or putting it in front of their eyes. It’s his way of transporting them to a different time.’ ”

Read more at the Guardian, here. And do tell me a vintage story of your own.

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Photo: Clay Masters/IPR
Storm Lake Times Editor Art Cullen stands outside newspaper he started with his brother in 1990. The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize this year for its editorial writing.

I’ve been following a twitter discussion about why big newspapers are doing more reporting via video. Critics contend the move is about pleasing advertisers and is hurting quality.

Judging from a recent National Public Radio (NPR) story on small-town newspapers, I think the big outlets would be better off focusing on building trust with readers.

Clay Masters reported, “Large media outlets could learn from small town newspapers about being authentic and winning the trust of readers. …

“Take the Storm Lake Times [in Iowa], for example. It recently gained national attention when this twice-a-week newspaper for this town of around 11,000 people won a Pulitzer Prize for its editorials. They won the prestigious journalism award for challenging powerful corporate agribusiness interests in the state.

” ‘We inform each other through the newspaper about the reality of Storm Lake,” says Editor Art Cullen. …

“Their classified section is pretty robust … and there’s even a section devoted to local birthdays. Art Cullen says newspapers like his are the thread that holds the fabric of a small town together.

” ‘They know we’re honest and they know we love Storm Lake … that we stick to the facts of a story, and we will argue, argue, argue on our editorial page.’ …

“One of the big differences between larger metro newspapers and community journalism is the staff has to face its audience every day.

” ‘People have no problem coming up to me and telling me what they think of the newspaper,’ says Jim Johnson, who owns newspapers in Kalona and Anamosa, two small newspapers in eastern Iowa. …

“Johnson has the advantage of owning small town newspapers near metro areas. When this former Omaha World-Herald editor bought the papers in Kalona and Anamosa, he wanted to show community newspapers can do just as good or better than large papers.”

More at NPR, here.

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Just saw this 2015 article on Facebook. Originally reported in the Telegraph Herald, the story is about a remarkably wise barber in Iowa.

“Dubuque, Iowa, barber Courtney Holmes is a member of the Dubuque Black Men Coalition (DBMC,) an organization that works to improve the quality of life within their community by providing support and leadership to programs that seek to make a difference in the lives of African-American youth.

“As a father of two, he understands the importance of encouraging kids to read, but also realizes that not all parents share this sense of encouragement, so he decided to take matters into his own hands by rewarding children with a free haircut, if they read books to him while he works.

“The concept began at a back to school event in Comiskey Park, where non-profit organizations gather to support kids in getting ready to go back to school. Holmes started with a few kids, and before he knew it there was a line of over 20 kids getting ready to read a story in exchange for a new look. At the end of the event there were still kids in line so he decided to give out vouchers for them to come back to the salon to read to him and receive their hair cut. …

“Holmes hopes to continue his good work through a monthly event at the salon. He’s also been receiving books from people who want to help keep the movement alive.

‘There’s a lot going on in the world. But it only takes one person to change something. I am just trying to make a difference.’

Check out the rest of the story at Earthables.

Photo: Telegraph Herald
Courtney Holmes, a barber and member of the Dubuque Black Men Coalition, offers free haircuts for children who read to him.

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According to Doug Donovan at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, here. the number of volunteers in the United States is at its highest level since 2005.

“More than one-quarter of Americans did volunteer work in 2011, providing 7.9 billion hours of service worth $171 billion. …

“The 1.5 million additional volunteers boosted the national rate to 26.8 percent of the population, a half percentage point higher than 2010. But the dollar value dipped by $2 billion, as the average number of hours Americans volunteered in a year dropped to 32.7 from 33.9, the Corporation for National and Community Service reported.

“Robert Grimm, director of the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Maryland, said the increase was mainly the result of the growth in the American population, not a response to the economy or other factors.”

Well, that’s too bad. People who don’t squeeze some sort of volunteer work into their lives are missing out. If you find an opportunity that works for you, it can be very satisfying.

Where I work, people have been volunteering for years at an inner city school, and the experience just gets better and better. Not only do we feel like we are really helping the kids improve their skills, but we enjoy building friendships with others in our organization as we ride the van to our destination.

I don’t want to make my volunteering to sound like a bigger deal than it is. Each person gives only about an hour and a half a month, overlapping with lunchtime. My point is that even a little bit can make a difference for someone, especially when combined with the efforts of others. One and one and 50 make a million.

Photograph: Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal/AP
Three volunteers share a laugh while they serve home-cooked meal to residents of Memphis Towers, an independent living community for the elderly and disabled in Memphis, Tenn, Dec. 10, 2012.


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