It is startling to watch old movies of yourself. I’ve been watching some old movies taken by my uncle that he has recently had transferred to DVD for us.
My uncle has always been an early-adopter – cameras, movie cameras, colour TV, video player, computer, he was always first by a long way. I can remember one of the first videos he bought was Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, and the way I remember it it cost him something like $50, and that must have been many years ago, when I was a teenager.
He took colour photos of us when we were young before anyone else had a colour camera, and he had progressed to taking video in time for my twenty first.
At Christmas my Mum gave me two DVDs to copy of movies my uncle had taken over the years, and today I’ve been watching them. They go back to at least 1950, when my Mum was not yet a teenager and living in a big house on the edge of Blayney. There’s kids playing with dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, and eating lollipops. There’s my uncles working on the farm – on the tractor, ploughing, sowing, and harvesting. People are playing tennis on the court behind the house. There’s a snowball fight. I think snow was rare in that area. It’s a shame the film could only be taken outside – I’d love to see what the house was like inside!
Then there are weddings – of my aunt, and later of my cousins. Twenty-first birthdays, a trip to the zoo, visits to Sydney, and lots of people getting into their cars to drive away. My grandparent’s wedding anniversaries are there – the 50th and the 60th. There’s a family reunion that I remember going to with my boyfriend at the time – I was 16. There was a visit to the Blayney Cemetery afterwards which I could have sworn I didn’t join but there I am, with the boyfriend, walking along the graves. There was also a visit to the old house in Blayney, with Uncle pointing out which sheds were there before and the hill where the snowball fight took place.
There are kids playing in my cousins’ backyard pool, kids playing under the hose at Gran’s, and kids opening Christmas presents on the front verandah at home, watched by parents and grandparents. There are lots of occasions where people are sitting and eating, or lining up at the buffet table to stock up, or bringing more food out. All that food, all prepared by mothers and aunties and Gran, and later my older cousins. It was normal to ‘bring a plate’ in those days. There are speeches, at 21sts and weddings, with the ubiquitous bottle of tomato sauce on the table in front of the wedding party.
There are awful fashions, in clothes and hair – men in bellbottoms and wide collars and long hair, women who should have known better in short dresses. I am particularly horrified by my first pair of glasses at 10 – they were big black frames and after a very short time I stopped wearing them outside; and a particularly dreadful outfit consisting of a yellow Tommy Tshirt, an orange hand-knitted vest (originally made for my uncle) and jeans, and an awful haircut that can really only be described as a mullet.
There were lots of cars. My uncle was always interested in cars, and his preoccupation shows. Big cars, with bench seats that could fit three adults in the front and three or four kids in the back. No need for a van to move the family in those days!
I don’t remember attending many of these events. I don’t remember being at that cousin’s 21st, but there I am, sitting down eating. I don’t remember visiting the Blayney Cemetery with the family after the Oates Family Reunion. I don’t remember visiting my uncles’s place in Sydney with my family and Mum’s boyfriend. I guess we all have selective memories.
It is interesting to see how people reacted in those days to having a camera pointed at them, and the persistence of my uncle when they wanted him to stop. Kids were unselfconscious and kept going about their business, but adults were a bit freaked out. My uncle visited us from Sydney only every few months, and it was only at such times that we were subjected to the paparazzi treatment. Not like today, when every mobile phone has a video camera and kids put the results on Facebook or YouTube.
Of course, we were all a lot thinner then. And smaller. My little brothers have grown up and gone on with their separate lives. My beautiful sister has had kids and worries of her own. Gran and Pop have passed on, as has one of my uncles. My first boyfriend married someone else, as did I. The cousins I’ve seen married today mostly divorced and remarried.
These DVDs are priceless, and I will watch them again and again, probably changing my memories of those events in the process.