August 6, 2008

Residents Invited to View Historical Films



Staff Writer

ORRVILLE -- Like to do a little late-night television watching? How about doing it outside under the stars with the rest of the community?

Residents will get an opportunity to do precisely that on Saturday night when the Wooster Bicentennial Steering Committee rolls out its next big official event in celebration of the city's 200th birthday at Papp Stadium on The College of Wooster campus.

Area residents will get a look at life in the community as it was lived in the early part of the last century, thanks to two films made in 1912 and 1938, which have survived the test of time.

According to Harry McClarran of Wooster, who owned the rare films until he donated them to the Wayne County Historical Society a few years ago, in 1912 the local Alhambra Theater hired a maker of films, then a rare art form, to film scenes around Wooster. Among these were Walnut Street School students, employees of the local post office at the American Hotel, the Wooster Republican newspaper, Buckeye Aluminum, the Overall Factory and a baseball game at The College of Wooster with Mr. Boles coaching the team.

The owner of the Alhambra then advertised, "See yourself on the 'Big Screen'" as a means of increasing business. At that time, McClarran said, there were at least two other theaters in Wooster with which the Alhambra competed.

In 1938, McClarran said, Ed Mott contacted local concerns to advertise their businesses during the showing of movies, with their business cards being used in the promotion. Among these businesses were Lerch's Bakery, Stype's Drug Store at the Archer Hotel, the press room at The Daily Record and the Wooster Fire Department.

The films were subsequently preserved by J. Dudley Shamp and, later, his cousin Harry McClarran, who recognized their historic value.

A few years ago, the Wayne County Historical Society approached the U.S. Department of the Interior for advice on preserving the films, according to Jeff Musselman, a past president of the society and co-chairman of the Wooster Bicentennial Steering Committee.

"They believed it was impossible that we possessed film from 1912 because of the volatile nature of the nitrate stock film," said Musselman.

After viewing the films, the Department of the Interior declared them national treasures, and the original films are now safely stored in a special vault at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.

Musselman said another exciting discovery was that the 1938 film carried a previously unknown sound track, which was rare for this type of film at the time. When the 1912 film was made, there was no technology that allowed for the reproduction of sound, but piano music of the period will be played during its showing by Mary E. Kerr, a longtime member of the society.

Musselman said the two films, which have been remastered in a DVD format, will be shown on two JumboTrons -- each measuring 22 feet wide and 16 feet high -- which will be erected on the football field, visible to viewers in the stands. The two huge sets will show the movies in a synchronized fashion. One will be erected on the 20- yard line and the other on the 40-yard line.

"There shouldn't be a bad seat in the house. Everybody should have a decent vantage point," said Musselman, noting that the sound will be broadcast from a 5,000-watt speaker system.

The showing of the movies will take place about 9 p.m., or as soon as it becomes dark enough that the screens can be clearly seen by the audience.

There is no admission charge for the evening and seating will be on a first-come-first-served basis.

"We ask that those able to walk please leave the parking at the stadium for our handicapped and senior visitors," said Musselman, adding that handicapped visitors will have select seating. Food and beverages will be available at the stadium.

For the first time since the historic films were remastered on DVD, the Wayne County Historical Society will sell copies of them for $20. Forms will be available at the stadium for prepaid ordering.

Reporter Paul Locher can be reached at 330-682-2055, or e-mail at [email protected]

Originally published by By PAUL LOCHER Staff Writer.

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