• Stephen D'Agostino

Historical Society Seeks Home Movies

Maybe a dozen years ago, I went to an event called Old Home Day in Delaware County, New York. That this event was called Old Home Day, my first experience with this term, is not the focus of my column this week. However, it is important for me to point out that the purpose of the event was to gather people who were, in effect, displaced from the valley they had once lived. These people, all of them sixty and older, once resided in Pepacton, Arena, Union Grove, and Shavertown. Their towns were dissolved, and their houses were leveled. The East Branch of the Delaware River was dammed, and slowly, the Pepacton Reservoir began to fill.


I was at this event because I was fascinated (still am), by the decades-long efforts New York City made to ensure its millions of residents had access to water.


This dozen or so people at their Old Home Day shared their memories. Some brought small items that were once in their houses. Some brought books they had written chronicling their ordeal. One elderly couple brought a home movie, which they promised to show after people enjoyed the pot luck dinner. While we ate, folks told stories of what life was like; it was reminiscing, really, because they had all lived these lives and likely all told these stories a dozen times before. But I hadn’t. I listened intently, trying to remember everything I was told.


When it was time to show the home movie, the lights were dimmed, and the screen set up. The movie was actually played from a computer, and it wasn't just one movie, but several that had been spliced together and then digitized. The content was exactly what you'd expect: weddings, birthdays, kids swimming or sledding, cows being led to pasture, parades, and other things that made up the lives of the average farm family living in rural New York in the early- to mid-1950s.


Their stories and these movies are history. They contribute to my and other people’s understanding of what life was like in that time and that place.


So where am I going with this? The Reading Historical Society is seeking home movies from residents in town to add to its collection. The content of these movies, little slices of Reading's history, doesn't matter. It could be as simple as any of the events I listed above, it could be from some event that happened in Reading in the past, the Old Timer's Ball, perhaps. It could be from as far back as the 1940s (if people could make home movies back then) or even last year. When taken together, recordings of these simple events, made by average citizens, tell the town’s story. The town’s history. Our history.


Though the town isn’t going to be flooded and will be around for a long time to come, it would be nice to collect these historical records now. It will also be more fun to show them off, perhaps at an upcoming annual meeting of the Reading Historical Society or some other event at which we can collectively reminisce, learn, and celebrate our history.


If you would like to share your movies, please contact Esther Allen, the Reading Historical Society president at eeallen@myfairpoint.net.


If you’re looking for something fun for your children to do, this summer, consider having them attend the library’s Summer Reading Program. It takes place on July’s four Saturdays (the 6th, 13th, 20, and 27th) at 10:30am. There will be crafts, snacks, and giveaways. Here’s a suggestion: pull out your smartphone and take a video of the event. Some years hence, they will be history.


Other things you can do with your kids: take them to VINS, one of my favorite’s places in the region. Again, the library can help, with reduced-fee admission passes you can borrow. The library also has passes for local state parks and several historical sites in the area.


Happy Independence Day, all! Enjoy July!


That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!


This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on July 3, 2019.

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