Rescue your old family albums – before it’s too late!

My first still photo camera was cheap. REAL cheap. Pretty close to being a toy camera, actually. I plucked it off a metal rack in a five-and-dime store sometime in the mid 1960s, when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old, and I’m sure I only shelled out a buck or two for it. Of course, that was big money to me back then! As far as I can remember, it was black plastic, with a fixed lens. It took rolls of film; no cartridges for this baby. Once loaded, I had to carefully turn the knob attached to the take up reel until the number for the next shot appeared in the center of the translucent red circle on the camera’s back. Then, it was just point and shoot until I used up 12 exposures – black and white, of course.

After dropping off the film at the local drugstore, it was nail-biting time; the anticipation building until I returned to the pharmacy, handed over my claim check, paid for the prints, and peeled open the top flap of the envelope to see if any of my snapshots had developed as hoped.

I actually fared pretty well with that little camera and wound up with a goodly number of photos worth saving. The next challenge became what to do with all those square prints with the white, serrated borders. The answer, put ’em in an album. Now, when I was a kid, I first stored my photos in albums with heavy paper pages – sliding each print into little white paper corners pasted to the page. Mounting pictures back then was a laborious process, and not much different from the way families had been storing their photographs since the late 1800s.

Your old family albums are treasures - preserve them!And it’s those old albums that can really pose problems. If you have one or more of them in your family, you know what I mean. The black or gray paper pages are far from archival and full of chemicals and acids that may have discolored the photos stored on them. By now, the pages are probably pretty brittle. The glue holding the photos or corners into place may have completely dried out and the pictures let loose.

I work with albums like these occasionally in my video biography work and I always handle them gingerly. Wearing cotton gloves, I slowly and carefully untie the thread holding the pages in place, and then tenderly convey the album, page by page, to a flat bed scanner, doing my best to prevent the edges of each leaf from flaking. I always breathe a sigh of relief after I’ve successfully reconstructed each precious book.

The problem is, the conditions of these old albums isn’t getting any better. What can you do to preserve your precious family images and protect them from the ravages of time?

The first step I suggest is that you digitize the photos. Several years ago, a client approached Family Legacy Video with three old family albums dating from the late 1800s through the end of WWII. He was hoping we could scan the pages and the photos and reconstruct the books somehow. Using a large format scanner, we scanned each page of the albums, including the front and back covers, as well as each photo (including any notes on the back of the photos), at high resolution. We used the scanned pages and covers to recreate the albums as printed books, and provided the client with all the digital files as well. He and his family were thrilled with the results. Now albums that had been sitting in a closet for years are in a form that can be enjoyed by all members of the client’s family.

Even though digitization is a wonderful thing, you still want to take steps to keep the original albums from degrading any further. According to Certified Archives Records Manager Melissa Barker, the best way to do this is to put a sheet of archival tissue paper between each page of the album. This creates a barrier between the photographs and the adjacent black paper pages; if photographs come off any remaining glue will not touch the other photographs on the adjacent page.

Store loose photos that have fallen out of the album in archival sleeves and keep them with the album. Place the entire album, along with the loose photos, in an archival box. The box should fit the album as snugly as possible. If you need to fill up some space to keep the album from shifting position, simply wad up some of the archival tissue paper and slip it between the album and the sides of the box. Store the box in a cool, dark, and dry place. Never store documents, photographs, or artifacts in an attic, basement, or where it is humid or there is direct sunlight.

Looking for a source for archival photo storage supplies? If your local photo store doesn’t carry them, you’ll find any number of outfits online.

These old family albums, and the images they contain, are wonderful keepsakes. Through a combination of digitization and careful storage, you can make sure your family photographic treasures are around for generations to come.

Toss the “stuff” – NOT the stories!

Save your family stories!Crash! “Now it’s garbage!”

Remember that scene in the “Odd Couple” movie, the one where Oscar smashes Felix’s plate of pasta against the kitchen wall? (Okay, the film WAS released in 1967, so you younger folks may need to Google it. Look for the spaghetti scene.)

Well, the same kind of thing is happening now with the possessions of our parents and grandparents. What do I mean?

Family keepsakes – and stories – are at risk.
I treasure my grandparents’ Atwater Kent radio and my great-grandfather’s meerschaum pipe. But I’m not sure who in my family will want these physical links to our past once I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. And, as pointed out in two recent articles by Richard Eisenberg (Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff & What You Said About ‘Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff’) this is a challenge facing many families today. With Baby Boomers downsizing and younger generations shunning lots of possessions, the things that used to be family keepsakes are being donated to Goodwill, placed in consignment shops, sold to antique stores, or just tossed in the garbage. That’s troubling, but there’s an even bigger issue here.

Losing connections to our family history.
What concerns me as a professional personal historian and video biographer is the continuing loss of something even more valuable than mementos and keepsakes: family stories. That’s because so many of the items being sent to landfills today have great family stories and associations attached to them. For instance, I treasure with my grandfather’s pocket watch. It’ll never cause an “Antiques Roadshow” appraiser’s eyes to light up with excitement, but every day when I see the old silver timepiece hanging in its display stand, I’m reminded of a man who I still love deeply, decades after his passing. It’s amazing how a simple item like this serves as a powerful touchstone to feelings and memories.

But I get it: Some families just have too many items that nobody wants to display or store. So how can you let go of this stuff without trashing your family history?

Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.
My apologies to “The Godfather” for this analogy. But before tossing your parents’ keepsakes (the gun), save the stories and memories associated with them (the cannoli). How can you do this? Here are a few ideas:

• Video Inventory. Break out your video camera (or hire a professional) and gather your family and the possessions you’re planning to “eighty-six.” Shoot each item, describe what it is and share the memories and stories it evokes. With a little editing, the result will be a cool visual record to pass along to future generations.

• Slide Show. A variation on the video inventory theme. Shoot stills of each item and record your remembrances on audio, using a digital MP3 recorder. Combine the two to create a slide show video.

• Illustrated Photo Book. Transcribe the audio recording mentioned above. Produce a book featuring the photos and the transcribed text. The final product can range from simple (loose leaf pages in a binder) to elaborate (hard cover book with glossy pages) – it’ll all depend on your budget, wants, and needs.

Make sure your family stories survive.
You may not treasure the possessions your parents and grandparents accumulated, but don’t forget that the memories associated with these items speak directly to your family’s identity and values. Your grandkids and great-grandkids may one day feel disappointed that you consigned all this family stuff to a dumpster. But they will be grateful that you made sure the stories connected to these items survived.

Preserving evergreen Christmas memories.

It never ceases to amaze me; every year, no matter how Halina and I arrange the ornaments on our Christmas tree, the results are always beautiful!

Christmas ornaments kindle life story memories.Our collection of ornaments (like most, I suspect) is pretty eclectic. They range from childhood craft projects, like a faded glass ball featuring my name in glue and sparkles, to handmade and store-bought decorations acquired throughout our lives. Halina and I add one new ornament each year, usually one we find on vacation, like the wooden carving we bought years ago in a temple in Japan.

As we decorate our tree each year, I feel like I’m visiting with old friends. Each bauble rekindles memories – of times, places, people, events, sights, sensations, and feelings. More than just mere decorations bathed in the glow from the Christmas tree lights, they’re touchstones illuminating life stories from the past.

Wouldn’t this be a great subject for a legacy video? If your tree is still standing, you can set up a video camera and record yourself, or other family members, describing the stories attached to your ornaments. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you remember! If the tree is down and the trimmings are already packed away, plan on recording remembrances next year. When you eventually hand down some of your ornaments to your children and grandchildren, I’ll bet they’ll appreciate understanding the history behind your Christmas decorations – and appreciate them all the more for knowing.

Confessions of a Video Biographer Chapter 4: Romancing the Curve

It seems like the learning curve never ends – it just changes shape. When I’m tackling something new and the curve is at its steepest, I feel like I’m trying to ski up a hill. After getting a little experience under my belt, the curve flattens and requires a little less effort on my part, kind of like skiing cross-country. Then, when I’ve really mastered something, I’m on the downhill slope, zipping along and enjoying the ride, keeping watch for the occasional mogul. Having booked my first commissioned video biography, I found myself staring up at an uphill slope, getting ready to climb once again.

To be sure, the curve wasn’t as steep as it could have been. In 2003 I already had 24 years of experience as a writer, producer/director, and video editor. But could the skills I’d honed working on a wide variety of corporate, business, and not-for-profit video projects be brought successfully and profitably to bear on a personal history project? What would work and what wouldn’t? What price could I set that wouldn’t scare away Dick and Mary-Lou, my prospective clients, but that would be realistic, allowing me to produce a legacy video of value to my client while fairly compensating me for my time and expenses?

It looked like I was going to find out.

I opened up my production spreadsheet and spent some time estimating hours and expenses. I came up with what I thought was a fair budget. It was, perhaps, a little on the low side, but I was looking at this as a learning experience, as well an opportunity to create a template for future video biographies and to start building a portfolio. I figured I could adjust future budget estimates based on the experience I gleaned from this project. Luckily, Dick and Mary-Lou agreed to my price, and we were off and running.

As far as process was concerned, I decided not to try and reinvent the wheel, but to follow the steps that served me well when I created videos for corporate clients. First order of business (after signing a contract, of course): the preinterview. I sat down with Mary-Lou and Dick at their home for a couple of conversations, during which I learned the stories they wanted to tell. I used my notes from these sessions to draft the questions I’d ask on-camera, and to give my new clients some guidance about the kinds of photos and other visuals they could provide that would help enhance their recollections. We then scheduled their video shoot and I booked my crew.

Bright and early on a sunny September morning, I excitedly rang the bell at Dick and Mary-Lou’s ranch-style home in the Winterhaven section of Tucson. The door opened, and Dick ushered me and my cameraman inside. My first professional video biography interviews were about to begin. How did things go? I’ll tell you in another post.

Oh, and by the way: What’s your story?

Electrifying storyteller honors the contributions of Chinese railway workers.

They endured back-breaking physical labor. They toiled in wind, rain and snow. They were paid less than their white counterparts. 1,200 of them died on the job. And, to top it off, they weren’t even invited to celebrate the completion of their work.

Charlie Chin-Chinese Railway WorkersThey were the 10,000 to 15,000 Chinese migrant workers who built the western segment of America’s First Transcontinental Railroad during the 1860s.

Most Americans are probably unaware of the role the Chinese played in connecting the west coast of the United States with the east. But, on the evening of October 22, at the 20th anniversary conference of the Association of Personal Historians in Sacramento, California, the experiences of these unsung laborers was brought vividly to life by Charlie Chin.

Mr. Chin, a renowned historian, master storyteller, and accomplished musician, took to the stage in the persona of Chin Lin Sou, a highly intelligent and resourceful Chinese immigrant who learned English and eventually became the foreman and contractor of Chinese railroad workers. In fact, Chin Lin Sou recruited many of his countrymen and helped arrange their passage to the U.S. After the “golden spike” was driven home at Promontory Point, Utah Territory (an event to which the Chinese workers were not invited), Chin Lin Sou settled in Denver, Colorado, where he became a highly respected businessman.

Mr. Chin’s performance, divided into three parts, was entertaining, educational, and electrifying. In part one, as Chin Lin Sou, he recounted the trials and tribulations of the Chinese railway workers as they worked furiously laying heavy rails, while at the same time battling the elements, dangerous working conditions, disease, and, of course, prejudice. In the second act of his performance, Mr. Chin, still in the guise of Chin Lin Sou, answered questions from the audience. Mr. Chin then stepped out of character to address subjects about which Chin Lin Sou would have had no knowledge.

Delivered to an audience composed of personal historians and members of the Sacramento community, the event also served to promote the efforts of the Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Project, a group dedicated to building a proper monument, which seeks, as the project’s website describes, “…to recognize the important historic contribution and pay a solemn tribute to the Chinese immigrants who lost their lives laboring on the Transcontinental Railroad, which shaped the physical and social landscape of the American West.”

The event was sponsored by longtime APH member Lynne Choy Uyeda, and her company, Linking Lives & Legacies.

To hear a brief excerpt from Mr. Chin’s performance, click on the audio button below.

A wine-making family presses on – for five generations.

“You might want to visit the Nichelini Family Winery in St. Helena,” the lady in the Napa Valley Welcome Center told us. “It’s a really neat, family-owned operation that’s been around since 1890. In fact, it’s the oldest family-owned winery in the valley.”

Family Legacy Video provides custom personal video biography and legacy video production services.My wife, Halina, and I had been tooling around Napa Valley, California for a week in September, celebrating our 25th anniversary. We’d started in Calistoga, a cute little town in the northern part of the grapevine-laden valley, and had just pulled into the larger city of Napa, in the south. Instead of just cruising the main drag, dropping in on wine-tasting room after wine-tasting room like hummingbirds moving from one flower to another, we wanted to take an unhurried drive, enjoy the scenery, and drop in on perhaps one or two wineries.

Being a personal historian who helps multi-generational businesses preserve and celebrate their histories on video, I thought a visit to such a long-established family operation would be fun. I was especially intrigued by the family’s motto: Generation to Generation. The fact that Nichelini was up in the hills, away from the beaten path, was even better.

So the next day, a Tuesday, we packed a picnic lunch and headed north on the Silverado Trail and then CA-128. Halina and I knew we were taking a chance; the winery was only open for tastings on weekends, and we weren’t sure anyone would be around or that we’d be able to get onto the grounds. But in the spirit of adventure we decided to try our luck.

After a leisurely drive that took us past a lake, vineyards and thick stands of trees, we squeezed our car into a space on the side of the two-lane road, across from a two-story wood-frame home flanked by a barn-like building featuring a beautifully carved sign announcing “Nichelini Family Winery.”

We strolled across the road and onto a path between the two buildings. The land dropped away pretty quickly, with stone steps leading to a shady grove packed with weathered wooden picnic tables (a perfect place for lunch!) as well as a bocce court. Just then, I heard what sounded like something metallic being moved in the barn-like building. Wanting to ask permission to enjoy lunch in the picnic grounds, I poked my head through the open doorway and yelled a hello.

A very friendly gentleman sporting short-cropped white hair and beard appeared from the other side of the building, which was filled with shining, stainless-steel fermentation vats and other wine-making equipment. Introducing himself as Uncle Lou, he not only invited us to enjoy lunch on the property, but promptly took us on an impromptu tour of the winery. He showed us all the equipment and explained the roles each played in transforming grapes into wine. Standing outside, and in stark contrast to the modern gear we’d just seen, was the winery’s original Roman wine press. This vintage wooden device has been in the family’s hands for over 120 years and was in active use until the 1950s. Uncle Lou then opened the door to the stone storage area under the family house, where rows of oak barrels holding the results of previous harvests rested in the cool darkness. And he pointed out the original Nichelini family homestead, a small shack near the bottom of hill, in case we wanted to take a peak at it later. He also suggested we knock on the door to the house. He wasn’t sure there’d be wine to taste, but at least we could have a look around.

A young fellow named Eddie answered our knock. Our luck held, as he did have a bottle of white wine, a 2014 Old Vine Muscadelle, open. So we got our taste, plus a Nichelini corkscrew as an anniversary gift. We also purchased a bottle of their 2012 Roman Press Red to try later.

I think Anton and Caterina Nichelini would be proud to know that, over 120 years later, the winery they began is still family-run, and led by their great-great-granddaughter, Aimée Sunseri. Firmly rooted in the past but with its eyes laser-focused on the future, the family business has thrived by passing along its traditions, expertise and pride to each succeeding generation. The winery and grounds are infused with vitality and spirit, which, I’m sure, will serve them well for generations to come.

I can only imagine what great stories family members could tell – and what a wonderful video biography these stories would make!

By the way, the wine was delicious. We’ll be ordering more.

Confessions of a Video Biographer Chapter 3: Closing the Circle

Networking. It’s one of those things you need to do in order to promote your business. Especially if, like me, you’re a new kid in town. And so, thirty-second elevator speech memorized and pockets bulging with business cards, I made the rounds of practically every business networking group in the “Old Pueblo” (what the locals call Tucson), again, and again, and again. Now, a lot of other small business folks were doing the same thing. So it wasn’t long before I started seeing a goodly number of familiar faces at one mixer or another, and then developing, if not friendships, at least “acquaintanceships” with the people behind those faces.

As luck would have it, in 2003 one of those business networking acquaintances invited me to a gathering at her home where she outlined an idea to form a group modeled around the concepts in a booked called, “The One Minute Millionaire: The Enlightened Way to Wealth” by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen. In essence, the idea was for a small group of entrepreneurs to get together, form a company or companies, and then cooperate in doing whatever it took to make the businesses a success. I wasn’t exactly being deluged with work at the time, so I decided to hitch myself to this shiny new wagon.

At our first official meeting, my five new partners and I decided to pursue two ideas. Idea one: A company producing reusable fabric gift bags. Idea two: A company offering a family history video-related product or service. I was the one who brought that idea to the table, of course. But seeing as I still wasn’t sure I’d be able to find clients willing to pay for “soup to nuts” video biography production, I hoped the group could help me brainstorm some other ideas. In the end, we thought it best to go the “do-it-yourself” route and produce a guide for customers who wanted to produce a family history video about their families, but didn’t have the video experience to do so. The idea was to create a guide on a CD-ROM, designed to play through a web browser. I wrote all the content, and another member of our group created the graphics and navigation. After seemingly endless hours of writing and programming and revising of the same, the “Family Legacy Video® Producer’s Guide” was almost ready for market.

But before we could print and sell copies, we had to make sure the guide would work as advertised, and that its content was worthwhile. That meant finding some people outside of our small circle to test the CD. Luckily, I was able to recruit some volunteers from my Rotary club. One of those volunteers was a retired engineer in his early eighties. AFter spending some time reviewing the guide, he handed it back to me and offered a couple of helpful suggestions for changes. Then, he said, “My wife and would love to do a project like this. But there’s no way we can do it ourselves. Could we hire you to do it for us?”

Needless to say, my answer was, “Yes!”

So I’d come full circle, from wondering if folks would actually hire me to produce a legacy video for them, to instead creating a DIY product that became directly responsible for me being hired for my first job a professional video biographer. And so, while also launching an effort to sell the DIY guide, I started preproduction on my first commissioned video biography. More on that to come.

Oh, and by the way: What’s your story?

Confessions of a Video Biographer Chapter 2: The Journey Begins

Some people believe you only truly die after you’re no longer remembered. If that’s true, I can truly say my grandmother will live on for generations, thanks to her video biography.

Gram died in 1998. And now, seventeen years later, family members still tell me how much they appreciate the video. I’ve heard reports of the younger grandkids incorporating clips from her video biography into history projects for school. One of my aunt’s once told me, “Whenever I miss my mother, I just play the video and she’s alive again.” That same aunt has since screened Gram’s legacy video for members of her senior citizen’s center, hoping to inspire other elders to record their stories. So, if anything, Gram’s audience has grown.

But back in 1998, and for many years afterward, I was left wondering if there was a way I might be able to offer a personal history service to folks who didn’t have the video savvy I did – and make a profit doing so. Technology and economics weren’t exactly smiling on me at that point. Non-linear editing (NLE), which today is available to just about anyone with a computer, was still in its infancy then. Not being an early adopter, I didn’t feel comfortable investing in the computer gear and software necessary to get me started editing in the comfort of my own office, especially since the stuff I bought could easily become obsolete in the blink of an eye. And the million-dollar tape-to-tape corporate and commercial facilities in which I worked were out; I certainly couldn’t build anything comparable and with hourly rates for video editing in the hundreds of dollars, my postproduction costs would have been monumental.

So I left the idea simmering on my mental back-burner and went on with my life.

Then, in 2000, my wife, Halina, and I decided to “get outta Dodge,” Dodge for us in this case being Clifton, New Jersey. Our main reason for moving was to insert as many miles as possible between us and the typically frigid, snowy and icy New Jersey winters we’d grown to loathe. Not to mention wanting to find a house and property taxes we could afford. We’d taken a liking to Tucson, Arizona, over several vacations, and decided to stake our claim there. We bought a house in August, then came back to the Garden State, hawked as many of our possessions as we could during a couple of yard sales, packed a yellow Penske moving truck with what we had left, waved farewell to our families, and followed our compass west.

It wasn’t too long before I joined the Catalina Rotary Club and Hal and I started sinking roots in our new community. But Tucson proved a tough place for a freelance corporate video producer/scriptwriter/editor like myself to make a living, mainly due to the lack of corporations and corporate headquarters.

Then came September 11, 2001.

In light of that horrific attack, I thought about all the lives, and life stories, lost forever. Was the time right, I wondered, to reinvent myself as a video biographer? To follow my true passion?

As fate would have it, my involvement with a group of budding entrepreneurs would help me to answer that question. More on that in my next post.

Oh, and by the way: What’s your story?

Confessions of a Video Biographer – Chapter 1: The Awakening

I have a major jones for family stories. There, I’ve said it for the world to see. And you know what? I’m glad.

Looking back, I remember being drawn to personal history at an early age. My dad’s side of the family was pretty humongous, and throughout the years we’d attend picnics or holiday get-togethers at the homes of various aunts and uncles. I loved the food, and hanging out with my cousins. But my favorite time was always after we’d polished off the baked ziti and inhaled the pies, cakes and fruit salad. That was the time when the adults would settle down with brimming cups of coffee and reminisce about their lives and times and those of family members separated from us by mileage or the grim reaper.

The easy banter, the laughter, the rise and ebb of volume and energy as many voices gave way to one and then joined in again to relate other stories triggered by something just said; listening to my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles during these late afternoon and early evening gab fests was just so – comforting. And there was also something about the relish with which my elders told their stories that made hearing their tales just plain fun. Yeah, I was hooked on family stories as a young ‘un.

Flashing forward, my undergraduate communications degree, plus a recommendation from a former college buddy, landed me a job in a New York City public relations firm specializing in the budding realm of video. I spent the next eight years and change learning to tell clients’ stories on video, first as a production assistant on shoots, and then as a video editor, writer, and producer/director. And when I got tired of sitting for hours on end in my company’s dark and cool edit suite, I launched a freelance career. I still spent lots of hours in editing suites, but at least there was variety, I got paid more, and I did get out into the sun more often.

But even though I enjoyed what I was doing, I felt, in my heart, that there should be something more that I could be doing with my skills. I even asked a psychic once if I would ever discover a higher purpose to which I could apply my video abilities. She said I would – although she wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me what form that higher purpose would take.

Enter my paternal grandmother, Alice Rita Morrissey Pender. Actually, Gram was part of my story all along. But in 1995 she would play a central role in helping me chart a new course for my life and career.

Gram was born on Staten Island, New York in 1911. She was blessed with a great memory and a gift for gab, and as I was growing up she shared oodles of stories about her life and our family. I learned how her grandparents emigrated from Ireland but didn’t meet until they were both living in New York City; about how her dad earned a ton of money in the storage battery business, only to lose it during the Great Depression and how he still managed to keep a roof over the family’s heads; there were stories about her grandfather, a police lieutenant stationed at New York City Hall, taking her into the city to witness ticker tape parades; the stories went on and on. And in addition to my enjoyment at hearing her tell them, I realize now that those life stories also grounded me. They gave me an insight into my family’s character (and characters), showed me where my family came from, where they fit into the world and how I fit into my family. Knowing those stories has given me an invaluable sense of identity that’s stayed with me throughout my life. Oh, by the way, I was her first grandchild, so I think we had a special bond because of that.

In 1995, I realized that Gram wouldn’t be around forever. I decided to try and capture her, and some of her stories, on video. Now, these were still the tape-to-tape days, when video editing was done in very expensive editing bays, so there was no way I could shoot and edit the project without a little help. Luckily, one of my corporate clients lent me the use of their video gear and editing suite and one of my colleagues kindly ran camera for me. And so it was that in 1995, I sat down with Gram in my Clifton, NJ, apartment and captured her on-camera, telling me those same wonderful stories I’d heard from her over the years.

Long story short: Due to procrastination and work demands, I didn’t tackle the editing until 1998. But that summer, I made a concerted push and finished what will always be one of my proudest achievements: a documentary featuring my grandmother telling the story of her life. Unfortunately, she died without seeing the video. I will always regret not hustling over to her the moment I wrapped work on her video to “premiere” it for her. But I also know that I’d never have been able to forgive myself if I hadn’t captured her, and her stories, for posterity.

So the first time the majority of my family saw Gram’s video biography was at the repast following her funeral. As you can imagine, my emotions took a roller coaster ride that day. But the video truly transformed a day of mourning into a celebration of life. After seeing the impact Gram’s legacy video had on my family that day and during the days that followed, the higher purpose I spoke of earlier began to reveal itself. More on that in another post. Thanks for reading.

Oh, and by the way: What’s your story?

Flying into family history.

The era of coast-to-coast passenger air service in the U.S. dawned on October 25, 1930, when the pilot of a Transcontinental & Western Air Ford Tri-Motor throttled up the plane’s three engines and lifted off from the runway in Newark, New Jersey. During the 36-hour trip, the plane stopped at Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri. After overnighting in Kansas City, the plane continued on to Wichita, Kansas; Amarillo, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Winslow, Arizona and then to its final destination, Los Angeles, California. Talk about layovers!

On the Columbus to Indianapolis leg of that inaugural journey, the passenger list included a forty-three-year-old salesman for the Holcombe & Hoke Manufacturing Company named William Morrissey.

Family Legacy Video provides custom personal video biography and legacy video production services.Exactly forty-five years later, on October 25, 1975, TWA (the successor to Transcontinental & Western Air) marked the anniversary of that flight with a celebration at Newark International Airport. On hand for the party were TWA officials, a vintage Ford Tri-Motor, former flight attendants sporting vintage uniforms, and my great-grandfather, William Morrissey, who was then living in Colonia, New Jersey.

My great-grandfather spoke about his experiences flying in the “Tin Goose” to the assembled media, which included the local New York television stations and a reporter from the Star-Ledger newspaper.

I knew about my great-grandfather’s travels during the early days of commercial air flight and always wondered what that experience had been like. So, when I opened my local Tucson paper one morning to see an ad for flights in a restored Ford Tri-Motor, I knew my wife and I would be taking part.

I purchased tickets, and on Valentine’s Day of this year, Halina and I headed for the airport. The flights were conducted as a part of the “Fly the Ford” tour, sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Against a backdrop of modern passenger jets, we climbed aboard the triple-engine, corrugated metal bird, and buckled ourselves in. One by one, the engines roared to life, sending their noise and vibrations through the cabin. With a practiced hand, the pilot guided the ten-passenger plane to the runway and then into the air for a fifteen-minute cruise over Tucson. It was an absolute thrill, and a chance to connect, in a small way, with what my great-grandfather experienced so many years ago.

If you’d like to see a short video documenting our flight, you’ll find it in the March 2015 e-Newsletter.