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Video evidence of Christmas past

By Staff | Dec 16, 2016

It was exactly two years ago this week that I?wrote my From the Editor’s Notebook column about my best and worst Christmas ever.

Maybe you remember it. Maybe you don’t. I’ll refresh your memory.

Turns out my best and worst Christmases ever were the same Christmas, the one in 1992. It was about my father dying on Christmas Day that year, after a six-month battle with stomach cancer.

That, of course, is the bad part. The good part was learning all the lessons he taught us about life and death, faith and love.

In that column I also recalled Christmases during my life, and how my family has celebrated them over the years.

I highlighted those first 14 Christmases of my life, which all occurred in San Diego, California, where I was born. I wrote about all our family traditions which were probably an awful lot like the Christmas traditions of other folks.

My brothers and I were always in the Christmas Eve program at our church, as we attended Lutheran parochial school there.

After church it was home for a wonderful dinner that we probably, unfortunately, wolfed down so we could get on to the main event.

Opening presents. Or should I say, present. Sometimes we were only allowed to open one on Christmas Eve. The rest had to wait until Christmas morning.

And, after the frenzy of gift opening on Christmas morning, and another round of going to church, we headed over to my uncle and aunt’s house, my only relatives within about 1,000 miles of where we lived the rest were mainly in Minnesota or Tennessee.

Or at least, that is how I remember those Christmases of long ago. Turns out, I was pretty accurate in my memory of them.

How do I know? Because I was recently able to relive those Christmases past. And I didn’t do it in a time traveling DeLorean.

It seems my father left me another Christmas present to be opened in 2016.

About 60 years ago, my dad who wasn’t really a techie and who definitely wasn’t well to do splurged and bought a new 8 millimeter home movie camera. And, he used it. A lot.

I remembered those movies but I don’t think I had seen them for, I don’t know, 30 or 35 years.

But, they recently were found in storage, still in their original little yellow Kodak boxes, getting slightly moldy and very, very brittle.

The 8mm projector was long gone and so I couldn’t really know what was on each little short reel, other than some notes on the yellow boxes.

So, we decided to send these dozens of reels in and have them all transferred to DVDs. Four DVDs total, actually.

They are pretty amazing. Some are dark, some are jerky, and, of course, there isn’t any sound with any of them.

But, there is a lot of movies of the Christmases of my youth. Each and every one of them starts with my dad panning the camera up and down the Christmas tree, just to make sure we realize this is a movie about Christmas.

Then here come the Hunt boys (my brothers and I) into view, squinting and holding up our hands to shade our eyes. You see, to get indoor shots to not be dark, you had to attach this light bar to the camera that was absolutely blinding.

Then we would proceed to check out what one, single, large wonderful gift Santa had brought us. Then we proceeded with opening the presents from our parents and from each other.

Kids these days would find it hilarious to see what we got all excited about back then. A football. A BB gun. A comic book. Lincoln logs. Some new clothes. A Monopoly game. And, if we were really lucky, a new bike. But we only got one of those in our whole growing up years.

Pretty tame stuff compared to all the electronics and toys that kids get these days. Their haul is sometimes incredible.

Then one year, when I was 12, I got a special present. A baby brother named Tim. And yes, his arrival to our house from the hospital is all recorded on that 8mm movie video, with the Christmas tree in the background.

Watching those old movies now on DVD was a lot like taking a trip through time. Back to the 1950s and ’60s, a time that was much simpler, less complicated, and maybe, just maybe, better.

It was a time before computers, cell phones, digital cameras, iPads, video games of any kind or more than one TV set in a house.

But, there were 8mm movie cameras.

Thanks Dad, for blinding me all those years and making those movies, and giving us a wonderful Christmas present of Christmas past this year.

It is a pretty great gift. Even better than a bike.