Reels of 8 mm film purchased for five bucks at Bloomington Antique Mall offered Leah Tribbett a glimpse into a family’s life captured on home movies shot decades ago.
The Indianapolis photographer is always on the lookout for vintage photo items. When she saw the gallon-sized plastic bag with five reels of film inside for sale at a booth last month, she grabbed it.
“I figured either this film is blank, or there is actually something on here. And I have the ability to convert it,” Tribbett said.
She took the reels home, ran the 10 minutes of film through a digitizer and realized she was in the possession of someone’s preserved memories.
She spliced together a 46-second preview from the film and posted it on social media, hoping to locate someone in the family depicted. It can be viewed on Tribbett’s Facebook page at https://bit.ly/3J5dS5L.
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What are in the home movie clips?
The first home movie clip features a woman with curlers in her hair who runs off, ducking behind a bush when she realizes a movie camera is focused on her. There’s a family picnicking alongside a creek and a large outdoor gathering that appears to be a summer family reunion.
Then it cuts to two people bobbing in a lake, ropes in hand and with the tips of their water skis sticking up. They rise and stand as the ski boat speeds ahead.
Then, an old pickup appears, parked. The truck bed is full of children, probably cousins. There are 10 of them; one little boy is wearing a Superman T-shirt.
There are aerial images of a farm, switching to a woman dancing around, swaying a milk bottle with one hand and holding a baby on her hip with the other. Kids running and playing in a creek, with water up past their ankles, are seen in another clip.
Then the camera fixes on a girl who looks about 4 years old. She’s wearing a red dress; it may be velvet. She’s sitting in a purple upholstered chair — there’s a clue — and she’s looking though a family photo album with a lady who has a sort-of beehive hairdo.
The final images show a baby outside in the sunshine, a toddler who likely is now in his or her 40s, balancing its stance by holding tight to stroller. The toddler then sits in a lawn chair, the old-fashioned kind made from wide durable fabric strips woven together.
“I’d really like to get this back to the family,” Tribbett said.
The family search continues
On Sunday, she thought the mystery had been solved. “There was a woman who saw it on Facebook, and she was like, ‘That’s my grandma, she always had curlers in her hair. And there’s my mom, there’s Aunt Jenny,’ so I figured that was it,” Tribbett said.
It wasn’t, the woman relayed later in a text message. “She said that after looking at it further, it was not her family.”
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So the search is still on. “Even if the people on the film have moved away, maybe they have family members still in the area who will see this and recognize them.”
If you have information about these home movies or can identify anyone in them, contact Tribbett at: [email protected]
Contact reporter Laura Lane at [email protected], 812-331-4362 or 812-318-5967.
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Photographer buys 8mm film, home movies at Bloomington antique store