Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Favorite Finds: Eartha Kitsch's "Pam" Films

I have had a recent surge in subscribers and I want to take a moment to say hello and thank you to all my new friends! Thank you so much for joining me on my vintage-loving journey and for supporting what I do by subscribing!

Every Wednesday, I post someone's Favorite Find and ask them to share about their second hand treasures. You can see the full series here if you're interested in seeing the amazing and various items my friends, neighbors, and fellow bloggers have chosen!

Ever so often, a story comes along that is so intriguing and beautiful that it must be shared. (Ira Glass, are you listening? The below story is worthy of an entire This American Life episode!)

Today's favorite find combines an incredible find with a really fascinating story and journey for Eartha Kitsch. I recently "met" Eartha through Rae and I'm so happy we've connected. She's a fellow vintage-loving, blogging Nashvillian. Her favorite find is pretty remarkable, so I'm going to let her take it away - be prepared - it's a tearjerker.

What is your favorite find and where did you find it?

Recently, my husband and I were in this really tragic indoor flea market and were finding absolutely nothing. As we were about to give up the ghost, I saw this stack of old 8mm films jumbled on a shelf. I was intrigued right away when I saw that they were family films from the 50's and 60's which are hands down, my favorite eras. My interest was peaked even more when I saw titles such as "1963 Florida" and "Pam and I Decorating The Tree". I bought five or six of the reels just to see what they held.

What went through your mind when you discovered a treasure trove of someone's memories?

Upon viewing them? Magic. I was instantly drawn in. The very first reel that we watched was "Pam's Third Birthday" and there she was - Pam. This glorious little blonde haired girl, full of so much life and in every frame, surrounded by family members who fawned over her as she practically bubbled over with joy. The films were so idealistic. So perfect. When I bought them, I thought, "Oh, these will be interesting" but in the end, they were addictive. Beautiful interior shots and cottages in the snow and Pam wearing darling dresses on Christmas mornings. We watched every reel that day, one after the other. And then I turned to my husband and told him that we had to go get the others - not only because I wanted to see what was next in Pam's life but also because the thought of the films not staying together broke my heart. And we did. Thirteen reels in all which allowed us to peer into her life from her third year into her seventh.

Did you already own an 8mm projector or did you have to find one?

Oh gosh, no. That's how I roll. Act now and think later! I was scouring the classified ads the minute that I got home from that flea market because I just HAD to see what was on those tiny little frames of film. Luckily, I found one for cheap and it worked like a charm.

What emotions did you experience when you put the first reel on?

Um, I started crying. The very first frames were pure joy - that sweet little girl being snuggled by her grandmother. And then there she was with her beautiful pastel birthday cake and little kid smile, squinting against the light of the video camera. I was a goner. I had to know more. I had to know what had become of Pam. I was determined to meet her and to show her the films.

Were you able to research about the rest of her life?

I was. I research everything and my favorite finds are the ones that I can track back to their previous owners. I actually creep out cashiers at estate sales by begging them to tell me about the people whose things I am buying! In the case of the films, there was a last name on one of the film cartons and the town where Pam's family used to live from when the lab processed them back in the day. By and by, I was able to go through tax records and genealogy records and before I knew it, I was staring at her obituary. And it hit me like a brick. Her obituary. The beautiful little girl had grown up and died of cancer. Pam was gone. Just a mere two weeks before I found the films. And then we watched the films again and this time, they broke my heart.

Through these films, what have you experienced with Pam? What has your journey with her been like?

It's going to sound completely crazy but from that first glimpse of light through film, I felt like she was family. And then when I learned from her obituaries that she and I had some things in common before she passed, even more so. I hunted down the dealer that sold the films and he gave me some background on how he got them. The family simply did not want to keep them. Or it hurt too much to do so. Who can say. And that made me want to preserve and pass on Pam's legacy even more. They've also made me think about my own life and how with no children, question what will happen to my things one day and from these things, what will people learn about me? The Pam films put me into a bit of an introspective mood there for a while but strangely enough, she helped me make some long-put-off decisions about my life. I think that I was meant to find Pam that day.

Anything else you would like to share?

I think that it's pretty cool that when people DO come to buy things at my own estate sale one day, they'll find Pam's films and think that she really IS my family - and in the end, we pretty much will be.

Why do you love buying vintage?

New things give me a nervous tic. No joke. And they have no soul. Vintage things have history and stories. You buy an old apron and it's so easy to imagine the woman who has worn it before you, shuffling from stove to sink down through the decades, wiping hands and children's tears with the hem. You're not going to get that from a new one. That old dresser that you bring home that has the finish worn through on the drawer pulls? That's from the many hands of those before you. It's like those people are a part of your human experience now through these things. We all connect. And sometimes in these crazy times, it's good to feel like we do.

So well-said and such a beautiful story! You can find out more about Eartha's experience with Pam through her blog - click here to see all the posts on Pam and the films.

If you have a favorite find you would like to submit, please e-mail me!

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  1. I think anyone around my age can relate to these old movies. It could have been my family easily. Wow, so moving, thanks for sharing Eartha's finds. I'm not sure I can handle hopping over to see more at her blog!

  2. The videos are so beautiful - especially the one I embdedded up there "Pam and the rabbits." They look like a montage you would see in a movie!

  3. I just teared up. No joke. This is so beautiful.

    At first Pam's life and video were just sweet and charming and made me think of my grandparents' house. But then I read the line "The beautiful little girl had grown up and died of cancer. Pam was gone. Just a mere two weeks before I found the films." And that's when Pam became the picture of my mother, who also grew up in the late 50s/early 60s. Mom died of cancer three years ago. Pam was, essentially, Mom. A bright, cheerful, loved little girl who grew up and lived a full life, and is always missed by her friends and family. But a piece of her is immortalized as that happy child in photograph and film.

    What a beautiful thought.

  4. I think those films found the right home. This was beautiful!

  5. SO sad that a family loses these movies but it is a miracle they are picked up by someone that can still cherish them. It's a shame Pam's family didn't want them or maybe there was no family left. I can see how you would relate to them.

  6. Thank you so much for letting me share the films with you and your readers. I bet Pam would be surprised to know how many people are sharing in her family films. :)

  7. oh my gosh i love her pam films. we got a projector (at the goodwill outlet of course) and now i really want to find some old family films to watch. I recently discovered a bunch that are of my dad when he was little! so amazing. eartha is awesome. i'm so glad she posted her pam films.

  8. wow - the photographs are soo beautiful! But the story bought a tear to my eye, how magical to find these and get a glimpse at a complete strangers life from the past!

  9. So neat that Eartha was able to trace Pam from films found at a flea market! I would never have thought of that. i think it's wonderful that Pam is living on through Eartha's blog. And Yes, you got me bawling too!
    Thanks for sharing this story with us.

  10. I found your blog through Eartha Kitsch's blog. I had see her Pam posts and wondered what the back story was. Thanks so much for sharing it. The videos are beautiful. Whether we are Pam's family or not, her story is a part of our own lives now :-)

  11. this is so moving and how lovely for Pam to be having an extended family through the videos and the web. this kind of sweet connections is one of the best gifts of our age.

  12. i am so glad you are all as moved by the story as i am!


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