Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

A 1938 Christmas

My dad was born and raised near Lisbon, North Dakota. He would have been seventeen at the time Ivan Besse shot this silent film in Britton, South Dakota, about 50 miles south of Lisbon. I have no doubt that life would have been much the same in Britton and Lisbon.

This 20-minute film is one of ten shot by Besse in 1938-1939, available for your viewing pleasure at Internet Archive. And a pleasure it is. It's positively mesmerizing.

I chose this one, Part II, in honor of Santa Claus, who puts in an appearance. Watch for the load of Christmas trees arriving in town too, and the street decorations. Other things to watch for:
  • Hats! Men's and women's, quite a variety!
  • Fashions! Huge fur collars on women's coats!
  • A beaver!
  • An awful lot of smoking!
  • Don't miss the exciting "sheriff" segment at the beginning!
  • And there's a funny part that I won't spoil by telling you ahead of time!
You'll notice also some changes of season. These films are not chronological, not in the Part I through Part X sense, and not within segments, either. No matter!

Following are links to the rest of the Ivan Besse Collection, with my brief notes on some of what you'll see in each:
  • Part I: Autumn, what appears to be a homecoming parade; cute kids (19:09)
  • Part II: Featured in this post. (20:11)
  • Part III: Men digging, building; landscape; fish caught; hot dusty summer; diving in the pool; orchestra; boys in bow ties; glee club?; building the church steeple; cocker puppies; American Legion guys dinner; more Santa day; Jack Russell dog tricks. (14:14)
  • Part IV: Blizzard, many shovelling snow into a truck; more husking (see Part IX); ducks; farmland; 2 boys in hats bigger than they are; Memorial Day Parade. (16:45)
  • Part V: White Lake Dam, WPA project; kids' games, baby carriages; plowing with team of horses; Britton Braves field day (guys in really short athletic shorts!); young women in formal dresses. (16:07)
  • Part VI: Parade participants including a recalcitrant goat; people-watching in town; more field day. (19:32)
  • Part VII: Memorial Day parade and program at the cemetery (48-star flag!); dogs at play; dog wearing specs & smoking a pipe; end of school day (looks like clip-clothespins on the hems of girls' skirts??); bonfire; dusty football game with cheerleaders & band. ((17:08)
  • Part VIII: OMG, moving a barn! Moving a huge, huge barn! Will somebody please tell me, how far did they intend to take that barn? Did it ever get where they wanted it to be? Did it end up staying right where it was when Ivan stopped filming? Did anyone get injured in the course of that folly? (14:10) Readers, this is a must-see!
  • Part IX: Still more people-watching in town; husking contest; look at those cars!; a formal affair; pile of dead critters (gophers? prairie dogs?). (16:07)
  • Part X: First half is little kids; and more of the same. (9:13)
In all parts, you'll see a lot of camera-shy townspeople reacting to Ivan's presence: duckers, divers, head-turners, face-hiders, scolders, protestors, blushers (okay, it's black & white so you can't really see that, but trust me, you'll know!), runners. Some are really funny!

Merry Christmas to you!

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Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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