Historical Highlight: A Living Time Capsule of Cameron History

The filmmaker named Victor Marvel, spent a week shooting footage. The civic and church groups showed up in great numbers for the filming. Downtown was buzzing with folks on 3rd street, the parks, the swimming pool and even a big parade was held.

Eighty years ago, on August 1939, the local Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPWC) commissioned a professional filmmaker to create a documentary film of Cameron.  The original goal was to make some money for the BPWC’s scholarship efforts.  There was no cost to the BPWC for production of the film, however, if a business wanted to appear in the film, they paid the filmmaker $10 to $15.

The filmmaker named Victor Marvel, spent a week shooting footage.  The civic and church groups showed up in great numbers for the filming.  Downtown was buzzing with folks on 3rd street, the parks, the swimming pool and even a big parade was held.  Local WPA projects like the new Post Office, Swimming Pool, Wallace State Park and Reservoir #2 were highlighted.  Rare glimpses of the Missouri Wesleyan College buildings and the old Southside School were also featured. 

Filming was completed in the 3rd week of August and on August 24th and 25th the film was shown at the Goodrich auditorium to sold out crowds.  It was a silent film so two young men, Sheldon Shirts and Ralph McElwain, narrated it as it was shown.  Those that attended saw a great compilation of scenes depicting life in Cameron.  

Money from the ticket sales all went to the BPWC scholarship fund and the original 16mm film master remained their property as well.  It was only shown publicly on three occasions.  In 1939, in 1955 as part of Cameron’s Centennial celebration and again in 1976 as part of the U.S. Bicentennial.

Eventually, the film was retired to the archives at the Cameron Library. After decades in storage, Dr. Larry Graham, myself and the Cameron Historical Society completed a digital restoration of the film.  From 2005 to 2007 over 40 people that were around when the film was made, were interviewed and recorded.  The recordings were used as part of the soundtrack on the restoration, along with an updated narration.  

In June 2007, the film was once again shown at the Goodrich Auditorium to a crowded room.  Familiar historic people, places and events jumped to life on the big screen.  Folks that remembered the time got a dose of nostalgia and warm feelings about the community spirit that was evident in the film. 

To put the time into perspective, the film was shown on August 25th, 1939.  That was the same day the movie “The Wizard Of Oz” was released in Hollywood.  One week later, Hitler invaded Poland to start World War II.  

Today the film is available on DVD and can be checked out at the Cameron Library or you can get a copy from the Historical Society for a small donation.  I’ve watched it dozens of times and yet every time I see and learn something new.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you do.  It really is a living time capsule of Cameron history.

I always enjoy hearing your comments and story ideas.

My Cameron News

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