New Mexico Road Trip, Aug. 2000

A family travels through Arizona and New Mexico in August of 2000. In a manner befitting Clark Griswold, dad brings adventure to this middle American family as they travel to the Painted Desert, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest and other points of interest.

This home movie was found in a Garden Grove thrift store.

Be sure to catch the full movie at https://youtu.be/efhp3dxjX5I

Mater Dei Class of 1984

Mater Dei class of 1984

I recently made a trip out to Lakewood, CA, to a rather bad-ass thrift store. They had a huge selection of VHS tapes for just $0.25! I only found one home movie in the bunch, but ended up walking away with a dozen other crazy videos from the 80’s and 90’s.

This VHS tape was a pretty hillarious find. The video itself isn’t all that funny, rather that my son is about to enter high school and Mater Dei was one of the schools we were evaluating just a week before. I had to chuckle when I found this.

I’ve split this tape up a couple ways. I actually found the ceremony quite interesting and found it amusing when they mention being freshmen and highlights in the year of 1980 with the “new president” Ronald Reagan. There is a good chance some of the students in this ceremony might find this and like to watch this tape in its entirety, so I have a longer version available, as well as an edited version that highlights the speeches.

Here’s a short glimpse of the tape with some rather amusing speeches from the students…

Here’s the edited version highlighting all of the speeches given during the ceremony…

And finally, for those who are interested in the full version…

Enjoy! (and congratulations class of ’84!)

The Scherzi in NY

This is why I created this website. It was after watching this VHS tape. If you don’t wish to watch the full two hours posted below, here is a flavor of the magic that is The Scherzi in NY:

My girlfriend’s family found this VHS tape at a thrift store years ago. It quickly became their family tradition to watch it each Christmas. There are many memorable moments and phrases that became part of their family banter, “where’s the baby?!”

I had gone to thrift stores looking for Tiki artifacts and Hawaiian shirts, but the thought of rummaging through VHS tapes never occurred to me. I am a computer programmer, obsessed with the current state of technology. The thought of media on VHS was as laughable as 8-track or owning electronics that used vacuum tubes. However, this video shattered the highly marketed reality I thought I was uniquely forging and realized that the media I had been consuming was highly crafted by large corporations and not as self determined as I had thought. Gone were the days of VHS to usher in a new wave of consumerism in DVD and now BluRay. However, in the process, most had forgotten the unique ecosystem that had existed of hobbyist production… the likes of which will probably never be seen again.

Besides home movies erupting in families’ living rooms, the ubiquity of video rental shops ushered in an ecosystem of low-budget films whose economic stability was grounded in the store’s need to fill their empty shelves. The 1980’s and early 90’s were a treasure trove of pop-culture Americana. However, as technology “progressed” and distribution channels formalized and consolidated, much of this ecosystem dwindled away.

On the home movie front, people have continued to make home movies, now digitizing them onto YouTube directly from their cell phones. However, you can see a radical change in content format. People know, or hope, their content will be viewed by others and produce exhibitionist content that strives for attention. There is something to be said for the home movies of the 80’s where the viewer was limited to the people filming it, or possibly an audience of just a couple family members. The “actors” were themselves, not trying to entertain and get likes on their page, but simply living and being within the moment.

“The Scherzi in NY” is quite possibly the most extreme example of being themselves and in the moment. From a historical and anthropological stand they are curiously horrifying. I dare you to find a modern home movie with the volume of smoking and shirtless lounging around small children. One of my favorite moments in this video is when they encourage the baby to slap the raw turkey sitting on the counter. I cringe at the thought of food poisoning, yet at the same time am saddened by the realization that the modern poultry industry has perverted their markets to such a degree that having a bacteria free product is something we here in America aren’t accustomed to and find unnatural to contemplate.

These moments of cultural snapshots of past Americana is why I created this website and why I seek out home movies at thrift stores. Equally strong is my wonder for the story of this tape I now hold in my hands… how did it come to be in a thrift store?! Many of them I suspect were owned by family members who passed away, their memorabilia cleaned out in haste. The tape holds a fascinating story I’m sure, but even more enjoyable is the detective work of unraveling the mystery within. Many tapes do not have digitized timestamps. One must delve deep within the memory of fads and trends to date the visible contents. The very act of watching, and placing context to, the discovered home movie offers as much fun as the content itself.

The combination of all of these factors is what drives me to find, digitize, promote and cherish these gems. They are a moment in time that we have forgotten. A moment of Americana that existed in the utmost serious manner at the time, but has since degraded to dream-like recollection. Foggy and hazy, we look to the 80’s as gaudy and hilarious, yet fail to connect the simple truth: our present only exists as a direct result of this past, and in many ways is just as hilarious now as we will reflect upon in the decades to come.

I invite you to step out of your present. I challenge you to step into the past, into another’s life, and to witness a moment in humanity that will never exist again. Join me as we tumble down the rabbit hole of being Human and embrace the absurdity of honest Americana.

This is The Scherzi in NY.

Judy & Joe’s Golf Lesson ’94

While at a thrift store in Orange, CA, there was a fairly impressive selection of VHS tapes. While most shops offer their tapes for $0.50 or $1.00, this place was offering them for $0.75 for 6 tapes! How could I resist?! Digging around, I found the usual Disney clamshells and numerous two cassette box sets of Titanic, but did find some gems. Most notably, this tape:

Judy & Joe Golf Lesson

Judy and Joe seem to have been avid golf players and this is a tape of two different days’ lessons, both in 1994 (thanks to time stamps displayed in the video software used to capture their swings). Please enjoy Judy as she does a great job following direction, and Joe who… well… voices his concern and frustration about his progress. So toss that cigarette onto the green, as Joe does, then pick it back up and take a puff as we enjoy Judy and Joe.

Grad Night ’07

It’s not often one finds a home movie at a thrift store. Even more rare is it a music video, but that’s probably the best category for this gem. It appears a school offered their ’07 grads a music video karaoke service. They got to pick the song. How could that be anything other than good clean fun?! Looks like Auntie Awkward chaperoned this grad night. Party on, guys. Party on.

Warlords!

Found a VHS tape for $0.50 at a thrift store called Warlords. Staring David Carradine, Warlords is an epicly-so-bad-its-amazing post-apocalyptic 1988 adventure that time has forgotten. It was difficult to find anything online about this masterpiece (though Amazon is selling a DVD version for $5), so I had to create an official unofficial movie trailer! Enjoy!

Niña y la Familia

blank vhs tapeA recent trip to a thrift store in Garden Grove, CA, offered quite the bounty. Among the dozen VHS tapes I had to grab, I did find one unlabeled tape. It was about halfway in and not rewound. Clearly, not a blank tape, but was it just another taping of daytime television or my prized thrift store jewel: a discarded home movie?! Only one way to find out.

The unboxing video is available on our Instagram @thriftshopvids. It was a very exciting moment to see that it was, in fact, a home movie!

Now the fun begins! What were these videos?!

In high school, my mother told me I should study Spanish. Living in California, she said, will be useful. I took German. Other than understanding the Nazis in the Indiana Jones movies, that choice has not been as fruitful as I had hoped. It’s moments like this video where I wish I could speak Spanish. A couple words here and there I get, calling a woman crazy, for example. However, the majority of the first part of the video is in Spanish. The last couple chapters have some English, but nothing of great detective value. Hopefully, my legion of… fan… could translate and leave comments below as to what they are talking about.

What I believe is going on, however, are family gatherings centered around the little girl. She appears to grow quite rapidly between segments, so either I’ve uncovered the scientific documenting of a freakish growth hormone, or this video takes place of over a couple years. Songs are played in the background (on what appears to be a portable tape player that I had as a kid) and Shazam has tagged them to be from an album released in 1988, and later the Bobby Brown theme song from Ghostbusters 2 (proud to say I quickly identified that myself), from 1989.

What kind of car is that?! The front is longer than my entire car!
What kind of car is that?! The front is longer than my entire car!

 

The husband and wife gain some weight throughout the video, another indication time is passing. I’ll be honest. There’s some very unflattering shots in swim wear. God bless them and their inappropriate crotch grabbing for throwing caution to the wind! I believe a slightly more blonde woman is doing most of the filming (possibly a sister of the wife). However, when the camera zooms into boobs and crotches, it’s pretty clear the macho mustachio wearing swinger is on the job. At the end, they are driving around Anaheim, CA, and drive past Disneyland.

Do you remember Alpha Beta?
Do you remember Alpha Beta?

It’s amazing to see the cars on the road, but more impressive to see the lack of buildings around what is now a very built up section of properties around the mouse’s park. Amusingly, I was able to use Google Maps to find the street they turned on during one segment. Gilbert and Ball still has a 7-Eleven and McDonald’s on the corner.

I’m very tempted to see if I can retrace their path and film a modern version of their journey driving along the same streets. I’d love the see the two side-by-side to see how the area has built up.

Please enjoy a Garden Grove family from the late 1980’s in southern California.

Three DVDs of a honeymoon cruise and an African safari

Found at a thrift store in Orange, CA
Found at a thrift shop in Orange, CA

I stood there staring at the spine of three DVDs. The cases were solid white with the names of numerous locations around the world. They appeared to be DVDs that were converted from a previous video tape recording, possibly a home movie, but quite possibly also a series of generic travel videos… the kind that would play on a loop in the corner of a travel agent’s office.

I decided to buy one of them and see what they were. Ten minutes into it I stopped. I got in my car and ran back to the shop, before it closed, to grab the other two. They were amazing.

Here is what I do know, based upon the content of the 6 hours of video footage:

– The two discs of China and Japan consist of a newlywed couple, Jesse and Elene, hopping countries via a cruise ship and paying tour guides to show them the local sights. Along for the trip is her mother, Julie. Yes, mother-in-law has joined their honeymoon! The cruise seems to have been a gift from family and friends as a wedding present. The year is 1988. The first disc has two minutes of Thailand before it hops to China… which means there were other videos. They are my white whale. I will hunt them to the ends of the Earth. One day… one day…
– The other disc is just the couple on safari in Kenya. It is unclear when this is, either part of the same trip, before or after. However, Jesse appears a little older, so if I had to guess I would say it was a following vacation, either late 80’s or early 90’s based on the clothes.
– Jesse is a terrible cameraman. When his wife has the camera, she does a wonderful job narrating. When my boy Jesse has it… well… let’s just say most of the safari is shots of grass.
– Julie is amazing. Why?

Moments like this…

Illustration of Julie
I had to create an illustration of the beloved Julie

 

I have uploaded the complete content of the DVDs on YouTube in the chapters as organized on the discs. There were a couple large scratches and some of the chapters were unconvertible (the last couple chapters of the safari), but a wealth of enjoyment is there.

What I love about this find is the snapshot of 1980’s Americans on travel in the East, during the Cold War. They talk to their tour guide in Beijing about China being communist and what it’s like. They meet up with another couple on the ship and the husband tells Jesse about how a Russian cruise liner cut them off and later the camera zooms in on the hammer and sickle of the CCCP liner in Osaka Harbor. After visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing, they take their tour guide to the world’s largest KFC. In Kenya, they record an impressive amount of animals, but sadly one of the coolest is a black rhino in the wild. Fast forward a few decades and this is an extremely rare site. Fast forward a couple more and this may be an impossible experience to have again. Although Jesse films a large amount of driving in China, it is amazing to see how undeveloped it was and what daily life and traffic was like. I sat there mesmerized by what was captured in such tedious fashion, yet incredible depth decades later. Even the KFC is surrounded in dirt and developing construction, which has surely been replaced now with modern skyscrapers. Jesse films the TV at one point and even watching Japanese commercials is an incredible experience, glimpsing into the commercialism of 80’s Japan. There is so much to love about this home video find.

It’s sad to think about why these videos came to be in the thrift shop in Orange, CA. Most likely, they moved from Hawaii and came to California. More than likely they passed away and the contents of their possessions where cleared from their home by people unaware of these digital memories. These moments in time were unknowingly tossed away, but thankfully a curious individual with a quirky interest in culture and humanity found them before they disappeared forever.

I hope you enjoy the lives of Jesse, Elene and Julie through their trips around the world in 1988.

Disc 1:

Disc 2:

Disc 3: