NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. (21Alive) -- North Manchester Indiana, or Manchester as the locals call it, is a nice, pretty little town with very nice people…not unlike many other towns in 21 Country. But Manchester has something most of the others don’t… a past…captured on film.
This is North Manchester 75 years ago, in June 1938, captured on 16 millimeter film by Virgil Opperman for the local chapter of the Tri Kappa Society…and then forgotten; only recently rediscovered in a storage room by the North Manchester Historical Society. And it is a priceless treasure. Town residents, young and old…at work…and at play…high school sweethearts headed to the prom…old married couples, sweethearts for half a century or more. Here’s fire chief Bill Wiesner at the wheel of the town’s new fire engine. This is Walter Leffel, he ran Lotzenheiser’s grocery store. These people are living in the throes of the Great Depression, and just a couple of years from the outbreak of World War Two, but their optimism seems irrepressible.
“I think they were showing that people were able to enjoy life even though they didn’t have much money,” says historian Jim Adams. Adams digitally restored the film and helped identify many of the people in it.
“I think that there was a lot more to do in a small town publically than there is now,” Adams says. “People stay home and watch TV as we are right now. There was simply much more outdoor activity in those days. People enjoyed going out on a hot summer day and having an ice cream cone.”
This is small town America as we like to think it was, everyone fit and trim…the men and women well dressed, the kids growing up safe and secure. The Historical Society is selling DVD copies of this film. The proceeds will finance a new, modern version being shot now by Jim Adams. It will preserve a slice of North Manchester life circa 2013, and no doubt charm future generations as this film charms us…with images America as she once was….gone, perhaps…but certainly wonderful to recall. Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.
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