For a while now, I’ve been sharing photos from the Harris Stilson photography collection with you. Well, thanks to PBS Channel 23’s Virginia Currents program, now you can get a better idea of the magnitude and significance of my great-grandfather’s pictures and movies as well as the scope of Richmond In Sight projects.
The crew of Virginia Currents spent almost six hours at my house recently and the resulting program, which aired for the first time last night, is an amazing feat of ingenuity and creativity. They squeezed six hours of film into a ten minute segment…and did a great job. Yes, it was “only” about ten minutes long but viewers saw lots  of pictures and a few clips of Harry’s movies as well. The film clips included kids lined up at the Byrd Theatre, the Shields Lake high dive, downtown scenes of streetcars and pedestrians, a tiny glimpse of what jewels these 1929-1031 films are.
During filming, Randy and I were seated beside a child-sized secretary built by Harry’s wife, Mary. On it is a Stilson picture of that same secretary displaying two cameras. I inherited those cameras, including the movie camera, instructions, price list and the October 1928 journal entry stating “Miss Day from Galeski Optical has loaned me free of charge a moving picture camera and projection in the hopes that I will buy one in the coming year.” Miss Day was an astute salesperson because Harry’s surviving movies began in 1929.
Mary Stilson's miniature secretary

 

If you missed the program last night, don’t fret. Saturday, April 13th at 5:30 PM and Sunday, April 14th at 1:00 PM will be your next opportunities to see the show. The program will be online by April 19th as well. And if you did watch Virginia Currents and enjoyed it, think about making a donation to our local PBS station. This  snapshot into the lives of Virginians is a valuable part of Channel 23’s repertoire but funding has been cut and the program is in jeopardy of disappearing. Let the station know how vital this program is to our community.
The expression “beggers can’t be choosers” is a bit inaccurate in this case. I am begging for donations to Richmond In Sight because in order to restore and share those movies, we need money. Your tax-deductive gift to Richmond In Sight through VCU Libraries can make that possible but if you choose to give to Virginia Currents instead, I will understand. Just choose one, please. We’re both worthy causes focusing on our neighbors and our home towns.
Meanwhile, take a look at http://www.richmondinsight.com for more pictures and stories and ideastations.org/virginiacurrents to see more cool stuff.

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