Peeking into Alvinston’s past

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People in Alvinston will be taking a trip back in time next Thursday as a long, lost movie about the community is screened.

Dana Thorne of the Lambton County Archives has set up a movie night at the Alvinston Library Jan. 29 to show two movies about Alvinston. And one of those movies is a rare gem.

Thorne says over a two-year timeframe a minister by the name of Rev. Roy Massecar traveled all around southwestern Ontario filming communities creating movies about the small towns.

“He was doing it as a fundraiser to supplement his small church stipend,” she says adding he would then return to the town to screen the film. “People would pay a small admission price and watch themselves on the silver screen,” says Thorne.

Roy Massecar was prolific producing the “Stars of the Town” movies – filming and screening 88 of them in two years – including Alvinston.

Thorne says the archives at Western University have many of the films but the one shot in Alvinston was not there. Alvinston resident Ruth Leitch had a copy which eventually made its way to the Lambton County Archives,

Leitch, who was a reporter with the Glencoe-Alvinston Transcript Free Press for 36 years was given the 8 mm film by the owner of the paper. “I know most of the people who were in it – it’s only just a few that are in it that are missing.

Western Archives website bills the 8 mm films as “the home movies of southwestern Ontario communities – communities whose day-to-day patterns of life in the late 1940s might otherwise be lost to history.”

“It’s a silent film, with no voiceover or anything,” says Thorne. “It’s obviously in black and white and it’s a lot of people downtown walking into shops and zooming into a lot of faces,” she says. “Sometimes you see horses going up and down the street.”

Thorne says it paints a picture of a bustling Alvinston.

Residents will be able to compare the 1940s film with one from the 80s or 90s, which will also be shown on the 29th.

Thorne is hopeful people will come out and enjoy the history but also possibly recognize some of the people in the film so it can become part of the community’s historic documents.

And she says the movie night is a good opportunity to show what can be found at the Lambton County Archives.

“A lot of people don’t even realize that this type of material is available,” she says. “If you ask people what does the archive had they’d likely say papers and books.

“This is a chance to show we have lots of interesting things including video – that it’s something more than paper or books.”

Leitch expects many people will come to the 7 pm show Jan.29 showing because “they would like to see what Alvinston was and dream a little bit of what it could be and will be again some day, I think.”