Recalling the past

Cornerstone Society remaking film
made in Madison in 1930s

New DVD scheduled to be available
for sale in spring 2006

By Don Ward

A feature film made more than 60 years ago about Madison, Ind., is getting a new soundtrack and more.
The Cornerstone Society is producing the soundtrack and plans to sell the newly cut version to the public early next year as a fund raiser. The original black-and-white film was made in 1936-38. It runs just over an hour and belongs to the Lohrig family. Twelve years ago, the family allowed the Cornerstone Society to sell VHS copies.
This year, Graham Lohrig organized showings and a recording session so that Madisonians who remember the late 1930s could identify people and places and muse about events of the period. Meredith Gregg of Cornerstone Society is coordinating the project.
“I think it’s an exciting project, and it will be something special for the people of Madison,” Gregg said.
The first recording session took place Oct. 8 and featured Pete Backus, Louis DeCar, Janet Douglass and Lohrig. Those who attended the earlier showings of the film included Nerine Cooper, Harold Lakeman, Jane Jacobs, Helen Rains, Perin Scott and Mary Goode Wallis. A final recording session was held Nov. 19 at the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library.
Dan Grady of Grady Video is donating his time to produce the soundtrack and recordings. He plans to insert into the original film several still photographs taken by Stephanie Hellman of Nice Shots Photos. Crooked Creek Studios has provided recording equipment for the project. Grady said he has about three hours of editing in the project so far with about 40 hours of production work to go. He anticipates finishing the hour-long DVD by March 1.
“I’ve done quite a bit of DVD authoring and find this project to be an interesting one,” Grady said. “I want to make it as interactive as possible.”
Grady has reorganized the original footage and plans to record the voices of local people discussing life during the late 1930s and 1940s. Grady also has requested permission to incorporate some of the Harry Lemon photos of historic Madison that are part of the library’s collection.
Using a 1938 Chamber of Commerce map of Madison, Grady plans to have buttons on the map that may be selected on the DVD that will go to certain parts of the film that discuss that location in town.
“When you watch the film in its current form, there is no soundtrack or way to determine where buildings are today because it is hard to recognize them from that period,” Grady said. “What I hope to do is allow the viewer to navigate through the film by way of these buttons. We want to make the film as relevant as possible.”
The original 16-mm film was made by a group of college students who collected money from local businesses to be featured in the film, which would be played at the Ohio Theatre prior to movies, according to Graham Lohrig, a maintenance supervisor at I.K.E.C. power station in Madison. When the film was completed, the college student then learned that the theatre used 35-mm film and could not play 16-mm film. Lohrig’s father, the late Harold Lohrig, had a 16-mm projector and offered to play the film at the theater. But the business owners were not pleased with the result and demanded their money back. The filmmakers refunded their money and told Lohrig he could keep the film.
“For years, the Cornerstone Society has used the film without a soundtrack of any kind. But with today’s advanced technology, it has made it easier to work with old films like this,” Graham Lohrig said. “Without any identification of the buildings, I thought the film was boring, so I suggested that we remake the film in a way so that the buildings and locations could be identified.”
The film features local schools, churches, businesses and even a Democratic picnic at Clifty Falls State Park. Well-known Madison names such as Lide White, Opal Sherman, E.O. Muncie and Conner K. Salm are featured in the film.
“It shows a completely different world than what we see on the streets of Madison today,” Gregg said. “The way people dressed back then was much more formal, especially the women. The clothing styles have changed so much. It really does give a vibrant view of the world we know now.”
The Lohrigs also have film footage of fires, floods and the 1941 freeze of the Ohio River. “The Lohrigs were actively involved in the local volunteer fire departments and have an interest in pursuing this project further.”
If enough interest is shown, Cornerstone Society plans to create additional videos on those subjects, Gregg said.
The finished DVD should be available for purchase in early 2006. The price, however, has not yet been determined by the group. Those who helped make the new version will receive a free copy, Gregg said.
The Cornerstone Society is an organization that actively promotes preservation in Madison by urging building owners to restore rather than tear down or use vinyl. It was formed in 1988 in response to threats of building demolitions in downtown Madison. Its 60-plus members continue to attend city meetings and educate the public about preservation options.

• For more information about purchasing the film, call Meredith Gregg at (812) 265-4197. For information about the Cornerstone Society, call president Rich Murray at (812) 273-1123.

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