Harbor history on display in documentary today

Today, Harborites will have an opportunity to see their history in motion in a documentary made from newsreels from the 1920s and ’30s.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words — moments frozen in time, some of them decisive — movies can move us with their magic. They can be a time machine,” said John Hughes, chief historian for the secretary of state, lifelong Harborite, and former editor and publisher of The Daily World and The Vidette.

The public will have a chance to see these films for the first time at the premiere showing of the documentary of these films at 2 p.m. and at 7 p.m. today at the historic 7th St. Theatre. The documentary is narrated by Hughes.

“These newsreels are nothing less than a community treasure,” Hughes said.

One of the films contained a strange scene that was released to the public approximately a year ago in an attempt to identify what was being filmed. A group of children and adults were seen walking in a circle in a large field, then standing still.

With the center of the circle cleared, a man stands on a crate in the center of the circle and hands a document to a boy who holds it over a fire until it burns. The crowd then ran in one direction, disappearing from the scene.

“It was the utter weirdness of that clip that got me interested in the project. I looked at the project as a mystery that needed to be solved and I took it on as a personal challenge,” said Roy Vataja, vice president of the Aberdeen Museum of History board.

Vataja had a hunch that the scene took place at the end of a school year, and searched newspaper clippings for any clue that would solve the mystery. His hunch proved to be correct — he determined the gathering was of school children and adults for what might be a mortgage burning ceremony for Franklin School.

Guest speakers for the premiere events include Lizabeth “Betsy” Wilson, Dean of the University of Washington Libraries; Paul Constantine, associate Dean of the University of Washington Libraries and director of special collections; Nicolette Bromberg, University of Washington Libraries visual materials curator; Hannah Palin, University of Washington Libraries film archives specialist; Ann Coppel, director of UWTV; Ray Kahler, president of the 7th Street Theatre Association, Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney, John Larson of the Polson Museum and Vataja.

A surprise guest of honor will be featured during the 7 p.m. show.