Capturing Mount Airy's Past

October 15, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Mount Airy will be 100 years old in 1994, so resident Bob Johnson has decided to make a birthday video for the town.

But Mr. Johnson -- a veteran video maker who has produced numerous programs for Carroll's public access Channel 19 -- needs the help of the Mount Airy community to complete his project.

He's looking for old pictures and movies that depict Mount Airy life over the past century that he can transfer to video for his production.

These may include pictures or movies of town "happenings" such as parades or festivals, town buildings and surrounding areas, barn burnings or natural disasters, and old family reunion pictures.

He's primarily interested in finding pre-1950 pictures and 8mm or 16mm movies.

"What we're endeavoring to do is put together a video of old pictures and old movies -- as old as we can get -- of what went on in Mount Airy," said Mr. Johnson, a member of Mount Airy's Centennial Committee.

"Sadly, it's slowly losing its small-town atmosphere, and the whole movie idea is an effort to try to show whence Mount Airy sprung."

The centennial committee also will publish a book to commemorate the centennial.

The video, in addition to featuring old pictures and movies, will include interviews with some of Mount Airy's older residents.

It will conclude with an epilogue titled "A Year in the Life of Mount Airy." This section will feature footage from town events in 1993-1994.

Mr. Johnson said he's counting on the help of Mount Airy residents to make his video, which he plans to complete the Centennial kick-off celebration in March.

"There's a plethora of knowledgeable people around here," he said. "I moved here 10 years ago, so I'm still a neophyte from the standpoint of understanding the history of Mount Airy."

Mr. Johnson said he became interested in making videos at Gaithersburg High School, where he taught auto mechanics for 27 years. He used videos as teaching tools "for children of the video generation," with short attention spans.

Since his retirement six yearsago, Mr. Johnson has devoted much of his time to making videos, specializing in historical videos and documentaries.

He has done most of his work for Channel 19.

Some of his productions include "Union Mills Homestead: 20 Decades of History" and "Trolleys Through the Heart of Maryland," a history of the Hagerstown and Frederick Railroad. He also makes shorter, slice-of-life pieces focusing on single events, such as the Mount Airy Fall Fest or the Jaycees Yard Sale.

"It's my point of view -- in the trade we call it POV -- of going to a yard sale," he explains.

Mr. Johnson's dining room table has become a research center for his current project, a 30-minute documentary on the history of travel on the Chesapeake Bay.

"I think the most fascinating thing about doing this [making videos] is getting to meet so many fabulous people," Mr. Johnson said. "There are people with Smithsonian storehouses of knowledge waiting to get out."

Anyone interested in donating old pictures or movies to Mr. Johnson's Mount Airy Centennial video, may call him at (301) 829-0690 or C. Oscar Baker at (301) 829-0383. All original material will be returned to the owners, Mr. Johnson said.

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