WCIA-TV staffer: 'Two generations of tape is disappearing'

PAXTON — Matt Metcalf of WCIA-TV’s “CI Living” presented the program during the Ford County Historical Society’s recent annual dinner meeting at the Arcade restaurant in Paxton.

With 35 members present. Metcalf, 38, told the group he is a lover of local history and is presently taking graduate courses at the University of Illinois in archiving. He called television news reports the “first draft of history.” At the station, he is working his way through 40 years of stored tapes before the technology used to view them becomes obsolete. He noted WCIA got rid of its film projectors in 1999.

“Two generations of tape is disappearing,” Metcalf said.

WCIA films from 1957 to 1975 have already been donated to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield.

Metcalf reminded the audience assembled, mostly older people, that “the only way to connect is to share the stories digitally with the next generation.” Metcalf noted that half of all people access the Internet with mobile devices instead of with personal commuters. Metcalf said websites should be accessible by such devices to get their messages across.

Metcalf had some technical difficulties with his program because he came with the wrong cord for the projector. A restaurant employee went home for her laptop, and Pacey assisted with the necessary software programs.

For his program, Metcalf prepared a set of six news stories from across the years and across Ford County. The first was from 1968 from north of Roberts featuring official weather bureau observer Robert Bradbury, 93, who was retiring after serving in that capacity since 1911.

The extensive second story was about the 1974 visit to Melvin by President Gerald Ford upon Congressman Les Arends’ retirement after 40 years. Ford had recently become president from his position as the speaker of the House, and the two had served in the House together for 25 years.

Other stories included the 1989 making of  Chevrolet truck commercials in Ford County, the first day of school in 1990 at the newly consolidated Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School, a 2000 protest against the Miami Indian proposal to put up a casino in the county and the 2007 Paxton Majestic Theatre fire and an interview with the late Jan Fratia, whose father once owned the theater.

Metcalf said he would see that the society gets a copy of his program from which individual copies can be made. He said the sharing of the information can rally support for local history and lead to a sense of belonging.

Business meeting
During a short business meeting, conducted by President Judith Jepsen-Popel:

— The group approved its slate of officers, as presented by Ed Karr. Karr reported that Rob Pacey will replace Karr as vice president and Derrick Babbs will replace Jean Watson as a director. The other officers will retain their positions.

— Popel reported on the recent McBride estate auction that featured many items of Paxton memorabilia. She displayed a 1932 Paxton telephone book she purchased. She also told of the board’s efforts to streamline the newsletter mailing list and send out as many newsletters as possible via email to help reduce the annual $500 cost. Requests for emailed newsletters can be sent to the group’s email address at ilfchs@gmail.com.

— Treasurer Margaret Fiorillo presented a written treasurer’s report that features a $960  deficit for the past year. The largest expenses are $1,224 for electricity and $585 for natural gas. Dues generated just $580 and donations totaled $1,011, which included $400 from a recent Paxton IGA program.

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