There is something hypnotic and more than a little melancholy about this three minute silent reel of 8mm film shot in New York City in 1983 (our ‘year of the week’–see previous post). It appears to document a family outing on a warm spring or summer day. Our family appears to come from Long Island as they enter the city via the Queensborough Bridge. At thirty-five seconds we get a look at the reason for the trip, via a slow and haunting zoom into the World Trade Center. By 56 seconds we are on the ground, zooming in again at the behemoth buildings. The visit moves inside (or upstairs and outside I guess) at 1:21, capturing views from the towers of midtown Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, various bridges and highways etc. Midtown is much shorter than it is now–the Empire State Building still dwarfs the other buildings giving us a sense of how truly long ago 1983 was. Inexplicably the day takes an odd turn of events when the family decides that it’s really New Jersey that they want to see. They get back in the car and enter the Holland Tunnel. As the drive to Jersey continues we reflect on the storyline and try to make sense of it all. Perhaps they were on their way to see the Aunt who lives in Jersey who they never visit and instead of shlepping directly from Long Island they decided to do a little WTC field trip on the way. As always with these old reels of urban documentation one of the most striking things is the lack of SUVs on the road. I see a preponderance of 1970s vehicles–Chevy Impala’s in particular. It was another era. ‘Different Strokes’ was the hit show on TV, ‘The Police’ were the hot band and ‘Gandhi’ and ‘E.T.’ battled each other (albeit non-violently) for the top slot of big screen entertainment. It was another time indeed.


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