Home movies: 1968–1969

For today’s post, I’d like to share another home movie that my father Keith Black digitized and that I recently found on his computer.

This home movie is composed of footage shot between May 1968 (just before my sister was born) and the summer of 1970 (just after my sister began walking). It captures Michael Black, Jill Black, Keith Black, Polly Black, Vernon Black, Dorothy Black, Gary Black, Mala Gayer, Bill Prettyman, Harriet Prettyman, Dan Prettyman, Jerry Young, Sue Mawer, Bob Mawer, Jimmy Mawer, and others. The fashions—especially my paisley pants and Harriet’s bold print dress—are really something. Sideburns also feature prominently.

I’ve written up a guide to the scenes below, but please leave me comments about anything I missed or may have gotten wrong.


  • From 0:00 to 3:50: The morning of Michael’s second birthday (May 30, 1968), at our Vesper Avenue apartment in Van Nuys. Chocolate birthday cake. Opening cards and presents, including clothes, books, and an unpainted toy box that my parents later painted lime green for me.
  • From 3:51 to 5:12: Celebrating my birthday with a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm, and wearing the clothes I got as birthday presents. Riding the Calico Mine train with my mother Polly.
  • From 5:12 to 5:57: At Knott’s Berry Farm. Standing around with Jimmy Mawer. Watching the Butterfield stage coach ride by.
  • From 5:58 to 7:31: At the Knott’s Berry Farm petting zoo with Jimmy Mawer. Chickens, peacock, goats, feeding the goats, eating the goat feed myself, trying to feed a chicken, pig trying to get my feed (the origin of the infamous “chased by a pig” story my dad used to tell), rabbit riding his toy car, trying to feed the rabbits (7:29).
  • From 7:32 to 8:29: Riding the horse-powered swinging carousel at Knott’s Berry Farm. I was with my father Keith and Jimmy was with his father Bob. Keith was so thin (see 8:23)!
  • From 8:29 to 8:33: Jimmy Mawer on a coin-powered jiggly car.
  • From 8:33 to 10:33: Michael playing with sparklers on July 4, 1968, at Emma Wood State Beach. With Vernon Black (8:34) and Polly Black (9:32). This was before Vernon and Dorothy had a motorhome; we’re sitting outside his grocery van, I believe.
  • From 10:34 to 11:03: Sitting around a campfire at Emma Wood State Beach on July 4, 1968.
  • From 11:03 to 11:53: Summer of 1969. Playing with a wading pool and a hose with the Peggy Watson (the neighbor girl who lived behind us) at our apartment on Vesper Avenue in Van Nuys. From 11:53 to 14:08: Summer of 1969. Being hyperactive on the driveway and yard of our Vesper Avenue apartment. Wearing a “John John” that my mother made for me. Hugging our palm tree. Generally being amazed with being outside on a sunny day. From 14:08 to 14:32: Summer of 1969. The neighbor girl learning to ride her tricycle with the help of her father.
  • From 14:32 to 15:14: Summer of 1969. Peggy Watson on her riding toy and me on my trike towing my wagon. Shocked neighbor realizing she’s being filmed at 15:00. Towing neighbor girl in wagon-trailer.
  • From 15:15 to 15:39: Summer of 1969. Inside our Vesper Avenue apartment. My little sister Jill in a high chair wearing a cowboy hat. Michael sitting nearby.
  • From 15:40 to 16:33: Summer of 1969. Michael and Jill in a window-side bed. Michael pretending to be literate; Jill giving her pacifier a workout.
  • From 16:34 to 18:35: Summer of 1969. Jill in a high chair struggling to feed herself. Then struggling to give herself milk. Parents presumably amused by her struggles.
  • From 18:36 to 21:38: Christmas 1969 at grandparents Vernon and Dorothy Black’s house. Me wearing awesome paisley pants and opening a photograph with Decca 45s. Helping Jill open her presents. Dorothy Black holding Jill on her knee (19:01). He getting a slot-car racing set. Vernon Black telling me about said racing set (19:32). Gary Black and Mala Gayer (19:39) getting a candle. Jill getting a Raggedy Ann doll (20:05) and appearing terrified of it. Jill getting a scooter (20:30) and growing to accept Raggedy Ann. Michael getting a dump truck. Gary and Mala (21:34) getting presents.
  • From 21:38 to 21:54: Christmas tree at our Vesper apartment.
  • From 21:54 to 23:01: Michael and Jill opening Christmas presents. Michael got a model train set! Jill got clothes. Michael got knit caps for the brutal L.A. winters. Keith smiling at Jill (22:27) while putting together a hard hat. Jill wearing hard hat (22:35). So many presents! Polly dancing with Jill (22:55).
  • From 23:02 to 23:12: Jill back in her high chair.
  • From 23:12 to 25:16: Christmas Eve at grandparents Bill and Harriet Prettyman’s house in North Hollywood. Michael and Jill each getting play phones. Bill Prettyman helping Michael open his phone (23:25). Harriet smiling (23:53). Dan Prettyman helping Michael (24:17) load talking disks into phone. Dan taking call (24:28). Ever more Raggedy Ann dolls accumulating. Jerry Young (24:54). Harriet getting ironing table (25:14).
  • From 25:17 to 28:01: Jill practicing walking in Vesper Avenue apartment. Continuing her waddling in the driveway (26:28). And back to waddling inside the apartment (27:34), now with a hardhat on.
  • From 28:01 to 28:35: Jill walking in the driveway while Michael (28:15) plays with his toy glider. Keith tidies up the garden (28:20). Film ends with Jill getting buzzed by Michael’s glider flyby.

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