Prom memories rediscovered on film

This screenshot from the Amherst Steele collection shows Sally and Charlie Marty at the 1972 prom.

A band plays the 1967 prom at Amherst High School.

Here is an image captured from footage of the 1960 Amherst prom.

The fashions of 1968 and 1969 will soon be just a mouse click away as Russ Marty works to revive nearly 50-year-old Amherst prom memories.

The teacher calls himself the “unofficial history guy” at Steele High School, curating an expanding collection of old recordings and artifacts.

“My big thing is preserving our school history,” he said. “I think today’s generations focus so much on the now – we have Twitter, we have Facebook, we have our iPhones – we tend to forget how we got here.”

The most recent footage was donated to Steele and turned over to Marty by principal Michael May. They were taped by Frank Slattery in black and white and have no sound.

Now Marty is working to digitize the old movies. They will be uploaded to by clicking on the alumni tab and accessing the video archives.

The process is no easy task.

First, Marty had to re-splice parts of the film made unwatchable by scotch tape that has turned brown since the reels were edited decades ago.

Then it took a lot of tinkering to reduce flickering on the footage to the point it could be viewed — only to have his ancient film projector’s bulb blow. Luckily, more are available for sale online.

When the new part arrives, Marty will use a modern digital camera to record the brightly-lit images shown on a screen in his Steele classroom.

Two years ago, alumnus Jacob Shalkhauser helped digitize a slew of other prom reels, providing Marty with a Marty McFly experience.

“We got the film fed through, lit it up, and there were my mom and dad (Charlie and Sally Marty),” said the Steele teacher. “Then my dad kissed her. That was the coolest moment for me.”

The district’s online collection also has the years 1959-1962, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1972, and 1974-1976.

Marty said he’d gladly welcome prints from any of the missing years.

He views the films as not just nostalgic pieces, but terrific teaching tools: “I believe kids shouldn’t relive the past but should be able to understand it.”

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.