Were you a Star?

By Casey Lessard
Photo courtesy UWO

Libraries in Zurich, Exeter and Parkhill each have a little gem hiding in their DVD catalogue: archived 8mm film from the late 1940s featuring each town and its residents from the era. Stars of the Town is a collection of 85 films profiling towns from across southern Ontario, distributed as an enterprise of the University of Western Ontario archives.
“They’re fascinating,” says Benson special collections librarian John Lutman, whose mother grew up in Zurich, “because they summarize a way of life in the old Ontario before mass suburbanization. Parkhill, for instance, is not as vibrant as it was. People move away or go to London for recreation and small towns couldn’t compete with the big chains. It shows towns at the peak of their prosperity and vibrant activity.”
The films were made by Rev. Roy Massecar between 1946 and 1949. Rev. Massecar made the films to supplement his income; he would travel to towns, film them and perform a show for an admission fee.
UWO acquired the films in 2005 and have been selling DVD copies of each town’s film for $15.
“The films average 30 minutes,” Lutman says. “You see people shopping in the town, driving down the main street in their cars, tractors, and horse drawn carts, and you see a lot of the fashions of the times.”
You can borrow the DVD from the libraries, or you can order a copy (Zurich, Exeter and Parkhill are the only ones in our area currently known and available) by calling 519-661-4046 or by emailing archives.services (at) uwo.ca
If you are in one of the movies or think you know of another film (for example one for Grand Bend), we’d love to hear about it.