Wolfson Archives educates residents through historical footage

Kevin Wynn shows Hometown History attendees a clip of an aerocar, one of the first travel trailers invented by Glen Curtiss.

The Wolfson Archives’ Hometown History event on Thursday night offered a variety of old film clips that demonstrated Miami Springs’ history.

The free event was held at the historic Curtiss Mansion, which was once the home of aviator, inventor and Florida land developer Glen Curtiss, adding to the historical atmosphere. Executive Director Melinda Jester said she had high hopes for what this event could do.

“I would hope that they are telling other people about what they saw tonight and this place,” she said.

The event itself was hosted by Kevin Wynn, the public programs coordinator for the Wolfson Archive.

The archives hold footage, collected and donated, from everywhere in Florida, according to Wynn. Since the event was being held at the Curtiss Mansion, he thought it was fitting to focus mainly on Miami Springs. He said he and the staff at the Wolfson Archives also believe they should present this history to people in a fun and relatable way.

“We’re always trying to get our material from our archive out in front of audiences,” he said. “It’s widely used by producers and researchers and historians, but we want ordinary people to see it as well.”

There were many events and figures captured in these recordings that drew gasps and brought smiles to those in attendance.

These included: footage of future U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson dining at the Miami Springs Villas in 1956, Jerry Lewis arriving at the Miami International Airport to film “The Bellboy” in 1960, and even early footage of an aerocar, one of the first travel trailers invented by Glen Curtiss.

Almost every person in attendance had their favorite piece of footage. However, longtime resident David Black found something he enjoyed in every bit of footage shown, and even reflected on his own life in Miami Springs.

“It was very interesting to see the evolution [of the airport], even with the first prop jet that came in, and the difference in the noise,” he said. “Some of the old historical shots as well. There were some pictures of the church that I grew up in Plymouth, down on Main Highway, that I found very interesting.

“Again, there is so much history here and the town has grown so quickly that it’s nice to harken back to the days before it was such a big town.”

As the event was finishing up, Wynn noted how many people have a bit of their own history at home in their photographs and home movies. However, they haven’t seen it in years due to obsolete technology.

He urged audience members to bring in or donate any footage to the Wolfson Archives so it can be digitized and kept for future generations.

“You might be able to see this footage from your family that maybe the younger people in the family have never seen because the Super 8 projector stopped working 25 years ago, and it’s just been sitting in the drawer since then.” he said. “We want to see it because of what history is in there. What can we learn from that? It’s about bringing people’s memories back that also can be historic.”

Colin Miller is a broadcast media major at FIU. He is currently the host of The FIU Music Hour on WDNA-FM. He plans to further his career in radio broadcasting.