This article was originally published Feb. 10, 2016, in Buford Weekly Illustrated.
A couple of years ago I was contacted by a man from Buchanan, Georgia, searching for surviving tapes from the football game played in 1963 or 1964 between Buford and Buchanan. During those early years 16 mm film was used to record the play-action of the games for the team to review and study. I inquired at all the usual places for any early football game tapes and asked everyone I spoke to about the tapes to also inquire with anyone they thought might have knowledge of the tapes. I came up empty-handed and found myself extremely sad that such an important part of our sports history was lost. No one knew if the tape still existed. I thought about it less and less until I had just about forgotten about it all together, when in walks Bob Perkins to the Museum with a box of old middle film canisters to donate.
I really couldn’t believe that any of the 16 mm film survived. Everywhere I turned, it appeared the tapes were discarded. As it turns out these films have a history all of their own which I will narrate shortly. We can credit our friend in Buchanan for digging long enough to track them down. I had told him a couple years ago that I had exhausted all possibilities of locating any early films, much less the specific one he had requested, so he should give up. Well, through his persistence, and through a series of conversations he located Bob Perkins.
During the 1960s Robert Bland and Otto Whitley (who incidentally worked for Kodak) operated the 16 mm cameras doing the football games recording the plays. The tapes would be used to study both our progress, as well as to prepare for the next time we encountered the same team. After several years the films became obsolete and were stowed away or oftentimes discarded. These tapes survived a little longer than most in the beginning because they were stored in “the pit.” This is the area beneath the stage in between the hallways leading back to the locker rooms and the old gymnasium built in the early 1950s.
During the time Jim Garrison was coach (around 1963-64) this area was dug out by hand by the football players to make an office for the coaches. This made the perfect hiding place for these tapes to rest that is until the late 1970s.
During one of those “spring cleanings” at the school, the gym, including its pit, was on the docket. Phillip Perkins, who was coaching football and baseball, called his brother. Realizing that he had played football during those years he said “you need to get down here and get these tapes if you want them. They are going to be thrown away!”
He did gladly, and there they stayed for many years until a classmate of Bob’s wanted to do something with them.
Lamar Duncan lived in Florida and took the tapes with him to some day convert to VHS. Years passed and they continued to collect dust in Florida. Bob realizing that nothing was being done with the tapes once again “saved” them by driving to Florida to return the tapes home to Buford.
Recently someone put the Buchanan sleuth in touch with Bob, and there in this pile was the very tape he wanted to celebrate at his 50 year class reunion.
He gladly converted the film to a digital source and started us on the path to hopefully converting all the films. I hope to have copies of these films for everyone to enjoy in the near future.
Lynn Bowman is curator of the Museum of Buford on Main Street. He is a 1984 graduate of Buford High School.
FEATURED PHOTO: A collection of 16mm early football game films, now back in Buford. Photo courtesy of Museum of Buford.