Residents film their town for 'Our Town'

March 07, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

Scenes as diverse as alpaca flirting with the camera, a Jeep off-roading in Michaux State Forest, quaint barbershops, candy making, a magnificent crystal candle chandelier in Zion Reformed Church, and the 100-year-old Chambersburg Fire Department will show residents of central Pennsylvania what some of the 18,000 people of Chambersburg think and feel about their town.

Thirty local residents videotaped the town from their perspective during one week in January to create "Our Town: Chambersburg" in collaboration with television station WITF, central Pennsylvania's public broadcasting station. Chambersburg is the 14th town to be featured in the "Our Town" series.

The videographers and others involved with the making of "Our Town: Chambersburg" were treated to a sneak preview of the show Friday night at the Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg.


WITF director of programming Tom Keck described the Our Town series as a "one-hour video scrapbook of people, places and experiences based on a partnership between WITF and local residents. We could bring a crew in and shoot it, but it wouldn't be the same."

Kathleen Pavelko, president and CEO of WITF Inc., said that the "Our Town" series "is a unique collaboration that fosters connections among and between communities. They are part memoir, part documentary and part folklore. You will introduce south-central Pennsylvania to the town you know and love."

The history of the town figured prominently in the program, with vintage photos from 1864, when Confederates burned between 500 and 600 buildings in the downtown area. Also featured was St. James AME Church, which was purchased by freed slaves in 1811 for $600.

After viewing the film, Chambersburg Mayor Tom Newcomer said it brought back fond memories.

"We all had a part in this," he said, adding that he thinks founder Benjamin Chambers would be pleased to see his community today.

Dave Sciamanna, president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, called the film "awesome and terrific. The diversity is typical of what we experience."

What struck him the most was the sky-diving footage, the alpacas and the beauty of the architecture, he said.

"It was worth waiting to be number 14," he said.

Pavelko complimented those involved with "the sophistication of your understanding of your history. The program showed a deep affection that none of the other programs quite achieved. You have something to be proud of. The people of Chambersburg have a deep understanding of how history fits in."

Kyle Rogers, 13, son of John and Chris Rogers of Chambersburg, was the youngest videographer to work on the project. An aspiring broadcast journalist, Kyle said that since his mother got a video camera a year and a half ago, he's been shooting his own newscasts.

"I hope to anchor the "Today" show someday," he said.

Pat Stumbaugh of Chambersburg and Paul Gill of Shippensburg, Pa., worked as a team covering Rocky Spring Church.

A retired elementary school teacher, Stumbaugh, 71, is regent of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which cares for the 1794 building.

"We wanted to get our church on the map," she said.

Gill, a retired history professor at Shippensburg University, said he and Stumbaugh had to shoot their footage twice.

"It was cold and windy, and the camera froze up, and we had to get another one," he said.

There is no heat or electricity in the historic church, which is in the countryside northwest of Chambersburg.

"We'd go out to the cars to warm up," Stumbaugh said. She added that she thought the screening was "great. I had a connection with other things in there."

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