Memories in color — Oak Cliff on vintage 8-mm film

Mitchell Cope, right, with his dad, also named Mitchell, in the 1950s. Cope recently converted hours of color home movies to digital. (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Cope)
Mitchell Cope, right, with his dad, also named Mitchell, in the 1950s. Cope recently converted hours of color home movies to digital. (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Cope)

Mitchell Cope moved his dad’s 8-mm film projector and a box of home movies from Dallas to Florida to Kansas City, where they sat in a closet for 20 years.

When Cope and his wife retired to Florida a couple of years ago, it was time to downsize.

The projector’s cord had rotted, so that’s in a landfill now. But the home movies made the cut.

Sponsored Message

The color footage that Cope rediscovered was shot between 1955-65, much of it in Oak Cliff.

He had no way of watching the films, and he discovered that converting them to digital would cost about $1,200. But then he found a $300 machine online that could transfer the film.

In all, he converted nine 30-minute films, and they’re all on Youtube now. Not all of them are as fascinating as the one containing 1 minute of color footage showing the old streetcar Downtown and on Jefferson Boulevard in December 1955.

Sponsored Message

“I tried to do some judicious editing,” Cope says of the home movies.

There also are films of classroom Christmas parties at Cope’s Elmwood elementary school, Margaret B. Henderson, from the ’50s. There’s about 6 minutes of kids splashing in the bygone neighborhood pool at Henderson.

Cope and his dad shot a bunch of footage of Elmwood Methodist Church, parishioners filing out in their Sunday best as well as a girls’ softball practice, which was part of a later-abandoned film project about the church.

Cope says his dad, also named Mitchell, filmed the streetcar for posterity because he knew it was going away.

The elder Cope also took color footage of Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll on the day after the Kennedy assassination.

Cope says he’d completely forgotten about it.

“I didn’t even realize he had taken video,” Cope says. “I took photographs that day, but of course, those faded. The home movies held up, and I didn’t even know I had them.”

Cope’s dad was a University Park firefighter, and his mother was the school nurse at Henderson. As a freshman at Southern Methodist University, the younger Cope says he thought he’d become either a filmmaker or an engineer. He’s now a retired engineer.

“My father got that camera around the time I was going into first grade,” Cope says.

Now he’s using the footage as a way to connect with his classmates from half a century ago. He was unable to attend his 50th high school reunion last year, but through Youtube and Facebook, he had some tangible memories to offer.


Find some of Mitchell Cope’s home movies here.

Written By
More from Rachel Stone

Restaurant planned for Oak Cliff mayor’s house on Zang

As bulldozers and construction cranes take on much of the Bishop Arts...
Read More