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part iii Everyday Lives: Home and Work in Amateur Film Reflection 2 Perspectives on the Home Movies of Charles Norman Shay, Penobscot Elder Jennifer Neptune On a cold, rainy day in June 2013, I had the pleasure of sitting with Penobscot tribal elder Charles Norman Shay at his home on Indian Island in Maine to watch 8mm home movie footage he had shot with his Bell & Howell camera between 1955 and 1972. Shay’s home movies are both artistic and remarkable: spanning seventeen years and two continents, recording everything from glimpses of tribal history to his years in the US Air Force in Cold War-era Europe, as well as the celebrations and ordinary moments of his everyday life. Charles Shay’s footage, shot all those years ago, is important for its historical , ethnographic, and aesthetic qualities. While made to preserve memories for himself and his family, he also recorded moments from a truly amazing life that was filled with the love of family, travels, and adventures. He crossed oceans and cultures and shattered commonly held stereotypes of what a Native American man could achieve. Born in June 1924, Charles was the eighth child of Leo and Florence (Nicolar) Shay. He spent the first four years of his life in Bristol, Connecticut, until lack of work resulting from the stock market crash of 1929 forced his parents to return home to the Penobscot Indian Reservation on Indian Island. Charles was drafted into the US Army in April 1943, and trained as a surgical technician. Assigned to the First Infantry Division, his first combat experience as a newly trained medic would be on the shores of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944—D-Day. He earned a Silver Star for his bravery and courage that day, treating countless injured and dying men while under heavy fire. In the spring of 1945, he was captured by the German army and spent a few weeks in a prisoner-of-war camp before being released and returning to the United States. Discharged from the army in October of 1945, Charles worked briefly in Boston before heading home to Indian Island. Like many other Native American men and women returning to the reservation after World War II, Charles found the oppression, discrimination, and lack of opportunity intolerable. After his honorable service in the war, finding himself unemployed and being denied the 176 | Jennifer Neptune right to vote in state or federal elections because he was Native American was too much injustice to bear. By 1946, Charles had reenlisted in the army and found himself stationed in the beautiful but devastated city of Vienna, Austria. Here he learned the German language and met the love of his life—Lilli Bollarth, a local Austrian woman. Married in the spring of 1950, they would share fifty-seven years together. Just four months after their wedding, Charles received orders to return to the United States to prepare for deployment to the war in Korea, where he served eleven months on the front lines as a combat medic in North and South Korea. Discharged from the army in 1952, Charles could not find work in Vienna and reenlisted in the US Air Force. After several assignments in New York, Massachusetts, Florida, Oklahoma, and the South Pacific islands, Charles found himself at Mitchell Air Force Base, Long Island, New York, where, encouraged by a friend who was an amateur filmmaker , Charles purchased a Bell & Howell camera, spools of 8mm film, and a Keystone projector. His camera was fairly small and portable and came with a turret mount, allowing Charles to choose among three lenses attached to the camera. Like most 8mm cameras of that time, it recorded motion but not sound, with each spool recording approximately four minutes of color footage. During our meeting in 2013, Charles explained that he had been interested in capturing memories for himself and sharing the movies with family and friends. He recalled how exciting it was getting the films back from the developer, setting up the screen and projector, and inviting people over to watch. In 2009, Northeast Historic Film, in Bucksport, Maine, transferred his 8mm film reels to DVD. Almost sixty years after he recorded his first home movie, I set up my laptop computer for us to view them together. The very first reel we viewed brought tribal history to life in way I had never experienced. Charles was born to a very influential Penobscot family. His mother, Florence Nicolar Shay (1884–1960...


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