Flying Brick Video Productions
"Record your memories for those who follow. Without them, the hardships you endured and the triumphs you won will fade and be lost forever" With those words General Charles Metcalf, director of the United States Air Force Museum, challenged the group of aging veterans to end their silence and tell their stories for future generations. The general could not have foreseen that his speech would result in a series of video programs that were the collaboration of a former aircraft analyst, numerous veterans, a barnstorming aircraft group and a famous folk singer.
Mr. Steve Pribish, an aircraft analyst, was in the crowd the day General Metcalf spoke. Steve heeded the general's words and since then has been creating a series of television programs dedicated to preserving those aging memories of the men and women who have served our country for the last half century.
Flying Brick Video Productions began its task of documenting faces and voices in August 1995. It was then that Freedom Flight America's one hundred vintage aircraft arrived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for a three-day visit. Steve was just one of many who prowled the base recording images of the Mustangs, Mitchells, Grasshoppers, AT-6 and Kadets. But it wasn't the planes that fired his imagination-- it was the veterans. It was the flesh and blood "Warbirds" and their love affair with their aircraft that inspired the first of his historic productions, the thirty-five minute documentary "Return of the Warbirds."
"There was a pride in those wrinkled faces that time just could not diminish," Steve said as he recalled of his first impression of the thousands W.W.II veterans. While video taping the aircraft, Steve captured the men and women who flew and serviced the planes to ensure the soul of the aircraft would be preserved. And preserved they were. The resulting program, "Return of the Warbirds," became a favorite at military reunions and wherever aviation enthusiast gathered. While many recent aviation films document the war years, "Warbirds" is unusual in that it is more personal and does not use a narrator to tell its story. Rather it uses the collective memories of dozens of participants woven into one continuous script.
While "Warbirds" played to many appreciative audiences, one question was repeatedly asked . "Did you get any video of the big boys - the heavy bombers?" No, he didn't. Because of the cost of fuel, Freedom Flight was confined to medium bombers, fighters and trainers. Absent were the famous Liberators and Flying Fortresses of air war fame. On night after a presentation of "Warbirds" Steve was approached and again asked about the heavies. Rather than go into an explanation about fuel costs, Steve told the gentlemen a program starring the Liberator and Flying Fortress was in the works. When their faces lighted up like kids on Christmas morning, Steve realized he better be true to his word. Enter the barnstorming heritage aircraft group.
The Collings Institute from Stowe, Massachusetts is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the heavy bombers: the Liberator and the Flying Fortress. While there are many such organizations throughout the United States, The Collings Institute is unique. Instead of maintaining a museum in Stowe where people travel to see the aircraft, the bombers fly to the people. From spring through fall Collings crosses the United States taking their two aircraft west through the southern states and back east though the northern. In August 1997, the big boys made their appearance in Lima, Ohio.
That August, Flying Brick was on the scene recording takeoffs and landings, interior and exterior shots, and most important, capturing the veterans who came to pay the bombers homage. Each provided a link to a network of old war buddies more than willing to share their histories. Along with their stories, the veterans provided photographs and personal memorabilia for use in the programs. In addition, Steve was introduced to songs that the airman sang in their off duty hours, ditties that told of Air Corps idiosyncrasies and foibles. Enter the folk singer.
Oscar Brand began his folk singing career in the early fifties and road the hootenanny train to national recognition. As a young Marine in the Second World War, Oscar was exposed to the shipboard and barracks songs that made the rounds of our armed forces. These tunes, considered tame by today's standards, used popular melodies accompanied by not so well known lyrics. They are, as one "young" man described them, songs grandpa won't sing for me. Oscar collected and recorded many of these ballads and released a series of albums containing the songs sung by the Marines and Airman.
Steve contacted Oscar and told him of his programs and how the old barracks songs would add to the video productions. The artist gave his permission and Oscar's Air Force songs were incorporated into the sound tracks of the heavy bomber programs. The presence of Oscar's songs added a perspective lacking in previous aircraft documentaries. The result was two more programs, "Liberator: The Plane and Her Crews" and "Fortress: The Plane and Her Crews." Both videos have met with success and have been shown at several historic gatherings in the area.
Currently, Steve is working on programs dealing with his era, the Vietnam War. "One day you look in the mirror and realize that you have become the old veteran and grandfather. It's now time for us to record our memories."
While Flying Brick cannot match the major motion picture studios in fame, the success of his productions has left Steve with a feeling of justifiable satisfaction. However, he realizes the dream of documenting the words of several million veterans is unachievable. So now after his presentation, he instructs his viewers on the basic interview and filming techniques. With the profusion of home video camera, there is no longer an excuse for letting the words and deeds fade from memory. Steve's greatest recognition comes on those bittersweet days when he receives a note from someone whose father or husband has just passed away, a note thanking him for preserving the memories.
Organizations wishing a presentation of a Flying Brick program may contact Steve at 937-626-1354 or visit his web site at http://hometown.aol.com/flynbrick. All programs are free to veteran or civic groups.
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