Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Case Study No. 0977: Bill Van Nierkerken

Stump the Librarian
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"Stump the Librarian"
Episode 1
Shot and Edited by Isaac Pingree
www dot lagoonside dot com

[scene opens with a man sitting at his desk and speaking directly to the camera]
PETER: I'm Peter Hartlaub, pop culture critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, and this is a new feature I'm calling "Stump the Librarian." Um, I go down into the Chronicle archives occasionally, and I always get really excited at what I find. I'll usually be looking for one thing, and find five things. Um, it becomes a little bit of a treasure hunt ...
[he holds up a black-and-white photo of a man with the caption "Dialing for Dollars"]
PETER: I think my last trip, I found Pat McCormick from "Dialing for Dollars", which Bay Area residents will remember.
[he holds up another black-and-white photo of a man and woman hugging each other (the woman is standing behind the shirtless man to make it appear as if she is not wearing a top]
PETER: And Ann and Ross from "People are Talking", shirtless?
[he shrugs]
PETER: I don't know why. Um, but that's the great thing about the basement, y'know, you never know what you're gonna find. So, I'm gonna start a feature, you write to me, I have a few questions already, I'll go down, try to find the answers. If I can't find the answers in the basement, I'll get help from our librarian or I'll do some other kind of research. And we'll figure out, y'know, the answer to your question and put it on the blog.
[cut to Peter entering the elevator and heading down to the Chronicle's archives section, as he holds up a postcard to the camera]
PETER: So we have three questions today ... From "Lauren D." in Pacifica.
[he reads the postcard]
PETER: "Whatever happened to Van Amburg?"
[he looks up at the camera]
PETER: He was an anchorman from the seventies and eighties ...
[he holds up another postcard]
PETER: Tracy in Aman New York says ... "I vaguely recall a snowstorm in San Francisco when I was six or seven. What years has snow fallen in the city?"
[he holds up another postcard]
PETER: And Mike D. in San Francisco says that he has fond memories of a fake castle at the San Francisco Zoo ... "Did I imagine the whole thing?"
[cut to Peter in the archives section looking through shelves and shelves of manilla envelopes]
PETER: I'm looking for "Climatology, Cold and Snow" for San Francisco ... Um, "Climate" is like, there's a whole shelf up there and then most of this one too.
[he sits down on the ground and pulls out one of the envelopes on the shelf]
PETER: There's an entire one of these just for "snowmen", and like "fog" is broken into a bunch of different files ...
[cut to Peter pulling out another folder, as he reads the label]
PETER: "Cold and snow, San Francisco" ... So, I think this is what we want.
[he opens the folder]
PETER: I feel like Geraldo opening the vault here ... No no, this is good. This is good.
[he takes out a black-and-white photo of the San Francisco airport]
PETER: We got ... Yeah, this is what we want.
[he takes the photo and holds it up to the camera]
PETER: Um, that's San Francisco Airport covered in snow.
[cut to a closeup of the photo]
PETER: [in voice over] Now, let's see. It looks like ... Nineteen Sixty Eight, maybe?
[cut back to Peter, as he puts the photo back in the folder, then pulls out another black-and-white of a street scene covered in snow]
PETER: Ah, great. This is awesome. So, I think we got the question answered.
[he holds up the photo to the camera]
PETER: This is a Nineteen ...
[cut to a closeup of the photo]
PETER: [in voice over] Eighteen Eighty Two photo of snow in San Francisco that I found down here.
[cut back to Peter, as he puts the photo back in the folder]
PETER: I'm gonna look through this file and this file. This is, I think, Bay Area snow, and this is San Francisco snow. And I'm gonna scan some of these photos, I'll look up some articles, maybe, about the snowfall during the times that snow did fall in the San Francisco area. And I'll put it all up on the blog, I'll have a post for you soon.
[cut to Peter walking past more shelves]
PETER: This is the "Personalities" ... uh, files.
[he stops and points to two of the shelves]
PETER: This wall, this wall and the wall on the other side are all ... sometimes national, sometimes Bay Area. Just people who, each one of these files is a person.
[he runs his hand across one shelf]
PETER: And the "A"s are here, looking through ...
[he stops at one folder and laughs]
PETER: John Anderson, the third-party candidate from ... uh, I think Nineteen Eighty. Ran against Reagan.
[he continues scanning]
PETER: Um, looking for Amburg ...
[he pulls out an envelope]
PETER: "Van Amburg, newscaster" ... that's him. So let's see what we've got here.
[he opens the folder]
PETER: Sometimes we've got a few, sometimes we've got one. And ...
[he pulls out a black-and-white photo of Van Amburg]
PETER: Oh yeah, here's Van Amburg overseas.
[he holds up another black-and-white photo]
PETER: Van Amburg doing the newsman pose ... Um, we've got a lot of Van Amburg here. So I'm gonna post these on the blog. I'll do a post, and I think I'm gonna try and track him down too. I'm guessing he's still in the Bay Area, if he's still around. And if he's not, maybe I can find one of his kids who can talk to me about him. So, good question, Lauren. We found Van Amburg, and now I'm gonna go look for the zoo.
[cut to Peter looking through another folder in another section of the archives]
PETER: Bad news, Mike. Uh, didn't find your castle. I didn't even find the petting zoo. I'm not calling you a liar, I'm just saying it's not here ... Um, but I do know some people at the zoo, and if they know where it is, um, if they know anything about it, if they have a photo, I bet they'll give it to me. So, I'm gonna send that email. Later this week, Van Amburg and snow in San Francisco, look for posts on the blog about that.
[he points to the camera]
PETER: And, um, if you have any questions, send them to me.
["Peter Hartlaub, Pop Culture Critic/SF Chronicle, 901 Mission St., San Francisco CA 94103" appears on screen]
PETER: Write it down on a postcard, I know that's old-school, but that's the way I like to do it. Write it on, find the best postcard you can, send it to me. Uh, if you wanna send an email, you can too, but I'm gonna write your email on a postcard, and it's gonna have your name on it, and you never know what postcard I'm gonna use.
[he points at the camera again]
PETER: I have a half-naked one with Dennis Rodman, which I'm probably gonna use next, so use your own ... And send that to me at the Chronicle. I'm gonna take a look for you, I'm gonna try and find some more things. Thanks for the questions, and we'll see you next time.


From sfgate.com:

Remembering the 1973 oil crisis ... Bay Area photos
Posted By: Peter Hartlaub | Mar 02 at 6:20 am

The historical San Francisco snow photos that we posted were extremely popular, and I received several requests in the comments and by e-mail for more archive photos. You're only experiencing half the fun. The Chronicle archives are extremely cool looking (in a serial killer's basement kind of way). When I head down looking for one thing, inevitably I find two or three things that are even more interesting.

So I'm making this a regular feature, taking requests and maybe adding a video element to the series down the line. If you have a Bay Area person, place, thing or event from the past that you want me to look up, write it down on a postcard and mail it to me at Peter Hartlaub/San Francisco Chronicle/901 Mission St./San Francisco, CA 94103. Yes, the U.S. Postal Service is painfully quaint, but I want to use the postcards in the video. Try to keep the question to one sentence, and include your name (first name and last initial is fine) and city of residence. You can also e-mail me questions at phartlaub[at]sfchronicle.com (put the word "archive" in the subject line), but then I'll pick a postcard for you, and who knows what I'll choose ...

This week's archive dive is inspired by the current skyrocketing gas prices. I was feeling depressed last week about the prospect of $4 per gallon gas, so I decided to cheer myself up by looking up Bay Area photos from the oil crisis of 1973. Trust me, things could be worse right now from the consumer's point of view ... .

I was 3 years old during the crisis, which was sparked in October 1973 when members of OPEC started a U.S. oil embargo that lasted nearly five months. (I've also included a few photos from the 1979 oil crisis.)

Your memories in the comments. I'm not expecting the love-fest that came with the San Francisco snow photos, but I'm hoping people will be able to enjoy the images without finding an excuse to bash Sarah Palin or Barack Obama in every other post. Thanks to Chronicle librarian Bill Van Nierkerken, who helped me find the photos. You are a true research ninja ...

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