Episode 66 - Escape From East Germany and Finding Militia Records

podcast episode Nov 16, 2014

Fisher opens the show with a welcome for Extreme Genes' 23rd radio affiliate.  In Family Histoire News, a young officer from Wisconsin who faced down a volley of Confederate fire at the Battle of Gettysburg was posthumously presented with the Presidential Medal of Honor by President Obama.  Since he died without children at age 22, the Pentagon struggled to know who to give it to.  Three distant cousins and their families attended the ceremony, with the recipient being a descendant of the officer's aunt.  Read more about it and see the pictures at ExtremeGenes.com.

Since in the past week we celebrated Veteran's Day and the 25th Anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, it was appropriate that Fisher visited with one guest who was both an American vet, and an escapee from East Germany!  Hear the emotional visit with Wynn Hubrich, who talks about how his family outfoxing the Russians and all that followed their crossing to the west before they could safely make their way to the United States.  Then former National Guardsman Clarence Anspake of Bellmore, Long Island, New York talks about the history of his own unit, and its history as a militia long before that.  He'll share with you important information on militia histories.  You might find one of your ancestors in one!
Then Tom Perry shares information on how you might be able to repair cracked disks, and fix broken VHS tapes, so they can be digitized.  That's this week on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio, America's Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 66

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 66

Fisher: Greetings genies and welcome to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio, America’s Family History Show. I am your Radio Roots Sleuth Fisher where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. I was just reading the other day where family history researchers second only to gardening, is the best time as a hobby; interesting, roots and digging, both of them. Whether you’re interested in researching the past or recording the stories of the seniors in your family, we are here to help. Hey, we are excited to welcome another great radio station to our affiliate network, News Talk KZBI FM 94.5 at Elko, Nevada. We’re proud to be part of Ken Sutherland’s outstanding weekend line-up. This past week we celebrated Veterans Day and a few days before that, a 25th Anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. And we have guests today relating to both of these events. First, in about 6 minutes, Wynn Hubrich, a veteran of the Vietnam era, joins us to talk, not about his time in the military, but his and his family’s astounding escape from East Germany in the early 1950s. The story is remarkable, and we can probably fill three shows on all the details, but I know it will touch your heart as he shares his story. We’ll also find out what his reaction was when the wall came down back in November of 1989 after 28 years. Then later in the show, Clarence Anspake from Bellmore, Long Island in New York, a military historian and veteran of a National Guard Unit that had a lengthy pedigree as a militia unit will talk about researching militia records. What are the best records to find and what might they contain? Clarence will fill us in on that and the fascinating and colourful history of the unit he once belonged to. Then Tom Perry; the Preservation Authority, will have advice on how you might be able to repair discs damaged with scratches and old damaged video tapes that you may have given up on.  Hey, if you have story you’d like to share on the show, drop me a line at [email protected] or call our toll free Find Line at 1-234-56-GENES. That’s 1-234-56-GENES. We’d love to hear from you. You can also reach out through our Facebook page, give us a Like and become a part of our growing community of Extreme Genes Facebook followers. Our ExtremeGenes.com poll for the past week asks the question, “Are you lucky enough to own a diary or journal passed down by one of your ancestors?” I am not among the lucky ones to have one of those, but 53% of you who voted are. Obviously it’s a great gift our ancestors leave us when they write in a journal and then share it with us either intentionally or unintentionally. I think collections of letters can serve a similar purpose. It’s unfortunate to think, but this generation may be the first to leave virtually no letters due to texting and emailing. It’s the downside of our electronic age. Thanks for the votes. This week’s poll asks, “What is the earliest that any one of your direct ancestors died; in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s?” What is the earliest that any one of your direct ancestors died? It’s always sad to see someone leave too early and sometimes you can feel that sadness for the rest of the family when you find the record of their premature death. I think the earliest in my line was 26. Cast your vote now on ExtremeGenes.com and we’ll get you the results next week. It is time for our Family Histoire News from the pages from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. It was quite the family reunion at the White House this past week. President Obama presented the Medal of Honor posthumously, to First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing who died in the Battle of Gettysburg after facing down a barrage of confederate fire. The Wisconsin officer was ineligible for the medal of the time because there were no posthumously presentations. Advocates have pressed for this for 25 years, led by a woman who lives on land, once owned by the Cushing family in Wisconsin. But, having died childless at 22, the Pentagon struggled to determine just who should receive the medal. The honor fell to Helen Ensein of Palm Desert, California, a descendent of Lieutenant Cushing’s aunt. Two other distant cousins from New York and Georgia and their families also attended. The medal is to be displayed at Gettysburg and then later at West Point where Lieutenant Cushing was laid to rest. See the pictures and read more about it at ExtremeGenes.com. And coming up next, this past week mark the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. I’ll talk to a man whose family history will amaze you. He lived in and escaped from East Germany and later became an American G.I. That’s in 3 minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 66

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Wynn Hubrich

Fisher: Hey welcome back to Extreme Genes, family history radio, America’s Family History Show. And you know, this past week we have had so many great events going on. We had Veterans Day and we also had the anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, which separated East and West Germany for twenty eight years. And this brought to mind immediately the story of a man I’ve come to know named Wynn Hubrich. Hi Wynn, welcome to the show! Glad to have you.

Wynn: Hello Scott. Glad to be here too.

Fisher: And this is a man who not only is a veteran of the United States army, but he also escaped from East Germany back in the day. First of all Wynn, how did you feel when the wall came down? Because you’d been in the United States at that point for probably thirty years, right?

Wynn: That’s correct. I felt an enormous amount of emotion. I didn’t ever personally think I would see that happen. I did not ever believe the communists would let go of East Germany, and so when that day happened it was almost disbelief. But when it happened it was an amazing joyous feeling. It was like a freedom day for me for my old country.

Fisher: What did you do day?

Wynn: I was actually working and someone gave me a call, and at first when they told me what was happening I thought it was a joke. I thought they were pulling a joke on me and then I turned on the television set and started to actually watch and monitor the newscasts that were happening around the world. Again, it was unbelievable. I totally had tears in my eyes because we still have relatives, even now and then we had relatives in East Germany that now could come out and we could go visit.

Fisher: And you hadn’t seen them in decades?

Wynn: We had never seen them for about thirty five, thirty eight years or so.

Fisher: Wow! Well, you have the most amazing family history, and tell us first of all a little about the background. Your family has been from the East German side of things, or what was, for centuries. Yes?

Wynn: Yes. That’s correct. My dad was born near the German/Polish border. My mother was born in Northern Germany. So that’s my history. Both parents are German and I’m a 100% German my own self but now a 100% American.

Fisher: Yes you are, in every way. [Laughs] Let’s talk about this. The war is over, your father and your uncle or more than one uncle and many family members were forced to fight for the German army, the German army is done and Russia comes in and takes over your part of the country, which had to be traumatic enough as it was, talk about this big change that went on.

Wynn: Right. Originally, my parents had heard that the Americans were coming towards our part of Germany. We lived in a small town called Rathenow, which is located about 60km North West of Berlin. Berlin having been the headquarters of the Germany Nazi army, and we had heard originally that the Americans were going to come to this part of Berlin, which included our part, but to our dismay the Russians ended up with the Eastern part of  Germany. They divided up in the armistice in 1945 Germany into four parts, an American sector, a French sector, a British sector, and a Russian sector. The Russians for some reason got the biggest portion of it and drew a line called “The Green Line” what wasn’t imaginary, it was a real line between the eastern part of Germany and the western part, or the free sector as we called it. It totally changed our lives because now our family had to live under the rule of communism. And I totally remember as a child, now when that happened I was a baby so I don’t remember the actual events, but I do remember the Russians patrolling our streets, having curfews, watching them parade, watching them patrol the streets with their Russian fur hats and the red star in the middle and their big weapons. As a child that was quite impressive for me.

Fisher: Well absolutely. This had to be a tough economic time as well. How did you eat?

Wynn: You know, that was interesting because the German economy after the war was totally zero. There was no distribution system, there was no production system, there was no economy. My dad was quite resourceful, he had learned some portions of the electrician’s trade and what he did was quite innovative. He would go to the farmers and ask them if he could work for them hooking up power when it was possible or generators or anything in his trade and as pay, they would give him food instead of money. Money was worthless at the time with no economy. And so that was one way he supported the family. He would work for the farmers who were really the only ones that had food at the time, again, the distribution system was broken down and there was no way to go to stores or very little in the stores. There was what they would call a “Black Market” and that was the way a lot of bartering happened, under the table as they called it. It wasn’t in the open. It was illegal but that’s how the economy actually pulled itself out of its bad situation. A lot of people engaged in it. When they had resources of one kind and someone else needed that, then you traded and bartered until you found what you needed. My father was quite resourceful and gutsy. Often he would try to deal with the Russians but often they wouldn’t want to have anything to do with a German economist or anything to do business, unless it was to their advantage.

But let me tell you one or two quick stories. We had in our hometown a Russian encampment, and my dad would go to the Russians in the evening after they had had their evening meals, and would request scraps of food or leftovers and often they would give him broth that they made from a Russian soup called Borscht, which had fat in it. One of the things we couldn’t get in Germany at the time was butters, fats, meat, bacon, anything of fat value and this broth would have that fat in it and then my parents would add either we would get bread or we would add potatoes and make a soup out of it. But it was leftover broth from the Russians. I remember sitting on my dad’s bike to go to the Russian camp to get these leftovers. He would put it in two canteens and bring them home. That was kind of interesting.

Fisher: Wow! Yes.

Wynn: As a child I remember stealing from the Russians. That doesn’t sound very good but it was a survival method. We lived close to a train station where they unloaded coals for the Russians and they would have these heaps of coal along the train tracks and the Russians would not leave those alone because that was precious. They would patrol and they would have one or two guards that would circle these large, large heaps of coal. As children we would time them and once they disappeared on the back side, we would have four or five kids run to grab the coals. We had to run across a field to the train tracks grab them and run back, and then we would stash them before they would come out at the other end again. [Laughs] We earned a penny a coal. My dad gave me a penny a coal as a child when I did that.

Fisher: Oh boy. Just to stay warm, right?

Wynn: Just to stay warm in the homes, right.

Fisher: Well let’s talk about the escape, because you guys did this in the 1950s as I recall.

Wynn: Correct. 1952.

Fisher: Talk about this amazing escape from East Germany for your family and how you made it to the United Sates.

Wynn: My father had relationships to some degree with the US and the information we got was that the Russians would tighten their grip on East Germany, and my dad and my mother had this vision of escaping and possibly even coming to the Unites States of America. My dad then started thinking of a plan. The Russians were quite devious. They would not let an entire family cross from the east zone, which is the Russian zone, into the free zone or the American sector for instance. We were lucky in one way, my mother’s brother, or my uncle, lived in West Berlin in the sector that was the American sector. The Russians would allow blood relatives to cross the border to go visit family at that time. So my mother and my dad could go but all the children had to stay back, or a mother and two children could go or three children, and the father and the rest of the children, that was the Russians were assured that you would return. Because at that time between 1945 ’46 and 1959 ’60 and ’61, the Berlin wall went up. So many of the East Germans escaped or try to escape to West Germany. My dad then came up with a plan, because they wouldn’t let the entire family cross at any one point, we divided up our family. My grandmother, who lived with us at the time, took my two older brothers and moved, actually moved to East Berlin where she had a sister, so that was my great aunt.

Fisher: Right.

Wynn: And my mom and dad and myself and my younger sisters, the two youngest ones, stayed in our home town of Rathenow. At an appointed date in the future we requested a visa or a passing visa as they called it, which allowed permission to go from the east to the west, and my dad formulated a plan that on a certain date at a certain time we would cross into West Berlin into the American sector at two different crossing points. You know, on the day of it, computers that could never happen because they would have cross referenced, but my grandmother applied for a pass with the two grandchildren that she had with her, my two older brothers, and then at that point we crossed from two different points. We had an appointed place in the American sector in Berlin, and once we were all reunited, my parents disclosed to the children who knew nothing about the plan, that we would never return home, would never go back to our house and we had left all our possessions behind.

Fisher: Unbelievable. And from there, what happened?

Wynn: My dad had to declare himself as a refugee, ask for a political asylum in a sense that we had escaped out of the east sector. By then the Germans, the West Germans, the American sector certainly had provided for refugee camps because there were quite a few people that were escaping. So for the first six weeks lived in an abandoned factory that they turned into a barracks of sense, and we lived in a large room with two hundred other people in bunk beds that were about a foot apart from each other. So it was just solid beds, and existed there for six weeks and then we had to be flown out of Berlin because Berlin was an island in South East Germany.

Fisher: Right.

Wynn: To the North German city of Bremen where we lived in a refugee camp for two years. Where then my parents applied for a pass to the United States. We requested that we would immigrate to the United States, and eventually that was granted.

Fisher: And this was all by the time you were what, ten years old?

Wynn: We came to the United States when I was ten years old. That is correct. We escaped when I was eight years old.

Fisher: And dad and mom, how long did they live?

Wynn: They lived to totally enjoy this free country... excuse me... I loved this country and so did my parents, in Salt Lake City, Utah. My dad became a United States citizen with my mother, and then he lived until he was 99 years old. [Laughs] So he had more of his life in the United States then he did in Germany and he loved every minute of it.

Fisher: Isn’t that great. What a great story. Wynn thanks so much for sharing your history with us and reminding all of us why we love our country so much.

Wynn: This is an amazing country and we do take things too often for granted and I hope we don’t. We do need to appreciate the great freedoms that we have of voting, of having rights, of having civil rights, of having a bill of rights, all those things we often take for granted where many millions, even today in the world, do not have that rights, privilege or blessing.

Fisher: It’s been great talking to you. Thanks Wynn.

Wynn: My pleasure. Thanks Scott. Have a great day and a great program.

 Fisher: And I should mention, Wynn was in combat in Vietnam. And coming up next, speaking of veterans, we’re going to talk to another one who served in a National Guard unit that was once a militia unit. We’ll talk about those various records, how to find them, what we might expect to find in those records, coming up next on Extreme Genes, family history radio, America’s Family History Show in five minutes.

Segment 3 Episode 66

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Clarence Anspake

Fisher: Hey, and welcome back to Extreme Genes, family history radio and ExtremeGenes.com. You know, Genies, way back in the day before there was even an internet, when I started working on my family tree, I went on a trip to New York city, was living in Florida at the time, and went to the New York city archives in the middle of a blizzard. It was January of 1982, and the snow was blowing sideways, and the city's pretty much shut down, but since I'd gone to New York just to do research, I went into the city and went to the archive and found myself with my wife the only people in there. And they had about a dozen broken down microfilm readers. And we were just getting started, didn't know a whole lot about it, and eventually came across a census record that showed my great grandfather with a particular household, and at the bottom of the list of the household was an older woman named Catherine Anspake, she was 86 years old, and I figured "Well, this woman must be the mother of my second great grandmother Fisher." Well, as I spoke those words, a woman had just sat down next to me at another reader and she leaned over and said "Excuse me, did you say Anspake?" This was one of those serendipity moments. So I turned to her and I said "Well, yeah, I did. Why?" And she said "Well, that's a very rare name in early New York. I happen to have a friend who's a banker on Long Island by that name, and he's just gotten started." Well, I gave her my information, she contacted him, a short time later I heard back from him about his records, and we eventually tied back and found out we were fourth cousins once removed. And [Laughs] after all these years we're still in touch. Clarence Anspake from Bellmore, Long Island's on the phone with me. Hi, Clarence, how are you?

Clarence: Hi, Scott. I'm fine. How about yourself?

Fisher: Awesome. That was a great day, back in the day when we got together, because we became kind of research partners from afar and found a lot of information, but you went on to retire from your whole banking career to become a lecturer on the Civil War and other military things, which has been, I think, of great satisfaction to you.

Clarence: Yes, it has.

Fisher: This week, of course, has been the celebration of Veteran’s Day, and you being one of my favorite veterans, I thought we'd talk a little about militias, because you have a great background in the history of militias, and they really go back, kind of the beginning of time, don't they?

Clarence: Yes, they really do. I think the concept at least will probably last for many, many more years to come.

Fisher: How early do militias go in the United States, or in what was the British North America at the time?

Clarence: Right in the 1600s.

Fisher: Really? Okay.

Clarence: Yes. Some of those old units long gone still go on through papers, people researching them and everything, and they've never really truly completely gone.

Fisher: And, of course, a militia is basically an organization of local people for the defence of, say, a village or a town, wouldn't you say that's a good description?

Clarence: Yes.

Fisher: Your unit you belong to in militia unit, are all the records available for militia units?

Clarence: Well it depends on the units. Some of them weren't careful workers. Others were and managed to save these things. But I will say this by and large the information on them is great, 71st infantry regiment which was my regiment, when the civil war came they went out to Washington and they did that in ‘61, almost to the day that the war opened. They were commanded by a man named Abraham Wellsburg, and his subordinate was a colonel Martin. These are the ones that went from Washington. They fought in one of the first big battles, the battle of Bull Run, which was a town in Virginia. One more broke out they were brought into the war not as militia but as U.S Military.

Fisher: Regular army.

Clarence: Right.

Fisher: Right. And that often happen with a lot of the militia too, you can see that going back to the revolutionary war records. It's sometimes tough to separate what was the continental army and what was the militia unit.

Clarence: Very difficult job. The only thing that helped was every regiment had to choose another name.

Fisher: Oh? So they used it instead of numbers, you mean?

Clarence: Yeah. The ones over in the 71st were the only ones in the entire country that did not have to change. They thought so much of the number of that unit they just didn't change it. They left that one as it is. It started as the 71st and it ended on August 31st 1993.

Fisher: Wow. So some of you are still around, of course, but you feel certainly a kinship with those who fought back in the19th century as well.

Clarence: Yes.

Fisher: So, what wars and conflicts was the 71st involved in?

Clarence: The times when they fought against the big gangs in the streets of New York. There was the Civil War, the Spanish American war fought in Cuba, and the 71st infantry, the ones that captured San Juan Hill.

Fisher: Wow!

Clarence: After the Spanish American war, First World War and the Second World War. Now after that we had the Cold War. The Rainbow Division contained several units, one of which was the 71st Infantry. They had trouble in the Berlin Crisis of early 1960, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, that was in 1962.

Fisher: So you are kind of the historian then for the 71st at this point, yes?

Clarence: Yes, I am. As a matter of fact they made me president, a Meredith and historian of the regiment.

Fisher: And so how many people have you been able to determine from the records have fought in the 71st over all these years?

Clarence: Let's say 3000, maybe.

Fisher: 3000?

Clarence: 4000 at different times.

Fisher: And so you've documented the various battles they've been in or the wars they've been involved in?

Clarence: Yes.

Fisher: How many are still living from your group?

Clarence: I would say at least 100.

Fisher: So it's withering down?

Clarence: Yes, it is. Unfortunately our veterans of World War II are disappearing.

Fisher: Yeah, very quickly. That's right. Let's talk about researching militias. Now today they would be called the National Guard, wouldn't they?

Clarence: Yes.

Fisher: Was the 71st ever considered part of the National Guard?

Clarence: Yes.

Fisher: So talk about researching records on militia units and the National Guard. I would assume it changes over time. And I've never really done this myself, other than some of the records that were put in, say county histories back in the 1600s. But when you get to the 1800s, how are the records kept?

Clarence: The records were good. They wrote their own histories. That was one of the big things.

Fisher: And that was at the time of the Civil War, basically?

Clarence: Yes. At the time of the Civil War you might find a guy would've taken his booklet, a little booklet, or a little bible, and if there were blank pages in the back they would take these down as notes.

Fisher: Oh?

Clarence: That usually worked too, and it was something they could do quickly, sometimes under fire. Yes, under fire.

Fisher: And have a lot of people found those notes and posted them on the internet where others can find them?

Clarence: Yes.

Fisher: Have you been able to take advantage of that then to add to the history of your unit?

Clarence: Well, I prefer, the thing I enjoy the most is the regimental histories, they are usually around 300 pages. They have that old style paper that turns like a rust color at the different times. But I'll tell you, if you read those you feel like you're there.

Fisher: Oh, I'll bet you do. And then if you read it in the presence. Now I seem to recall back in the day you told me once that you obtained a Civil War uniform from the government. What was that, the 50s or the 60s or something? For just a song, do you still have that?

Clarence: Yes. It was $2.50.

Fisher: [Laughs] And it was a Union one, right?

Clarence: Yeah, it was an artillery jacket, dark blue with red trimming.

Fisher: Unbelievable. I would imagine then when you read a regimental history around that uniform you do have to feel like you're about right there.

Clarence: Right. And sometimes you'll pull out something, you’ll go to one of these antique shows or something, and you'll find something, let's say it will be a photograph, and it's nice to have. And then all of a sudden something falls out of it, and you reach down and picked it up and it says this is Jason so and so who lived and died and what happened to him during the war, what unit he was in and everything else, and oh boy, then you've got it made.

Fisher: And you've done a lot of work with those kinds of pictures.

Clarence: Yeah, oh yeah.

Fisher: Well, Clarence, it's been a joy to talk to you again. You know, I think if they can call Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt cousins when they're 5th cousins, we're not that far from that, we can do the same.

Clarence: I think we can without fear.

Fisher: [Laughs] Great talking to you, my friend. And hope you had a great Veteran's Day, we honor you for your service, and thanks so much for sharing all this information about militias.

Clarence: Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Had a lot of fun, and what the heck, it's not what it's all about, but it's a good portion of it.

Fisher: You are so right, Clarence. Thanks for joining us. And coming up next, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com our Preservation Authority with more tips on preserving your damaged disks, on Extreme Genes, family history radio, America's Family History Show!

Segment 4 Episode 66

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We are back, Extreme Genes, family history radio, America's Family History Show. Fisher here, with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he is our Preservation Authority. And Tom, last week we were talking about how people can actually save damaged disks.

Tom: Right.

Fisher: And this is obviously really important if you're keeping your jpegs on there, your family histories on there, maybe audio recordings of your grandparents, great grandparents. And there's so much to know about this one little topic.

Tom: We got a letter from somebody just last week that asks us about, what is the best thing to clean this? We've told you, don't use toilet paper, don't use Kleenex, because it will hold the dust. They asked about microfiber cloths, and I emailed the gentleman back and said, "Yeah, microfiber cloths are good as long as it’s a virgin towel. Don't clean your car with it. Don't clean your counters with it, and then try to clean a disk."

Fisher: Right.

Tom: I keep myself a Ziploc bag, and I keep my disk cleaning stuff in there, so my kids can't use it to clean the dog or something. So it’s there for me, only for me to use. And a microfiber cloth is good. After you use it a few times, then give it to the kids or give it to the wife for the laundry or whatever, but don't use it on your disk. As we've told you last time, start at the middle hole and work outside. And different kinds of lubricants you want to stay away from. I don't know where this information came from, but I see these countless articles, "Oh yeah, use toothpaste!"

Fisher: Toothpaste!?

Tom: Toothpaste. Exactly! Toothpaste to brush it!

Fisher: Which brand now? We want Crest or Colgate?

Tom: [Laughs] I guess it depends if you want the one that 9 out of 10 dentists recommend or not.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, but Tom doesn't.

Tom: No.

Fisher: And that's the thing.

Tom: Don't use any kind of toothpaste. There's so many other things, like we mentioned last week, use a mild dish washing detergent. Don't use anything that has to be dissolved, because anything that has to be dissolved is going to have some kind of grit in it, and you don't want to do that. If you have some disks, like some people have told us, they have minor scratches in it, you want to use something that's a nice polymer. If you go to a good automotive place, you can buy some polish that they use on cars that use on something like a vet on fiberglass, because it has no grit. It’s just really, really smooth. And you can put this on. And just remember, center to outside, center to the outside. Do not go radial around it or you can do a lot of damage! Be smart and be careful with it. Don't throw disks away! And this is that much more important, back stuff up! Any time you have a video transferred to a DVD or a CD or audio cassettes, anything! If you're doing it yourself, fine, make a copy of it. If you send it off and have somebody else do it, if you have your neighbor transfer facility do it, make a copy. Put it in a safety deposit box or ship it across the country to somebody else who you trust that can keep it in a safe spot in case yours does become damaged. Now one thing we didn't go into last week is, when they're cracked. When they're cracked, they're pretty much shot. The best thing to do if your disk is cracked, look at it on the back side, which is the non labeled side, and if you can see that it’s kind of going into the disk itself and you can almost see a V shape, like the foil was actually separating from the polycarbonate disk, so it’s actually being pulled into two pieces, and that means the zeros and ones are erased, they're not there anymore. So it won't be able to read those areas. If it’s just a very minor crack, you can usually get some clear fingernail polish and put it on it, and that will keep it from going any farther. I've even had people do it with super glue. The thing with super glue is, make sure you lay it flat, put it only where the scratch is, and don't touch it! Let is set for a day. But the biggest problem with 90% of the disks out there, they start reading at the center hole and go outwards. Not like a record that starts on the outside and goes in. So if the crack is there, which is usually where the cracks are, it’s not going to have any information for the DVD or CD player to know what it’s supposed to do. And I'll go into a little bit more details of how to protect these, and also, if you want to fix your own VHS tape at home so you can transfer it yourself. We'll go into that in the next segment.

Fisher: All right, in three minutes on Extreme Genes, family history radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 66

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Back at it for the final segment of Extreme Genes, family history radio, America's Family History Show. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the Preservation Authority. And Tom, last segment, we were talking about disks, in fact, last week. And I had no idea there was so much to it. There were actually ways to restore broken disks. Now we're going to focus on video tapes, because these things, of course there's so many different types from different eras, they're constantly deteriorating. What do we do to save those when they go bad? I guess, are we speaking of tapes in general or specific types? Where do we go?

Tom: Okay. It’s a lot like the DVDs and CDs, anything that's audio only, like reel to reel tapes are a lot easier to fix than you would say a video tape. Now one thing with video tapes, VHS tapes, which are the most prevalent thing out there, they're the easiest to fix. If you can build good models, you can fix a video tape. If you've never built a model, step away from the video tape!

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: Send it to us, or somebody in your neighborhood that knows what he's doing. You need to realize that when the videotape come out of the cassette and goes onto what we call, the helical scan that reads the information on the tape, the outside wraps around a drum, so the part that's hanging out, you don't want to put on that side, because the information won't be read through the scotch tape that you're putting on it.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: So you'll lose that area, plus, if you use scotch tape that has jaggy edges on it, it could catch the head on your machine and rip it off, and then you have a machine that won't play.

Fisher: Wow!

Tom: And good luck finding a new one that will play.

Fisher: Right, because they're so old.

Tom: Oh yeah! You can't buy VHS machines anymore. The only way you can get them is in a combo unit with a DVD player. So you want to take good care of it. So if you're ready to do this, you want to get a good brand of scotch tape, not the stuff at Holler Dollar. And you want to make sure you have a good straight edge razor blade. You don't want to use the dispenser that comes with them. In fact, when I buy the rolls, I don't even buy the dispensers. I buy just the rolls and do it all by hand. You want to get ones that are 1/2 inch wide, because that's how wide a video tape is. So you want to buy the tape, you want to get the single edge razor blades, and then the next thing you want to do is, you want to pull out the tape. If the tape is still exposed on both ends, there's a little kind of like a trap door in the back side if you turn it over and look at the underneath of it. There's a little hole that if you stick like a little pencil in there, it releases the catchers to keep the tape from coming off the spindle. And then just pull out tape, and pull out plenty of it. And you want to use some lint free gloves when you're doing this. Don't use your Home Depot gloves that have that little dots on them. Just get good some lint free gloves. They're usually a couple of dollars maybe five dollars because you don't want t get the oils from your fingers onto the tape, because that will affect it as well.

Fisher: Where do you get those? Art stores?

Tom: Oh yeah! Art stores, any kind of an art store should sell those, because when people are doing drawings with pencil and stuff, they put these on so they don't smear their hand in the art that they're drawing. So pull the tape out. Then you want to get the two pieces of tape that are damaged and overlap them till two good pieces are covering each other. Then put down your razor blade across those two pieces, like about a 45 degree angle, it doesn't really matter, and then hold it down there really, really tight. Then you're going to take your top piece that bad and pull it towards the razor blade and that will take that one off. Then don't move the razor blade. Then you get the one underneath it, do the same thing. So now you have two pieces that will mate together perfectly. Then you want to rotate them over so the shine side's down or the side that was exposed is down, take your tape and go across, passing both sides, so it hangs over each side like about an inch. And usually when I'm doing that, I turn in the two ends so they're easier to hold. Then you want to take your razor blade, and on an angle, put it right along the side of the tape, then the scotch tape which you put down, you want to pull that up at an angle very carefully so it won't have any tape outside the video tape.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: Same thing on the top and the bottom.

Fisher: Because it could catch, right, inside the machine?

Tom: Exactly! And it could actually stick onside the tape when you roll it in. So you want to be careful. You want to take your time and do it right. And then once you do that, you're pretty much good to go. There's tips and tricks on our website. If you don't understand something, please email us at anytime and we're more than happy to answer your questions.

Fisher: Thanks Tom, that's great advice. And of course, when you're done doing that, get it digitized!

Tom: Immediately!

Fisher: We have learned a lot today from not only Tom, but our guest Clarence Anspake, from Bellmore, New York, and Wynn Hubrich, who's family escaped from east Germany, as we celebrate the twenty five years since the Berlin wall came down. Take care. Thanks for joining us. And we'll talk to you again next week. Remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


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