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Posted on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:03 a.m.

Restored film shows rare color footage of Ann Arbor before World War II

By Nathan Bomey


This screen capture shows longtime downtown Ann Arbor business Schlanderer & Sons in 1939. The footage, restored by Priceless Photo Preservation, comes from a video owned by Goetzcraft Printers' Larry Goetz. It was part of a silent movie commissioned by local business people to promote Ann Arbor in the pre-World War II era.

Screen capture taken from video owned by Larry Goetz and restored by Priceless Photo Preservation

Rare color footage of several Ann Arbor businesses and streets in the pre-World War II era is visible in a newly restored film.

Ann Arbor-based startup Priceless Photo Preservation has restored an hour-long "movie" belonging to Larry Goetz, owner of 112-year-old Goetzcraft Printers.

The 16-millimeter film — shot by Fostoria, Ohio-based traveling film producer John B. Rogers Co. using technicolor technology in 1939 — shows several structures and businesses that still exist in some form today.

Goetzcraft Printers, now located on Phoenix Drive on Ann Arbor's south side, was founded in 1900 as Athens Press. Athens Press was part of a group of local businesses that commissioned the production as "the result of an unusual effort by the Ann Arbor Jaycees 73 years ago to promote the town to non-locals," Priceless Photo Preservation said in a news release.

The film — split into four parts and posted to YouTube — is a silent feature originally called "We're In the Movies" that tells a tale about a "lovestruck couple" and "the imminent arrival of a movie producer" seeking to cost "the next big Hollywood star."

Herb Goetz, Larry’s grandfather, plays the role of the gallivanting movie producer.

Among the local landmarks visible during the movie are Athens Press on North Main Street, Schlanderer & Sons jewelry store on South Main, Wilkinson Luggage Shop, workers at Fox Tent & Awning, the milk-bottling assembly line at Ann Arbor Dairy and the old train station where the Gandy Dancer does business today.

"The movie features glimpses at all kinds of businesses that will elicit smiles of recognition among Ann Arbor townies," the preservation company said. "Even the simple scenes where characters are walking on sidewalks or crossing Ann Arbor streets provide their share of thrills."

Priceless Photo Preservation, founded last year by Rob Hoffman, Hanna Stelman and Eric Hansen, also recently drew attention after it restored rare footage of a University of Michigan football game in the 1930s.

Here's Part 1 of the film. Notable parts: a poorly plowed Ann Arbor street (6:30); Larry Goetz's grandmother, Ila, helps customers at Goetzcraft Printers (7:11); the former Detroit Edison appliance store on Main Street (8:15); an Ann Arbor street (12:04).

Here's Part 2 of the film. Notable parts: workers at Fox Tent & Awning (0:50); Nagler's Fur shop (4:24); Schlanderer & Sons jewelry shop (5:01); Ann Arbor Dairy milk-bottling line (14:01).

Here's Part 3 of the film. Notable parts: Capitol Market (3:40).

Here's Part 4 of the film. Notable parts: a gasoline station and Bendix Brake Service (10:40); Wilkinson Luggage Shop (13:37).

Here's Part 5 of the film. Notable parts: a downtown theater (2:08); a train arrives at the station where the Gandy Dancer is now located (6:45); a plane (12:00).

What else did you spot?

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


Joshua Sager

Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 3:59 a.m.

This is awesome grandfather is in part 4 of this video, at Fiegel's...Herbert Sager, showing the man hats to wear. Pretty moving to see my grandfather when he was 40 years old, and the only video I have ever seen of him. Very cool, and the video quality is suprisingly clear! THanks for sharing.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

Absolutely wonderful that this "film" survived and was restored for modern eyes to behold. Now, on to the inevitable comments: Young marrieds shopping for their new house -- Obviously, this was the Electric Age and the young couple had a wide range of choices for their electric appliance needs. But -- they are not shown shopping for desk top or laptop computers. Where was the Apple Store located in 1939? ;-) Woody Allen may have had a hand in this movie: notice the young marrieds shopping at a furniture store where they're shown several furniture pieces by a man who looks familiar. Just guessing, but that scene apparently shows a crucial part of world history: when furniture salesman Adolph Hitler decided to change careers (1939) and invaded Poland. "Tea Party" -- notice that the hostess takes the coats of about 5-6 women guests and disposes them all in another room - in not more than 5 seconds. Captioning: evidently Ann Arbor cinematographers were wildly inept at applying captions to their movies back then. Back to serious: great work! Invaluable visual archive of American life1 (Well, except this was all staged and performed by amateur actors.)

Jackie Shineman

Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

Like justcurious I recognized all the businesses seen in the video. I was wondering if the appliance store the couple went into after the Detroit Edison stop - only General Electric above the window- was the H.P. Johnson Co. on Fourth Ave which was next to the Capitol Market. That was my dad's store and opened in 1932. And, who is Gary Owens? Loved the film though; thanks for the restoration. I will send the link to all the townies I know who moved to warmer climes.

Robert Hoffman

Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 10:32 p.m.

Gary Owens is a fictional character played by Herb Goetz, the owner of what was then Athens Press and is now Goetzcraft Printers. His grandson Larry is the owner of this particular copy of the film. Good eye. You may be right about H.P. Johnson.

Robert DuBert

Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

The train at the former station in Part 5 is New York Central's "The Mercury". I love the large and elegant Campus Cab. I found the shopping scenes a depressing reminder of how shopping used to be---limited selection, salesmen for everything, and undoubtedly high prices.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

How wonderful! My father will be 92 next month and was in Ann Arbor during the time this was filmed. What an extraordinary treat for him to take this jaunt down Memory Lane! I enjoyed listening to his comments and observations ... and the look on his face was priceless. Like a boy on Christmas morning. Thank you for sharing this priceless peek at the past. (Please don't tag this for aliteration abuse) ;)

Robert Hoffman

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8 p.m.

Does your father still live in Ann Arbor? We're thinking about adding an audio commentary to the video for historical preservation purposes.

Robert Hoffman

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

Thanks for all the positive reaction and pieces of information you've provided over the last few days. It's been both entertaining and informational. It sounds like the readership enjoyed the film as much as we, as a company, did. Just to let you know: Priceless Photo Preservation founder Rob Hoffman will be talking about the film, its history and how its owner Larry Goetz inherited it during Lucy Ann Lance's show tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 28) on WLBY 1390-AM, starting at around 11:30 AM.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

Now that I have seen two, I am amazed at one thing. In 1950 the women were all concerned about the kitchen and what it had to offer. If the house did have a good kitchen it was passed over. This included the appliances. Today? It is the size of the closets and how much space it has. This includes the bedrooms and bathrooms. To me? As long as it is functional? I am good to go. Wow.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

This will give me something to do while I knit. Thanks for the nostalga. By the way, who drives with the top down on a car in the middle of winter?


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

You know what's missing from these videos? Fat Americans. Even the passersby in the film are fit. Ugh. We've become too wealthy and lazy.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

I noticed that one too. Noticed the size of cake slices? Compared to today? Interesting.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 7:15 a.m.

The people driving cars did not stop for people who may be contemplating crossing the street at the cross walks.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:17 a.m.

Awesome, great to see old AA, I certainly recognized a couple of the houses in the 1st video from the west side between main and 7th state road near the airport long before 94 went in. The edison building i remember going there to trade in lightbulbs. Navy reserve building on the corner of division and Ann. i thought i caught a glimpse of Goodyears on main. I especially liked no parking meters; I'm sure the DDA is cringing at all the money that could of been made. Thanks for sharing!!


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.

This is fantastic!!! I keep looking for my house....

Karen Jania

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

For more Ann Arbor and UM related digitized videos, visit the Bentley Historical Library web site: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 10:31 p.m.

Yes....check out the link above....a treasure trove!!

N. Todd

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:48 p.m.

Cool video and restoration from a historical standpoint. Hopefully in my 'more mature' years, I won't be reminiscing about all the neat businesses I've grown up with like Applebee's, Mobil and Bongz &amp; Thongz. At least I'll remember The Parthenon. As a side note: There are obviously five parts to the video, not only four as listed in the article.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

Of some interest, perhaps, is an even older look at Ann Arbor's biggest resident - from 1837, University of Michigan history, with numerous pictures through the years, up to 1920. It took up residence in the frontier town of Ann Arbor - as the author described the city of 2000, claiming 2 newspapers, 11 lawyers and 8 doctors. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It's worth reading for those interested - and it's free.

N. Todd

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 10:09 p.m.

I'm off topic a little but the Project Gutenberg website is great, isn't it? Free eBooks - almost 40,000 of them. That's a good deal. To me, reading old philosophy is more desirable than buying and reading old philosophy. Thanks for the link that's actually related to the story, unlike my comment.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

Wilensons was on Main, Grinnel Bros right next door operated into the 70's I believe. You can see a house left of that, where the Mden is now. I remember when it was torn down in the 60's

Laurel Erickson

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

Seeing the old Wilkinson Luggage on Liberty was fun! Still miss it...

Laurel Erickson

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

(On Main at Liberty, I meant. My excitement overcame me, apparently.)


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

I have a couple of AA Dairy bottles, so it was nice to see a piece of the actual bottling plant. I also had an old oak desk with a decal that said 'Property of Ann Arbor Electric Co.' - I wonder where and when that was. Old pictures of modern cities one knows are always a treat, but the young lady smoking in the living room and shopping for fur coats wouldn't be much approved in modern AA - nor would the stereotype maids and bell hops be.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

I still remember the milkman. Every morning we just go to the one corner of the house and get it out of the slot. Wow.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 12:20 a.m.

Amazing how we notice those things right away now. And I'm glad we do.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

&quot;What else did you spot?&quot; Gallup-Silkworth (gas &amp; Oil), Fiegel's (men's clothing), Grinnell's (pianos), maybe Kilines and The Wuerth Theater, the Allenel Hotel. The plane in the end is really cool. Was that a woman pilot??? The kitchen was exactly like my mother's.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:33 p.m.

I think I remember that one. My mother took us back in Detroit. Wow. Now I have Babs Striesand in my the ones in the corner of my head and help...they won't come out!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

I didn't have the faintest idea what the theater was, but I did notice Warner Baxter was starring in Barricade, and there was a Nancy Drew mystery second feature - The Hidden Staircase.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

I remember going to Detroit Edison to get free lightbulbs.

Laurel Erickson

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

Very cool indeed -- thanks for restoring and publishing!

Tom Teague

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

Cool stuff. But, I expected thirty or forty comments about whether this qualified for a Michigan Film Incentive.

Jim Clarkson

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

1939 — shows several structures and businesses that still exist in some form today. Not if City council has anything to say about it.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

Blast from the past!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:55 p.m. that's some pretty cool stuff!

Bertha Venation

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

This is so cool for us old folks. I remember my Mom telling me how she used to ride the trolley that ran up and down Huron Street. We have some old movies of when grand pappie used to be sheriff in the 1930's, too.

Andy Price

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.

Scooped my Damn Arbor again. :)

Andy Price

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

BY Damn Arbor. Sheesh I'm dumb.

Steve Pierce

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

Got the top down on a snow covered winter day.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

Another reason to go sleigh riding without the horse. It was his fiance...remember? Snuggle up and keep cozy. Those where the days my friend.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

wow. cool stuff. the gandy dancer part is super cool.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

Thanks for sharing! I know mr. Goetz has had these films in his possesion for many years along with many other old photo's of his family business.

Linda Peck

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Wonderful to see this! Thank you!

Ben Connor Barrie

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

I really like the ladies' news paper reading party at 4:05 in Part 1. Some people have posted interesting analysis/discussion of the clips over on Damn Arbor: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Part 5, 1:50 The former gas station on the NE corner of Huron and 4th?


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 12:17 a.m.

It may have been Silkworth's before Casey's. My father always bought his tires at Casey's. He didn't trust &quot;Monkey&quot; Wards.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

Yes! called Caseys


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

That's what I thought.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

This is really special to me as an Ann Arbor native. I am anxious to watch all five parts. My mother would have been 28 in 1939 and I am anxious to see the Ann Arbor she knew back then. So many of the businesses remained when I was a child in the 50's. Thank you for sharing these.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

This is SO cool. Thank you for posting. ... and thanks for the restoration work. Plot is a little thin though.