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In The Pipeline: Mrs. Greer saves the good old days

October 01, 2012|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy Chris…)

Last week, I wrote about Leroy Jauman after we visited the home on Eighth Street where he was born, the abode with those two tall, slender palm trees in front of it. His dad, Andy, planted those trees in honor of his son Leroy's birth back in 1924, and that they still sway in the ocean breeze is a marvelous thing: a symbol of everlasting parental love.

But the day we met there, Leroy tantalizingly shared some information about another piece of local history that goes back to his youth: a movie that was made by a teacher at what today is Dwyer Middle School (and back then was known as Central Elementary School).

Mrs. Elinor Greer was the teacher, and in 1937, when Leroy was 13, she decided to shoot a film as part of a master's degree she was in the process of working toward. It ran 40 minutes and was titled "The Air Mail Saves the Day." She cast Leroy, whom she considered her teacher's pet, to star as "Leroy Brown," a bit of a hellraiser who must find a way to help his family find money to pay the mortgage, lest they lose their house

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It's a storyline that could have easily been ripped from today's stale-economy headlines, and in the film, Leroy decides to enter an essay contest that promises a big payout.

As Jauman described to me, the film was shot all over Huntington Beach and captured rare footage of the oil wells, Pacific Electric Red Cars, Main Street and more. But when he said he had a copy of the vintage film and was willing to share, it almost seemed too good to be true.

However, when I met him and his former classmates from Huntington Beach High School, class of '42, recently for lunch, there was the VHS tape, brought by his friend and classmate Rosemary Robinson. When I arrived back home and popped it in the player, I was genuinely taken aback by what I saw, and thoroughly impressed with the efforts of Mrs. Greer.

The film is silent, and title cards are interwoven throughout, helping to advance the narrative as we see a teenaged Jauman and his classmates chewing the scenery for almost 40 minutes — an epic for the time. The title cards appears to be typewritten pieces of paper simply filmed by the camera operator, as there were obviously no optic effects available for the class.

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