Jim Thorpe, known for videotaping hundreds of Carson City events over the last 15 years, got his first 8 mm camera during an annual field training with the Nevada National Guard about 1950.
"I got paid and I went down and bought the camera for $27 in a hock shop and it broke me," he recalled. "We didn't get paid much in those days."
Thorpe, 84, was at the Carson City Library on Friday to see the first of "The Jim Thorpe Collection," a series of DVDs with two or three of his videos on each. The library has added the DVDs to its audio-visual collection.
"It makes me feel good to know that these tapes are gonna be saved for future generations to look at," said Thorpe. "They'll say, 'Look, I had hair.' A lot of them that I taped don't have hair now."
About 2,000 VHS tapes, stacked high in Thorpe's garage, are being transferred to DVDs by Mickey dee Jones of NDC Digital Media. They'll be available for checkout from the library.
"There are some of the most interesting things I've ever seen on those tapes," Jones said. Thorpe filmed Christmas tree lightings, inaugurations, symphony concerts, the Governor's Ball, the opening of the Legislature, countless meetings and many Nevada Day parades.
The collection had been offered to the library in the past, but there wasn't enough room for the thousands of bulky video tapes.
"Once the DVD format came into being and we could compress all that videotape we felt we could accept the collection," said Sally Edwards, library director.
The Carson City Preservation Coalition is paying for the transfer from video to DVD.
"People were talking about doing something with the collection, but it was going nowhere," said Eileen Cohen, president of the coalition. "And Jim is an old man so it had to be done. We just decided to make it happen."
She said they've had some good-sized donations to support the collection but they need more. Anyone who gives $100 will get a copy of the "Oral History of Jim Thorpe."
It's important to save the images from the old VHS tapes before they fade or turn black, said Thorpe. Guy Rocha, state historian and Carson City Preservation Coalition vice president, agreed.
"Videotape is going to be an obsolete medium in the foreseeable future. We're state of the art right here."
Thorpe started filming public events in the late 1980s after the camcorder became available. Eight-millimeter tape was too expensive at about $8 for 50 feet, he said.
"But you can get a tape for $2 and you can tape over it if you screw it up," he said.
He loves looking through the camera.
"Just like they do in Hollywood - I'm makin' movies," he said with a grin.
Unfortunately as his age has progressed his arms and hands have gone numb.
"Nature's taking its course with me. I can't hold my hands still any more. I don't think I'll be doing any more taping."
But the "Jim Thorpe Collection" will immortalize his work, just as his videos have so many Carson City residents.
"I hope it lasts for several hundred years so people can look at these discs and see what people looked like hundreds of years ago," said Thorpe. "Will they last that long?"
"Oh yeah," answered Jones. "You can play a DVD 100,000 to 200,000 timesa if you treat it with respect."
"They'll outlast us, I guess," said Thorpe's wife of 56 years, Mae.
Contact Karl Horeis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
You Can Help
Donate to help turn Jim Thorpe's 2,000 VHS tapes of Carson City events into a collection of DVDs available for checkout at the Carson City Library. Send checks to the Carson City Preservation Coalition, P.O. Box 2358, Carson City, NV 89702. For more details, call 882-3751.