Dan Buckanaga was emptying the return bin at the Duluth Public Library last week when he spotted an oddity. “I thought it was a book on disc,” said the library technician.
It was a standard 8mm movie on a reel, a media format created in the 1930s. “I’d never seen one before,” he said.
It came with a Post-it note: "Sorry, checked this out when I was 14 and we moved. It is 40 years overdue but better late than never."
The library removed 8mm films from circulation in the 1990s, said Byron Johnson, head of circulation. So, had this been sitting in a time capsule? Basically, yeah.
Randall Brody, now 54, found the copy of “A Trip to the Moon” earlier this year in his shed, stored in a box, inside another box. He and his brother checked it out on Sept. 2, 1980.
“At first, I didn’t know what to do with it, thinking they don’t even want it back. … It might have some value, maybe for a collector,” Brody said.
“A little over a year ago, we got rid of overdue fines. He got off scot-free,” Johnson said with a chuckle.
And that may have aided its return.
While Brody was willing to pay — he included his contact information and name on the Post-It — he knew the library no longer charged late fines. But, he figured returning it would make for a funny anecdote — and he was right.
Brody recalled it was the second or third time he and his brother checked out “A Trip to the Moon,” before they’d moved to North Dakota. “All the chaos of that, it just never got returned,” he said.
They moved back to Duluth a few years later, but Brody only recently returned to the library as a card-carrying member. So, last week, he slipped the film in with another library return.
Buckanaga doesn’t think it would’ve been an astronomical overdue fee, maybe 25 or 30 cents a day. At a certain point, the person is billed for the cost of the item. Though when Buckanaga first started at the library in 2007, overdue charges were $2 a day for VHS and DVD.
“I'm glad we reduced and now got away from that punitive fine structure,” he added.
Of standard 8’s, Brody recalled, it was really common to have the film break on you. “We had a splicing kit at that time. … You’d splice it off, add a piece of adhesive, clamp it down and patch it. It was a normal thing,” he said.
Johnson was unsure if they could view the film today; the library’s old projection room is now a set of bathrooms.
The film will probably end up in Johnson’s personal lost and found “museum” on his desk along with a lamp base with horses, a kid’s unicorn bike helmet, a Punisher belt buckle and solar eclipse glasses.
As for Brody, he now watches films by streaming.
Watch "A Trip to the Moon" on YouTube: