FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Okanagan historian Francois Arsenault says that a viewer of his video identified the driver of a truck that was a part of a mystery footage reel filmed near the Alaska Highway given to him by a viewer of his YouTube channel.
The driver was a 17-year-old employee of the Don Gibson company out of Fort Nelson, who appeared in the final 15 seconds of the video.
Arsenault didn’t reveal the employee’s name to Energeticcity out of respect for the individual’s privacy. Still, he said it’s identifications like these that are one of his favourite parts of film collecting.
“That’s the fun part is when somebody identifies someone, and this is not the first time I’ve had this happen about a half a dozen times so far with other reels, not necessarily here in B.C.,” Arsenault said.
Arsenault says about a year ago, a reporter in Cadiz, Spain, wrote a piece on another reel of mystery film from 1954 that Arsenault had collected from an estate sale in Chicago.
The film featured two small kids, a boy and a girl. The young girl could be seen getting a piggyback ride on the boy’s shoulders in the film.
The article went viral, and the young girl, now a grown woman, was identified and reached out to Arsenault.
“Her brother, unfortunately, passed away 20 years ago. When she contacted me back, we had to use translation because my Spanish is terrible,” Arsenault said.
“She indicated to me that the family had no photos of the kids growing up, and it was eight or nine children. This little piece of footage and a couple of screen captures I did for her was all they had now,” Arsenault continued.
“That to me is worth everything.”
Arsenault says he began collecting film reels to keep his skills as a documentary cameraman sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic but plans on eventually giving the films to museums.
Areas in the Alaska Highway mystery film reel that commenters have identified include McDonald River, Liard River, Toad River, and Whirlpool Canyon on the Liard River.
To see more of Arsenault’s work, check out his YouTube channel here.
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