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Buffalo-area family’s films yield treasure trove of memories for all

The films capture images people, places, and traditions from Buffalo’s heyday, which stand as memories still cherished by many.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Films produced and images captured by a home movie buff from South Buffalo generations ago are now being enjoyed thanks to the effort of his grandson.

Paul Kimaid owned the Kimaid and Mattar clothing store on Seneca Street until it closed in the 1980s. But along with running a business and raising a family, he had passion for filmmaking.

“Every birthday party, every graduation, every Christmas,” recalled Kimaid’s daughter, Betty Romeo, of her father and his ever-present film camera.

Kimaid bought his first camera in the 1940s, and while film cameras were common among families during the post-World War II era to capture life’s special moments, Kimaid took to his hobby with zeal.

He filmed events around South Buffalo and produced several short films starring members of his family during the 1950s, long before anyone thought of reality TV.

The genres included comedies, mysteries and dramas.

“It just became his passion,” recalled Romeo. “And we kids were just used to always being on camera.”

She also remembered that her father won several awards from regional film clubs for his efforts.

“Every time we woke up in the morning and there was a new trophy on the mantel, we knew he’d won another,” she said.

The Cecil B. DeMille of South Buffalo

Credit: Paul Kimaid

“He would feed us the lines to say as he was about to film,” recalled Robert Kimaid, Paul’s oldest son. "He was like the script writer, producer, director, and the camera man.”

Robert says that after his father shot the reels of film, he would send them off to the Eastman Kodak company in Rochester to be developed, and that when they returned, the real work would begin.

“Then he would edit it and do the splicing and moving things around, making it the way he wanted it,” Robert said.

Some of the films were up 17 minutes in length.

Remembering the clunky equipment and lights his dad would use, Robert quipped, “he’d be absolutely amazed by what you can do with a cell phone today.”

“It’s fun to watch the progression of how his talent grew and the quality of the productions changed and grew to improve over the years,” said John Romeo, Betty’s son and Paul Kimaid’s grandson.

Romeo, who owns a video production and graphic design firm in Virginia, embarked on an effort to collect all the films, which had become scattered in the basements and attics of various family members over the years following his grandfather’s death in 1989, and to sort, digitize, and then upload them on a YouTube channel to preserve them  and make them accessible to his family.

The channel “Paul Kimaid Presents” currently includes 122 films.

“I honestly didn’t think there’d be much interest in these outside of my family,” Romeo said. “But the response I’ve gotten from friends and even strangers who are finding this stuff is that they’re just blown away by it. People are connecting with this family even though it's not theirs.”

A slice of Americana

Credit: Paul Kimaid

Now in their golden years, the Kimaid children, who all live within a mile of each other in Orchard Park, realize that while they were once the stars of the show, that may no longer be true.

The attraction, they believe, is what anyone viewing the films now sees around them.

There are vintage shots of downtown Buffalo and other parts of the city when it was in its heyday, and had more than a half-million residents.

“I think it’s just the history you see,” said Ron Kimaid, the youngest of Paul's three children.

“You can take, for example, a film from 1953 and you’re like, ‘Holy cow! Look at that car. … Look at that stove, look at that refrigerator. … I remember that toy.’…Things like that are precious to people.”

Indeed, because anyone watching these films from a bygone era might not be just looking at the Kimaid family.

They may be looking at their own.  

And they may be remembering the times (as captured in the Kimaid films) when their favorite uncle came home from serving overseas, or a trip to Crystal Beach on the Candiana to ride the Comet, or dancing the jitter bug at the annual South Buffalo Days in a poodle skirt and saddle shoes.

"I think that people can identify with those movies and identify in their own life," Betty said. “And I think that everyone has those has those memories somewhere in the past and they can relate to it when they see it.”

Timeless memories

Credit: Paul Kimaid

It is memories which bind families over time, especially around the holidays, whether those memories were made in an old house that still stand in South Buffalo, or in any one of a million others like it across America.

Captured in time through the passion, and the lens, of a long ago fellow named Paul Kimaid.

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