Reno man shares rare footage of FDR

RENO, (Nev) KOLO These days photos and videos and selfies from your phone capture just about every moment. But 80 to 100 years ago, not so much. One Reno man says his grandfather was the exception when it came to capturing history. The rare footage of FDR has historians excited. But it probably should never have been taken at all.

Franklin D. Roosevelt - Thirty-second President of the United States, Photo Date: 1944 Photo: Leon A. Perskie

Film footage of pictures of what appears to be the 1930s of downtown Reno. You can recognize the courthouse, and even the Virginia Street Bridge. Some of that footage appears to be a military parade of some sort--all taken by Reno resident Fred Hill.

“He was the bookkeeper for the family business, and they would come out every spring and come here and travel around,” says Richard Hill, Fred’s grandson.

Hill says his family came from Brooklyn; his great grandfather, August Hill, appears in a picture in front of their piano store.

August's brother Bill, seeking a divorce, came to Reno, which at that time had a residency requirement of only 6 weeks to make the legal action happen. He encouraged his family to move out west That's what they did, starting their own dude ranch, and a motel where the Peppermill now sits. All captured by Fred Hill's camera.

“They claimed to have the largest herd of Palominos in the world. So they were real active in the rodeo and they shot a lot of rodeo parades and the rodeo and stuff,” says Richard Hill.

All the footage captures an area that has long since passed. Hill says back in the 1980s he had to transfer it to something besides film. Loaning the footage to a local TV station for a program it was producing, he stumbled across some unique footage of the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, walking.

“If he were to come to Reno, you would shoot it just because we are here and it is part of the event,” Hill explains on how his grandfather probably took the footage.

Hill says his grandfather was at the White House for the Easter Egg festivities around 1935 when he took the pictures. Hill suspects Fred didn't know about the rules of what pictures were allowed and not allowed to be taken at that time of the president.

While all of us will see still pictures of FDR, those pictures don’t elaborate. FDR was a survivor of polio, and needed braces to walk. At the time, footage of him walking would have made him appear weak at a time when the United States needed to look strong. That's why this footage is so rare, and Hill decided to donate it to the FDR library.

“Contacted them and they were kind of be serious. And then I got back to them a little later and they were interested,” says Hill.

The never-released and rarely-seen footage was made public late last month by the museum. It is on display in Hyde Park, New York.

In the meantime, the grandson has pictures of his Reno family's own history--from a car rally at the Hill and Sons Motel, to the family compound.