Episode 4

Jimmy Stewart - Visiting his hometown and the Jimmy Stewart Museum

Have you ever watched "It's a Wonderful Life" at Christmas time? If you have then you will probably love this episode of Talk With History.

Jenn and Scott talk about visiting Indiana, Pennsylvania...not only the Christmas Tree capitol of the world...but also Jimmy Stewart's hometown! Jimmy grew up here and visited his childhood home all throughout his life, including through his Hollywood career years.

Of course we had to visit the Jimmy Stewart Museum and it was such an amazing view in to the man that brought so much entertainment to the world through his movie career (although we are bummed we didn't get to see it at Christmas time).

Join us on this journey through his hometown and share this with other Jimmy Stewart and history fans!

1. Jimmy Stewart - Visiting his hometown

2. Virtual Tour of the Jimmy Stewart Museum

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We look forward to hearing and interacting with you all and we'll talk soon!

Transcript
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greetings and welcome back to the talk

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with History Podcast I'm your host Scott

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I'm here with my wife and historian Jen

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on this podcast we talk about history's

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continuing impact on all of us today

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as well as our personal journey through

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YouTube as we explore record and share

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our history Walks With You The Listener

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so Jen what are we talking about today

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today we are going to talk about

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American Film institute's third greatest

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actor of all time James Maitland Stewart

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or as we would know him Jimmy Stewart

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all right so Jimmy Jimmy Stewart so tell

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me about well like why are we talking

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about Jimmy Stewart today well mostly

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because he's from Indiana Pennsylvania

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and we lived close enough to go visit

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his hometown so where where's Indiana it

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is in Western central Pennsylvania it's

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a small town of about

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thirteen thousand people

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close to Pittsburgh I'd say about an

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hour outside of Pittsburgh okay

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and so what what Drew you to

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going what what brought us out there as

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the walk with history YouTube channel to

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go to India no Scott I'm the host

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because if you don't know I'm playing

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koi my favorite movie of all time is

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It's a Wonderful Life I mean we even

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have the movie poster here in our house

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I'm looking at it right now it's my

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favorite it's not just my favorite

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Christmas movie it is my absolute

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favorite movie so I watch it every year

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and

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I wanted to I've always wanted to visit

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his hometown because he was born there

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he was raised there he came back and

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visited there his parents lived there

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their entire lives and so it was just

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some place he was very connected to

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and I just always wanted to go so so

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give me give me the the crayon version

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of who Jimmy Stewart is where he came

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from what he came up and became known

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for

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so Jimmy Stewart was just a a home a

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small town Western Pennsylvania boy he

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was born in 1908 in Indiana PA and his

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father owned the local hardware store

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and he was just a local boy and then he

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ended up going to Princeton for school

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and it was at Princeton

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that he got into the acting troupe and

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made friends with people like Henry

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Fonda and then made it over to LA to try

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acting and just got

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I would say lucky or blessed but gotten

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some really good movies early on yeah so

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what were some of those would people

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know some of those earlier sure one of

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his first movies was a Philadelphia

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Story and that's what he wants his Oscar

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is his only Oscar he went two Oscars in

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one of his earliest movies in one of his

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earliest movies oh wow and he um he won

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an honorary Oscar as well but the only

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Oscar here everyone for acting was from

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a Philadelphia Story you mentioned

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Philadelphia's story you've mentioned

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It's a Wonderful Life what's in Indiana

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that would bring us out there aside from

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it just being his hometown

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there was a museum dedicated to his life

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it opened in 1995 and on his 80th 87th

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birthday and so we also wanted to see

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the museum and they Indiana he is their

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Hometown hero they they do a It's a

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Wonderful Life

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like celebration every Christmas they

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decorate the town like Bedford Falls and

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and just for the listener picture bed

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for Falls that is what downtown Indiana

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Pennsylvania looks like it's it's pretty

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incredible even walking around there in

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the summertime I thought this looks like

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it's a wonderful life yes it it's just a

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great small town feel and if you watch

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our walk with history YouTube video we

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we walk all through the town to kind of

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give you a feel of what the town was

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like but they opened his Museum in the

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public library on the third floor and

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right beside the library is the

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courthouse and they have a statue out

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there of him as well I think in like his

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Harvey

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attire is what he looked like when he

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did the movie Harvey and so we also

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toured the museum as well so we not only

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walked around his hometown and saw his

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like childhood home but we also went to

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the museum as well yeah so you mentioned

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Harvey is that another I didn't know

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that movie until we went to the museum

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but apparently that's that was a pretty

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big movie of his yeah he made 80 films

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like he's a he's a pretty big actor most

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people really

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like Jimmy Stewart or seeing a movie

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with him in it he's done he has range

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like a wide range of movies that he has

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done he's done a couple movies with

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Alfred Hitchcock

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John Ford he's done westerns

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um and

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Harvey is just an interesting about a

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imaginary rabbit that he sees and talks

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to

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and he kind of gets other people to just

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kind of

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not go along with it but just kind of

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let him have his own

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idea of Harvey and who yeah so so and I

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still haven't seen the movie but if I if

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I remember correctly

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the premise of the movie is he's he all

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of a sudden probably in his 40s has

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starts having this imaginary six foot

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rabbit friend that no one else can see

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and he is he's harmless right his his

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family thinks about getting him admitted

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but he he's he's completely harmless

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he's just a gentle spirit and one of the

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things when I was doing this video is I

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was looking for Clips I always look for

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YouTube clips and I found a clip of him

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it's I think it's a pretty famous clip

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yeah of him talking about how he met

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Harvey

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and again as someone who hasn't seen the

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movie but I've enjoyed Jimmy Stewart

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movies I was floored at how good that

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one scene was and really all it was was

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Jimmy Stewart sitting in an Alleyway

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talking to two people talking about how

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he met this imaginary invisible six foot

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rabbit it was I was absolutely floored

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at how good the acting was so that was a

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pretty big movie for him it was people

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love Harvey it's it's a movie that's

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resonated with Jimmy Stewart fans and if

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you go in the museum they have tons of

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artifacts related to that movie as well

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as other movies but Harvey is a big one

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so so tell us a little bit more for

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someone who has no idea what the museum

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is or what they could see there if let's

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say they live in Pennsylvania or not

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that far away and they wanted to go see

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it what's at the Museum the museum is is

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great we have a whole video dedicated to

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the museum but it goes through his

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childhood his family only

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tree his connection to Indiana and then

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his military career Jimmy Stewart was a

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pilot in World War II

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and he flew over 20 combat missions

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he did publicity films for

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the military as well during World War II

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and he does the reserves in the Air

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Force afterwards and makes the rank of

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Brigadier General and then Reagan

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actually gives him the rank of Major

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General so he's actually the highest

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ranking actor of all time yeah and and I

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mean he wasn't just in the military like

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just kind of for show he was in it yeah

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he did it he flew those missions he's a

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pilot and so then it goes through his

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movie career with a lot of artifacts

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from the different movies and then they

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also have a theater there and they they

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play movies I think weekly or bi-weekly

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they change movies and all of his movies

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so it's really great when you buy your

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ticket not only do you get admission to

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the museum but you get admission to the

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movie yeah I mean it took us three hours

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or so to drive out there yes and it was

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completely worth it yes it was amazing

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like his uh like I said his Oscar's

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there from time to time they have the

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Oscar from a Philadelphia Story on loan

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but they always have the honorary Oscar

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there

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and they have a recreation of his desk

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and a recreation of his childhood

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bedroom

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and I think they have the booth for one

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of his favorite favorite restaurants in

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La where him and his wife would go to

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all the time and uh it was a really

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great experience I have a really great

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gift shop too we bought some stuff from

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there

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um and it was one of our first museums

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that we had ever done and so

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we had posted it online and the museum

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director had contacted me because she

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was like you showed so much of the

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museum so if you watch the video you'll

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see a lot of the museum and she was

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concerned that we had showed

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too much that people wouldn't want to

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come and visit but I assured her in my

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Graduate Studies for Museum studies that

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we had learned that a lot of museums are

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doing these virtual tours now and they

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do them not because people won't come

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visit because people want to be in the

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actual spaces no matter how many

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pictures you get of the Mona Lisa or how

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many times you see pictures of the

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Sistine Chapel people want to be in the

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space and so I assured her that even if

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people do see the museum via YouTube

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there if they want to go they're going

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to go what a virtual tour does whatever

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what a a video on YouTube does is just

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open it up to a whole other audience

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that probably is not ever going to visit

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so someone oversees or someone who maybe

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physically can't make the trip yeah and

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it opens them up to see what is in the

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museum plus it also opens them up to the

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gift shop opportunity so then she was

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she felt pretty

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well assured after that but we also

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noticed too that sometimes museum videos

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can get kind of long yeah so we've

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decided now when we do museums we'll

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we'll Center on a couple great artifacts

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and then leave the rest up to the viewer

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if they want to come and see it yeah and

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and that one that was our second or

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third or fourth video I don't remember

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which one which one it was but it was

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our was our first Museum video and I I

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spent

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way too many hours

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kind of tweaking and doing all this fun

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little stuff because I showed pop-ups of

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the war movies and and his kind of

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promotions for the Air Force and and the

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different and all this stuff and it

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actually turned out really well did but

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then you were learning a lot I was I was

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learning I was learning a lot about how

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to do that and it's but it turned it up

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to like a 30 minute video so and we do

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show a lot of the video but we had we

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had to ask the workers there we did we'd

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always ask for permission yeah so we

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asked him like hey do you mind if we

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film and they said no go ahead and so we

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did that then made the video and posted

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it and shared it and then all of a

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sudden for us we're kind of shocked got

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this little shock to the system we got

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the email from the museum director

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saying hey please take that down that's

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too much and then you kind of went back

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and said hey no there's actually been

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these studies that these kinds of things

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help and we've seen it now that we've

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visited more museums and it's been big

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museums right it sends her documentation

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that proves that um virtual tours do not

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hurt Museum attendance yeah and so ours

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was just a YouTube video but I mean

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we've seen on National you know Park

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Service presidential libraries and

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things like that full-blown in-depth

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detail virtual tours with all the

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descriptions pictures way more than I

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ever could have done

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and people still go still go people want

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to be in the actual space absolutely

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yeah it was for me you know it was just

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a dream come true because I love it it's

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a wonderful life so much and what's very

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interesting about that movie is Jimmy

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Stewart made it after World War II

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so it was kind of he didn't know if he

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wanted to get back into acting he had

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some PTSD from World War II and what the

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person he plays in that movie

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is different than who he was in real

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life he's more like Harry Bailey when

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you think about it he's the pilot he's

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the hero he's the one who went to war

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and he's actually playing someone who

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didn't he's playing someone who stayed

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behind and and so what I really love is

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he's he's not looking for that Glory

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which he personally has

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he's looking to give credit to the

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people who who did the other stuff and

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actually stayed behind and supported and

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that's I mean I love that so much about

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him and that movie yeah now and trust me

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we in this household that's the movie

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that we watched on Christmas Eve before

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everybody goes to sleep so but talk

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about the the rest of the town and kind

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of what else we people can see around

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the rest of the time what we saw when we

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were filming so you will you can see his

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birthplace

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um it's just marked by a boulder now

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it's the the home is no longer there but

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his childhood home where he moved where

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he was like two years old and then his

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family lived there for the rest of his

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life and he lived there all through high

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school and then came back during college

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and would come back and visit anytime he

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came to Indiana is still there and I

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stand on the porch I get all excited so

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you'll see me get excited if we watch

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the video and the crosswalks in town

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have his voice so if you press the

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button to cross the the street it'll say

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it'll be Jimmy Stewart's voice and it'll

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tell you what streets you're on and what

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you're Crossing to so it's so cool yeah

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and that's that's one of the things I do

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in the video is you actually I wandered

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off with the kids and you were just

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standing there filming literally the

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crosswalk button yes just so you could

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get the audio from Jimmy Stewart saying

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you're now Crossing Seventh Street yeah

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um and then I show a pop-up in the video

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and so if folks are curious to you know

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to to see that to see what that's like

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or what it sounds like I encourage you

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guys to go check out the channel and see

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the Jimmy Stewart videos

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there's now there's some other stuff

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that we didn't see so we didn't see the

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church

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um that he there's a Pew there's a

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Stewart family Pew in the church and

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there is his plane out front of the this

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is small Indiana airport and his plane

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is um basically on a stick airplane on a

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stick out front of the airport so we

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didn't see those two things but though

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that's available to you I mean if like

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you said it's so much like Bedford Falls

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that town is so proud of him so one of

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my favorite stories about Jimmy Stewart

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is after he won the Oscar for

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Philadelphia Story

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he he calls his dad the next day and his

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dad's like I heard you won some award or

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something and he's like yeah I won the

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Academy Award and his dad's like well

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send it send it home and I'll put it in

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the hardware store window and we'll

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we'll display it for the town he's like

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okay and it stayed in the window for 20

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years this this was his Oscars his first

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and only yes from 1941 to 1961. if you

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lived in Indiana PA or visited it would

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be right in the front window of his

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parents hardware store which is if you

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go to the museum it's across the street

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it's not there any longer it's a bank

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now

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they have some historic photographs and

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plaques to talk about it but that it was

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right across the street from where the

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museum is in Indiana PA so it's such a

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great I mean he was the hometown hero

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and I really love that the town loved

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him and he loved the town yeah it's it's

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quintessential Small Town Pennsylvania

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and actually one of the other things I

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learned it was completely appropriate

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because of your love of It's a Wonderful

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Life was that Indiana Pennsylvania is

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considered the birthplace of where

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Christmas trees first started coming

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from in in Mass was Indiana Pennsylvania

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so

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um you can kind of picture that in your

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mind right this this small town

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Pennsylvania surrounded by Hills

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you know and there's Christmas Tree

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farms that you're driving in it is

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like I said it's quintessential Small

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Town Pennsylvania

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um it's amazing because we you also have

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a family connection to Jimmy Stewart so

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while we were there I kept trying to

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channel the family connection so we've

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talked about this before but Scott comes

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from a Hollywood history family so his

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great grandfather was a prop master and

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I'm not sure I think he worked for both

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Paramount and Universal

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but he did rear window

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and he did The Greatest Show on Earth

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which Jimmy Stewart's in he said he

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plays a clown in The Greatest Show on

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Earth and rear window he plays the

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photographer and we have a photograph of

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rear window in the house where he's

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setting the windows with the the names

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under the windows you never see that in

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the movie but as the prop Master he's

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setting the windows for with the

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character with the character names that

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they name him him and Grace Kelly name

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Miss torso yes the composer The Pianist

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and then the newlyweds the lonely yeah

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Miss Lonely Hearts Miss Lonely Hearts

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yeah yes and then we have the script

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from The Greatest Show on Earth yeah so

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a prop Master would get a script and

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just write in kind of things that he

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would need to make and do and and since

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that's what's like circus based he we

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still have PR your father still has

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props from that movie in his storage

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from like so we're we're connected to

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Jimmy Stewart well you're connected and

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me through marriage we're connected to

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Jimmy Stewart through Hollywood as well

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yeah no it's it's definitely interesting

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um and in going to Indiana Pennsylvania

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was just kind of this neat little treat

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right you really felt that connection to

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Jimmy Stewart there and I will say that

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that town really does embody that we

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talk about how that town feels like

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Bedford Falls from It's a Wonderful Life

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and the message of that movie is that

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Jimmy Stewart wanted to go out and see

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the world he wanted to travel he he

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always felt like he didn't have he

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didn't do anything with with his life

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but the message of the movie is that he

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made an impact on those around him his

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friends and even though he may not have

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been able to travel the world as he had

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wished he had an effect his effect was

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on those around him

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but the the effect of the one man or

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woman can have on the world through

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friends and family it will Echo for

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eternity and I think that's the message

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of It's a Wonderful Life so just as

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Clarence the angel said in that movie

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remember no man is a failure who has

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friends

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so friends who are listening thank you

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for joining us and thank you for

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listening to the talk with History

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Podcast you can reach out to us on

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Twitter at talk with history

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tell us where in the world that you're

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listening from tell us your favorite

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Jimmy Stewart story and you can find

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more of the podcast over at talk with

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history.com yeah and we really

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um encourage you to visit the museum if

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you're ever around if you love that

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movie go to Indiana Pennsylvania and

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visit that museum it is a great museum

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yeah go visit the museum support your

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local museums reach out to us on Twitter

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and you can find more of the podcast

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over at talk with history.com and we

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will talk to you guys next time thank

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you thank you

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foreign

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[Applause]

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[Music]

About the Podcast

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Talk With History
A Historian and Navy Veteran talk about history inspired travels, their YouTube channel journey, and examine history through conversations with the curious, the explorers, and the history lovers out there

About your host

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Scott Bennie

Host of the Talk With History podcast, Producer over at Walk with History on YouTube, Editor of the Hashtag Historic newsletter.