Grandma Penner’s VCR: Rewinding ‘Dr. Zhivago’ Since 1988


Grandma Penner’s VHS copy of the Siberian epic film Dr. Zhivago has been rewinding in her VCR since the late 1980s and her grandchildren, now grown with children of their own, are excited to hear it’s now nearing completion.

“Just wait now children,” said Grandma Penner back at a Christmas ’88 get-together. “As soon as tape 2 is done rewinding, we’ll all sit down, munch on some reischa, and watch this film as a family.”

Forcing young people to watch ‘Dr. Zhivago’ has long been a Mennonite tradition, as the story offers many parallels to the Russian Mennonite experience.

“All my uncles and aunts were sent to the Siberia during the Revolution,” explained Grandma Penner in the spring 1992, as the tape continued to rewind. “Julie Christie’s character is the closest thing to a Mennonite you’ll see in a Hollywood film.”

Penner still waxes poetic about the day she bought this VCR.

“It was the summer of 1987. Everyone I knew had Betamax players, but I thought that was a little too worldly for Blumenort, so I went with a VHS player,” said Penner. “The elders weren’t really in favour of it. I was one of the first people in town to get a video cassette player.”

Once the cassette is done rewinding, which Grandma Penner hopes will be in a month or so, she’ll watch the film with her grandchildren, after nearly 30 years trapped in her basement waiting for that excruciatingly slow VCR.

“I might make them stick around to watch ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ as well,” said Grandma Penner. “I hope I can get that one rewound before the kids turn 40.”

(photo credit: by Listener42/ CC)

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