A 20th Century Pied Piper of sorts

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Fade in: small, American Midwest Town. Melton Barker walks into town, film kit in tow.

So it went in at least 40 towns across the country, starting in the 1930s and through the 1970s. Barker would enter a town looking for a cast of children for his new movie The Kidnapper’s Foil, offering some screen time — for a small fee, of course.

Small-time scammer he may have been, but his work is now being sought out as a cultural time capsule. At least one octogenarian is thrilled by the recovered footage, “‘It’s been exciting at the senior center,’ she said, laughing. ‘They consider me a celebrity now.’”


Caroline Kangas calls both Seattle and San Francisco home (though she currently resides in the latter). She recently received a mouthful of a liberal arts degree from the University of San Francisco and can be found selling pirate supplies at 826 Valencia or wandering the streets with her diva of a french bulldog, Elle. More from this author →