September 4th…“WERE YOU A MEMBER OF A SERVICE CLUB WHEN IN HIGH SCHOOL?”
I have always been happily “addicted” to a good story. Therefore, it’s easy to see why Hollywood, with its magical ways of stories on film, has had me spellbound with so many great sagas viewable on celluloid over the years.
My love for those good stories and movies culminated into an enjoyable experience in my 1966 – 67 school year. In my beloved hometown of Kiester, Minnesota, we had a six year High School. So, as I entered into my 7th Grade year of High School, I was eligible for membership into what was known at the “Projectionist’s Club”. For my children and grandchildren’s sake, I’ll help you young ones understand that the club I belonged to was a necessity in our school life long before any of today’s high-caliber, digital technologies took over our common culture of life in media. If a school classroom wanted to see an educational film (or even an older Hollywood movie), the only way it could be shown to the students was by use of a machine known as a 16 millimeter Film Projector.
The 16mm film itself was wrapped onto a large metal reel that was clipped onto the front of the projector and an empty metal “take up” reel was at the back of that movie machine. The concept was to thread that film through a variety of geared spools that moved the film along to pass by a strong light source that then shot the image through the projection lens and up onto a giant white screen at the other end of the classroom. The adult mentor of our “Projectionist’s Club” was our highly respected and good-natured High School Principal, Mr. T. D. Tveten. Under his wise tutelage, Mr. Tveten patiently taught us youngsters how to properly thread that film along the many geared spools and snap clips that would eventually allow the film to exit out the back of this magical device and be wound up onto the “take up reel” at the back of this impressive conglomeration of nuts n bolts. Later models of film projectors had an “auto-load” feature that could be pressed down, at the first sprocket gear, and the film would load itself through the rest of the projector.
Having inculcated us with the rudiments of film projecting, Mr. Tveten then sent us out into the various classrooms of both Grade School levels and High School to now be a special cog in the mechanization of education in showing movies. I can only speak for myself, but I, for one, felt honored and special to be “chosen” as one responsible for bringing education and/or entertainment to the classrooms of our great school via our knowledge of the Bell & Howell 16mm movie film projector. And, if the classroom we were heading to didn’t already have a white projection screen in their room, then we’d carry along a portable screen that folded out to a tripod setting for the movie to be projected onto. The movie projection screens were usually quite large and white. The surface of the screen, itself, was aluminized to reflect the film image more brilliantly. Some movie screen surfaces were even impregnated with tiny glass beads for more brilliance in the image of the film being shown.
In 1967, upon our family’s arrival at our new hometown of Battle Ground, Washington, I eventually joined the Projectionist’s Club at Battle Ground High School. For one class period per day, it was my duty (along with fellow club buddies) to transport our movie projector on a rolling cart across this very large campus for showing films to various classes. Our mentor, in this film showing adventure, was our teacher, Mr. Earl Harmon.
On one fateful day, I had a “projector pal” coming with me on a film showing across campus from the Old East High Building. He was an older classmate by the name of Gordy Ostriem. Gordy was always fun to be around. He was gregarious, with a great sense of humor and ohhh did the girls ever go “Gah Gah” over that handsome young buck. I think, in another life, Gordy could’ve been a Hollywood producer by the way the girls flocked around him hoping he’d ask them for a date! 😉
As we were returning the cart and projector back to the Old East High Building, Gordy and myself stopped and chatted at the bottom of the stairs just inside the west entry. We both knew, well and good, that proper protocol required that we first carry up the movie projector and then return to the bottom of the stairs for the rolling projector cart to carry that up last. Alas, when you put two teenage brains together, ya barely have one full brain to think with. As a result, we two brainless boys decided that we’d “save time” if we just carried the cart AND the projector (resting loosely on top) up the stairs at the same time. NOT!!!!
The “double duty” climb up those stairs began with each of us carrying his respective side of the cart with the wobbly (and expensive) film projector on top. One of us boys made a wrong move and, in the blink of an eye, the expensive movie machine flew off the top of that cart and landed at the foot of the stairs with a horrendous CRASH!!!! It was just like slow-motion in the movies as we saw the projector begin its descent back to earth!!! We were both terrified as to what was going to happen to us now!! And, to make matters worse, this old building had the loudest echoing hallways. That nasty crash was heard for “miles” down that hall. Sure enough, teachers, students and nearby office secretaries came out to see what in the world just exploded in what was , a few minutes ago, a silent sanction of learning repose.
The worst was yet to come. Our mentor/Projectionist Club Director (Mr. Harmon) came out of his classroom, at the top of those stairs, just seething with anger because of what us two dangerous dimwits had just done!!! “What in the world possessed you two to think you could keep that cart level up those stairs???” Trying to tell him our time saving idea was only fuel for the fire as a ton of “humble pie” had to be eaten that day by this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!