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                                 Reprinted with the permission of the author: Ven Houston
                                   Originally printed in issue No. 54 of the "Burwood Bulletin"

            It's Saturday again. Surely a week cannot have passed since I was last upstairs in the 'blo-box' cranking the
            handle of a silent-movie projector? My heart swells with gratitude for the young men who have lately taken me,
            aged 9, under their wing.  I mean the two projectionists, who, every Saturday night, screened films at the Old
            Mechanics Institute Half in Norwood Road (now Toorak Road).

            They travelled by tram, carrying the program to be shown that evening in several metal containers, each
            holding 1000 feet of film; there were some 16 cans or more, bound in two bundles with rope.  These 'cans',
            perhaps one and a half inches deep and 10-12 inches in diameter, were taken to the Mechanics Institute, where
            there was a long trestle table, with winding apparatus, which joined the reels together, using amyl-acetate and
            a little press for the purpose. The big, comprehensive reel was then placed in a large box, suspended from the
            ceiling of the projection-room and the film fed Into the projector immediately beneath.

            The room itself was completely lined with flbro-plaster sheeting for fire safety reasons.  The film was highly
            flammable, 35mm wide, and was drawn past the lens of the projector by twin ratchet wheels at the rate of 14
            frames per second.  1000 feet of film took about 10 minutes to screen. (Safety film was not in use for years to

            Feature films were usually in eight parts, each of 1000 feet, and occupied the latter part of the evening; after
            interval for one hour and twenty minutes.  The first half was taken up by a Gazette, or a Pathe ' Eyes of the
            World' - later with the advent of sound, ' Eyes and Ears of the World'.  There were often pictorial representa-
            tions of overseas events, which had occurred months before.  Then followed a 'Serial'; 20 minutes of mystery
            or suspense, invariably leaving the hero or heroine in some impossibly dangerous situation.  One or two titles
            spring to mind, vis 'The Veiled Mystery•, ' Riders of the Purple Sage', and 'Elmo the Fearless•.

            A two reeler comedy came next, featuring a ·comic-cuts• personality - Ben Turpin, Larry Semon, Charlie
            Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, Marte Dressier, Polly Moran, The Key Stone Cops or Harry Langdon.

            The Illumination was provided by electricity and carbon •pencils' .  Ume-light was superseded and a relic of
            past times.  A high amperage was necessary to activate these carbon pencils, one being 5/8" diameter and the
            other about 1/4" only.  When they were manipulated by a  series of knurled knobs,so that they came into
            coincidence, there was a frightening hissing sound.  The candlepower was so intense, that to observe the light
            directly would cause permanent eye-damage.  To prevent this, the light could be viewed through deep red
            mica, for adjustment purposes.

            This method also caused high temperature In the bio-box, relief being provided by a large hinged section of the
            back wall, which could be raised to the night sky.

            Next to the movie-projector stood a magic-lantern on which advertising slides were shown for some minutes
            before the 'pictures• began.  These slides were very much localised in as much as almost every local retail
            shop was represented.  Ali advertising was under the control of Val Morgan & Co,  The slides were 4"x4", made
            of glass, and ifleft in too long, would crack with the heal.  They were inserted by means of a wooden rod, which
            was designed to push a new slide in, then to withdraw the old one. One could therefore view fora few seconds,
            both slides simultaneously, making nothing of either.

            Cranking the projector required expertise, though not of a high order.  It was essential to overcome the initial
            Inertia of the complicated system of rollers, knobs, sprockets and so on.  Thereafter a firm, steady movement
            was required so that the film passed over the lens at regular speed.  If one had previous experience in turning
            the (much larger) crank of a milk and cream separator it would have been an advantage. Ironic cheers greeted
            each and every break-down and gave the audience an opportunity to resume its caramels and peanuts.  Should
            the break be of a long duration, the lights would be switched on.

            Finally, a long walk home, raining or not, along unmade roads with no footpaths and no street-lighting.
            May next Saturday please come around quickly!

            A  man named Morton ran this primHive picture business which was later taken over by a  Mr. Hodges (or
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