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By Ross King

            In 1970 I met film exhibitor George  The Ashril was set up with a
          Williams who ran the show at Toora,  Raycophone plant, so Lou had the
          South Gippsland. George was in the  machines in storage, intending to do an
          throes of winding up his cinema   upgrade, but had never actually done
          interests and he offered me a set of  so. Realizing that he never would, he
          German-made AEG (Allgemeine       let George have them for his Toora
          Elektrzitats Gesellsehaft) 35mm   show.
          projectors. Having always appreciated  A chance meeting in 1970 gave me
          the high engineering and design   an insight into the strange, early years
          standard of German equipment, I   of what were now my AEG projectors.
          bought them.                         The man I was introduced to, the
            AEG had been manufacturers of   late Sam Cylich, had brought them to
          projection and cinema equipment from  Australia. Sam was born in Poland
          the silent era. They introduced   around 1920, and like so many of us,
          advances such as the conical shutter on  developed a great interest in cinema
          their 1927 Theatremachine. The    and photography.
          machines I bought, the Euro M2 from  When Germany invaded Poland in
          the 1940s, with barrel shutters and  1939, Sam was interned in Germany.
          forced air-cooled film gates were  He survived the war years, and when
          probably their last model.        the POW camps were liberated the plan
            As was common with European     was to return internees to their
          projectors, one machine is a left-hand  countries of origin. Sam knew that the
          projector, the other a right-hand  Russians now occupied Poland, so he
          machine suitable for a one-man    wisely shortened his Polish name to
          operation. Having been manufactured  Cylich, and by claiming Germany as
          during the war years when metal was in  his homeland, was able to stay there.
          high demand, the projector pedestals  Sam settled in Velden, north-east of
          are made of pre-stressed concrete.  Munich, where he operated the local
            The company is still a major    cinema, the first home of the AEGs.
          manufacturer. For example, the    They had been a gift to the town
          electrical traction machinery on  cinema from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s
          Melbourne’s trams is from AEG. They  propagandist, for the purpose of youth
          are also known for domestic appliances.   ‘education’.  Much of Velden, including
            I suspected that these projectors  the theatre had been taken over by the
          would have an interesting history, but  dictatorship and utilised as a Hitler
          just how interesting - their time in  Youth Movement training camp.
          Germany - I was not to learn until after  Sam became restless in post-war
          a coincidental meeting.           Velden, and decided to immigrate. Still
            Lou Riley who ran the Ashril in  interested in a career in film production
          Main Street, Greensborough had sold  and exhibition, he considered the
          the AEGs to George Williams. At this  United States or Canada, but since the
          time, the best part of forty years ago,  USA had such an established film
          Greensborough was an outer, almost  industry he knew there would be little
          rural suburb of Melbourne. The Ashril,  opportunity for him to pursue his
          formerly the Victory, was a converted  interest there, so he settled for Australia
          hall situated on the western side of  - at the end of the earth - where there
          Main Street, midway between       was a possibility of starting up film
          Grimshaw Street and the railway   production and exhibition, and maybe
          crossing. Today it is difficult to even  creating a Hollywood in Melbourne!  Above: Hitler Youth stamps
          visualise where the theatre stood.

          8   2008 CINEMARECORD
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