26 May 2014

Claude & Piggy become silent movie projectionists

How Claude became a silent movie projection assistant

The Parish Hall [in Ellerslie] was used for a variety of purposes such as wedding receptions and dances, along with compulsory military training. I used to help a young man named Charlie Double, who lived across the road, to clean the hall.

This was a great job for a five year old. One could find leftover lollies, last night’s dance cards in which the ladies would write down their next partner’s name (to avoid punch-ups I suppose!) and with pencil attached, sometimes money, and the odd packet of chewing gum.

On Saturdays if we were lucky Piggy [Roy] Day and I were allowed to help Charlie with the projection. Charlie had the projector attached to part of a bicycle frame with gearwheel, chain and sprocket, and one pedal – so if we stood on a box we could operate the contraption and according to the film Charlie would give us our orders, such as “Faster! Faster!” or “Slower! Slower!”, while Miss Poultan played the piano to music supplied with the film. Theme music.

Charlie could see the whole hall, the pianist and the screen, and suited the tempo to the kind of film. Even today I can ‘see’ cowboys being chased by Indians, or a train coming along a track which has a helpless maiden trussed along a track, where she is rescued just in time. I wonder how they did that?

If the Saturday afternoon kids got too rowdy old Charlie would switch on all the lights and that generally cooled them down. Those were exciting days.

- The Chronicles of Claude – extract from p.1, childhood days 1921-22

[Note that presumably at this early stage of his life Claude would still have been known by his first name, Oswald, but I've used his middle name as he did for the remainder of his life]

See also:
Movies: The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Movies: The Perils of Pauline (1914)
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