Peter Lushing


I don’t recall if I sent you a picture of “my projectionist”, but here’s another just in case. I don’t know the situation in the UK, but anybody of my generation (b. 1941) will vividly recall grade school and high school (i.e., through age 17 or so) projectionists, sometimes known as the film or visual squad or something like that. These were selected students — I never knew how they were picked, it was a mystery to me because I did not come across overt recruiting — who would visit the classrooms to set up the 16mm projector, or else run it in the school auditorium for many classes at a time. The key auditory memory is the sound start-up and shut down, at the beginning and end of a film. I could imitate it and be instantly recognizable by millions! It is sort of a whoosh! from a dead start, gathering speed at the beginning, and the opposite at the end. Not really professional, but I loved that sound because it was unique among film showings and characteristic. The frequency goes up in the former case and slows down to a dirge-like sound in the latter. I’ll bet you’re very familiar with it. Another thing I recall is there were very few mishaps, but when there were and the screen would go suddenly black or white we kids would feign great discomfort in the overly dramatic way children affect.

All this planted a seed in me which led me finally to acquire a 16mm projector when my children were young. It seems that about 30 minutes from me was a lending library of many 16mm films. They lent to schools and the like for free. When I filled out the borrowing slip, under “Organization” I would fill in “Lushing Family”. Nobody minded…in fact I got the distinct impression they were glad to see me for lack of “business”. The clerk would take down the film and run it through a super-speed machine looking for breaks. Any rips were spliced at at high speed with great dexterity. I am sad to admit it took a while for me to learn how to properly thread, with the result I ripped several films. They expected that because they had a protocol….it was do not try to splice yourself!

Years later I learned that the library (which was in a small part of a fine book library for the neighborhood) was selling the whole collection, videotape having made 16mm obsolete to some (not to me). I think it went for about $10,000 — I know I inquired, but my wife vetoed the idea for lack of space in our home…this was hundreds of documentaries and many feature theatrical films. Some of these prints probably sold for thousands of dollars each back in the day; color 16mm prints were very expensive, far beyond the reach of individuals.


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