THE TUP’NEY RUSH
By Eric Fowler
My second projector came in 1941 when I was 12, hand wound, it had a gate to take 9.5 mm film with centre sprocket holes. The light source a 60w bulb in a lamp house. Top and bottom reels would take 3 minute shorts or cartoons, but I was ambitious.
Re-prints of real cinema features, but silent, could be hired from a shop. Up to four reel comedies and dramas, each reel lasting about 20 minutes. To accommodate them I built a tower for the reel from Meccano but could not drive onto a bottom spool. The film had to run out and collect in a box on the floor! Rewinding carefully by hand between reels was a lengthy business for each changeover! The painted wooden screen was a whole 1ft square and the audience of family and friends, admitted by hand made tickets had to crowd around very patiently.
My friend Winnie Wilkins, played gramophone records between reels. Audiences paid one penny each. Even so the cost was not covered. Sister helped with a permanent loan, my first taste of art subsidy.
Favourite films were ‘Lorna Doone’ and ‘Midshipman Easy’ featuring the young Hughie Green.
As the war raged across the world, in the blackout of our small house the toy projector churned merrily on each Sunday evening unaware as we were of the furore. Professional picture going was regular on Saturdays to one or other of the many cinemas in my home area, the Medway Towns.
My life has been a mix of live theatre, cinema and TV. During national service in the R.A.F. I ran 16 mm film shows, concerts and plays in the station gymnasium and began my professional career after demob as a doorman at the Lido cinema (A.B.C.) Golders Green, starting at the bottom-cleaning toilets.