"A Flickering Beam of Light":
|‘A Flickering Beam of Light’:|
In the late 1940s when I was nine years old, my father was given an old cinema projector, which was once used at the 'Empire Cinema' in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. We had always been fans of the 'movies', and at that time used to go to the cinema four times a week. It was a hand-cranked projector, which meant someone, usually myself, had to turn the handle at a steady speed while everyone else watched.
On Saturday afternoons we invited all the local children to watch a show, held in our large back kitchen, where we blocked out the windows with heavy blankets. The lighting for the projector was supplied by an up-turned bicycle, with wires from the dynamo, and again we needed another helper to turn the pedals to generate the power.
We had quite a few reels of 35 mm film, and also some 'Ministry of Information' single reels, including one called 'Shunter Black's Night Off', now a collector's item so they tell me! For about two hours, a room full of kids, a up-turned bicycle, and an hand cranked projector, kept everyone happy, so much so, we had a waiting list of children wanting to come to 'our pictures'.
Sometime later we were offered a gas engine with a built in lighting unit, supplying us with a brighter light of 12 volts, and this was wonderful! One Sunday morning my father and I, pushing a wheelbarrow, walked from Heanor to Marehay, a little village near Ripley, Derbyshire, some four miles distant, to collect this from my Uncle Jim. His home had just been connected to the local mains sewer, and he now had a flushing toilet, which made him the envy of the village!
Returning home that evening, we set about installing the gas engine on the back yard, some distance from the kitchen, because when it was working, it would be very noisy. A rubber gas pipe was run from the kitchen stove gas tap, through the window, and to the engine, which had to be fixed to the ground, otherwise the firing of the engine would make it move for around. It was cooled by a tank of water mounted on top, and an electrical cable took the generated electricity back to the projector. All this gave us a nice bright light, about 60 watts, which was quite a luxury! To deaden the engine sound an exhaust was buried underground, which didn't really work, I recall.
Our shows became quite famous in the neighbourhood, but we had no way of obtaining new films for our collection. At one time, mum was kept busy making banana sandwiches, which were quite unique, as they had just begun importing them into the country again, after the end of World War Two.
However, tragedy struck one Saturday afternoon in October, halfway through 'Thunder Mountain', starring Tim Holt, when, with an enormous 'crunch' of cogwheels locking together, the ever-bright light ceased to shine.
There was no chance of obtaining spares; the machine was far too old. Everyone went home, and for some weeks after that, the district became a different place for the local children.
There was no way we were to let the greatest innovation of our time go without some recognition, so it was decided that on Bonfire Night of that year, we would have a special celebration.
There where thousands of feet of highly inflammable nitrate film, which you couldn't just dump anywhere. We had a large garden, almost an acre, some distance away from the house, and it was here that the film would be disposed of.
In the garden were about eight apple trees, and in their branches we arranged clusters of fireworks. Then we took the reels of film, and linked all the trees together, rather like a giant fuse. The idea was to light one end of the film, and watch as it went from tree to tree igniting the fireworks, and terminating at the bonfire, which would then ignite itself. It worked, and the idea was a fantastic event, observed by about 100 people.
What was left was torn into pieces about a foot long, covered in carbolic soap, and wrapped in pieces of 'The Daily Herald' newspaper, looking like giant sweets. When one end was lit, the film smoldered, giving off clouds and clouds of obnoxious white smoke. These homemade 'smoke bombs' were every lad's dream, and I discreetly took them to school, selling them for three pence a time, after spending several evenings each week making them.
The era of home cinema didn't end there for me, for later in life, ex- government cine equipment became easily available, after the war.
However there was never again to be a time like this again for me and my family, and as that flickering light faded into oblivion, only the memories of the era now remain.
‘Memories of Warm and Sunny Weekends’:
"I recall as a youngster how we used to get ourselves ready, pack some sandwiches, and head for the local Miner’s Welfare ground, where they held the annual carnival day, usually in a different town each weekend".
"As well as events that were staged, along with a flower show, and ‘Beautiful Baby Competition’, there was a parade of bands, and the winners received a cash prize to help pay for instruments and uniforms. The most popular in our area were the ‘Breaston Highlanders’, ‘Derby Serenaders’, and ‘The Dagenham Girl Pipers’. "The highlight of the day for me was the appearance of local strongman Harold Cope, billed as coming from Ripley, although he did in fact live not far from my Uncle Jim, who lived at Marehay, just outside of Ripley. Uncle Jim and Harold had worked together for years, at Ripley and Denby Hall Pits, and could be seen in the evening together at ‘The Royal Oak’ or Ripley Miners Welfare".
"During the Summer Season Harold Cope would attend all the Fete’s and Gala’s, and on holiday week would be at Skeggie, challenging anyone to beat his record. We got to know each other quite well, because after leaving school at almost sixteen years of age, I had trained at ‘The Miners College’ in Heanor to work underground. My training was done at Woodside Colliery at Shipley, (now the site of ‘The American Adventure Theme Park’), under the skilful eyes of Maurice Hall, and Charlie Shawcroft, with Physical training once a week with Mr. Frank Ashmore. This was in the form of playing football on the Miner’s Welfare Ground, or running from the Centre, along Ilkeston Road to the hospital, down Lockton Avenue, and finally across Beech Walk, back to the centre. I have always hated football, so I took the double running! Anyway I diverse, so back to Harold:"Harold’s ploy was to invite the prettiest young lady from out of the crowd to measure his biceps. Then he would challenge anyone to compete in his trick to bend an iron bar, and bend a six inch nail.
There was never a time when someone who had been in the beer tent and thought he could do better, did not come forward!"
Here’s the story of that famous band that entertained millions:
The Dagenham Girl Pipers, boasted 20 drummers and bagpipe players. The group, which has been running for 72 years, featured a range of ages, from as young as ten right up to 59. Pipe Sergeant, Tracy Deller, said: "The younger girls especially are getting excited about it. ”We normally start the little ones off in the Carnivals so they become used to people. They have also appeared at shows in France, Sussex and other Carnivals, as well as agricultural shows, weddings and even funerals. The well-known groups have appeared on numerous television shows, including the Royal Variety Performance, and Michael Barrymore’s “Strike It Lucky”.
The band was started by the minister of Osborne Hall in Becontree, Rev. Joseph Graves, who had a fondness for bagpipes. Dagenham born Peggy Iris, 83, who was Pipe major of the band from its beginning in 1930, said: "He came around and told my parents he wanted me to join.” He convinced them by saying we would march through New York and appear in the Lord Mayor's Show, and he was right, we did!"
At the time, the girls joined the band aged 10 and became full-time paid members when they left school appearing before royalty and heads of state across the world. These included King George V1 at Sandringham, Adolf Hitler in Berlin in 1937 and at the World Fair in New York in 1939. Now the group is given expenses and work on a part-time basis. The fees they receive from performances pay for their equipment and costumes. On January 1 2000, 20 of the original Pipers - in their 70s and 80s - met up to celebrate the Millennium, describing it as a Triumph over Time -and hitting the ‘Post’ front page.
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