So, we had to be there half an hour earlier at 10:00am to be prepared and usually we did not leave till after 11:00pm at night.  

In those days Birmingham hardly had any night life, so my social life was very restricted.  Of course, our working hours were staggered and varied each week, but I 
had to work alternate weekends and my odd free days were usually when all my friends were still working.  But a great bonus for me was that I loved all the cartoons, particularly 'Bugs Bunny' and 'Tom and Jerry' and these were always included.


I can imagine that anyone reading this, especially those much younger than me, if any ever will, can find it hard to imagine how things worked, as technology has advanced so much since the 1960's.  In those days the Internet, computers, mobile phones, or even the concept of digital systems for everyday life simply did not exist - life was so vastly different when I was young. 

Because these cartoon and comedy programs lasted for only one hour and then were repeated, there was so much more work for the projectionists, as each projector spool only lasted about 20 minutes.   Firstly, every week all these short films (about 5 minutes each for cartoons and about twice as long for the comedies) had to be joined up and timed with the adverts, to form the one-hour program. 

Once the first projector had come to the end of the spool, the second projector would take over and whilst that was running, the spools had to be changed on the first projector, the spool that had been taken off had to be rewound, before the second projector reached the end.   The number of times these old films ran through our projectors were so much more frequent than with the usual feature film cinemas and they often broke! 

Our projectors ran with carbon arc burning, providing the light source, later to be replaced with the far better Xenon lamps.  The carbon rods had to be carefully aligned and fired, to form a very bright arc, if the gap between the rods, or their alignment was not exactly right, they would fail to ignite.  

Once fired it then took quite a few minutes to reach the full brilliance required, from then on, the gap between the burning rods had to be constantly monitored, otherwise the colour of the light would either be too blue, too red, too dull, or worse of all would go out.  As these rods burned a mechanical device was supposed to maintain the gap, but this could not be relied upon and often had to be overruled and corrected.

The biggest constant fear for the projectionists (always two of us in the projection room) was that either the film would break, this happened quite often, or the change over from one projector to the other (there were two identical projectors) would be miss timed, plunging the cinema into darkness. 

All these old films had to go through our projectors ten times a day.  I remember well on many occasions the film would break, thank goodness most often beyond the point where it was projected, so the audience was unaware that anything was wrong.  But this meant that the film failed to go on to the second spool and instead snaked and twisted all over the floor!  

The panic to catch it quickly and to desperately try to thread it back into the spool to be repaired later, will never be forgotten!  Once this had happened and the second projector had taken over, this damaged film had to be cleaned, all joins checked and repaired as it was wound back on to a new spool, before it was ready to be threaded back to show again.  All this whilst the next spool had to be threaded on to the first projector (which then had to be fired up) well before the second projector's film ended.
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