In fifth grade, I was a “filmmaker”, so-to-speak

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During a good part of the year 1954, when I was in fifth and then sixth grade, I developed an interesting hobby, “making movies.”  Actually, my cousin, one year older, and I drew “filmstrips” which at the time were an important media in the school systems.  We would have movies to write up, mostly black and white, and filmstrips, mostly history and social studies.  In fifth grade, I recall a BW movie about the Texas Republic, odd to be taught in Virginia. Gov. Perry would be pleased today.

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Actually, the way we had handled “social studies” in fifth grade probably provided the inspiration.  We studied the geography of the continental United Stats in sections.  Each one of us would get assigned a state, and develop reports and drawings based on the state.  There were also project murals, little layouts (rather like model railroads without the trains) in the classroom.  I think I got Montana, not California,

In ninth grade (“General Education”), in 1958, we would do something similar with world geography.  I remember doing “Afghanistan” which turns out, now, to be oddly prescient.  I even picked it out, and the teacher said she knew that’s what I would pick.  Did we both read the future?  Maybe Iraq or Syria would seem more prescient now.

We each set up “home theaters” to show the filmstrips, and these consisted largely of manual scrolls as feeder and take-up reels for the drawings.   Sometimes we experimented with enlarging or altering the images with mirrors and magnifying lenses, a forerunner to Imax, maybe?

We even had an “Academy Awards”, I think around September, that ended in disaster.  We were kids.  Maybe we had two ceremonies.

Most of my filmstrips were based on specific places.  Over time, we built up drawing larger images, from “regular” to “Cinemascope” to “VistaVision”, to “Cinerama”, and finally “Cineramascope.”  Many of mine were drawings based on images in the 1950 World Book Encyclopedia.

I remember winning “Best Educational” with “The Land of the Bible”. These must have comprised pictures of the Holy Land.  At the time, I could not have cared about politics, about what was in Israel and what was on the West Bank, or possibly farther into Syria or even Iraq. Kids don’t care about other people’s religions or political affiliations until adults make them do so. But at age 11, I probably could not have grasped what the Holocausr had meant.  In fact, right now there is an outstanding IMAX film “Jerusalem” in museum auditoriums now (including Franklin Institute in Philadelphia).  We need something like a “Land of the Bible, Torah and Koran”, in Imax, without the politics.

I don’t remember the names of many of the other filmstrips.  I found a strip of “Alaska”:

Image 1

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Image 2

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Image 3

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I made a few “horror” and “comedy” strips.  “One out of every six” was to be a horror film.  My contributions were “Squish” and “Sea Monsters”.  The first of these might have been inspired by “The Blob”.   For comedy, there was “Pie Face”, and I think a man “got it” from his wife in more ways than one, even including the razor.  In those days, movies weren’t supposed to present “real” romance or marriage.  (There was “Bloody Mary” in “South Pacific”, remember.)

There was one “movie” my mother detested.  I think it was something like “Old Maid” (maybe inspired by the card game), based on the idea that some women weren’t pretty enough to find husbands — remember a scene about that in “Gone with the Wind”?

Maybe it was something like “Other Men’s Women”, pre-code Hollywood.  Both this and “Maid” are in my Netflix queue to refresh “boyhood” memories.

Other images

WY:

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CA:

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UT:

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SD:

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CA:

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AZ:

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MT:

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(First image is Mt. Rainier, WA);

After sixth grade, the summer of 1955, I and another friend would do fungo fantasy baseball in our backyards.  The Baltimore Orioles and St, Louis Cardinals won the pennants, and St. Louis would have won the “World Series”.  The Senators finished last.   Unfortunately, the paper records were tossed.  The Orioles had just moved to Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954, and the first season, much of the outfield at Memorial Stadium had no fence.

(Published: Jan. 29, 2015, 8:30 PM EST)

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