This is topic A True Story from my Youth in forum 8mm Forum at 8mm Forum.

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Posted by David M. Ballew (Member # 1818) on September 22, 2013, 03:56 AM:
Hi, everyone,

I write short stories as a kind of hobby. Here's one that some of you might find amusing. It is absolutely true.


“Woody Woodpecker”

When I was about 8 years old, PaPa Galloway [my maternal grandfather] did a very generous and indulgent thing: He gave me his old Mansfield Holiday eight-millimeter movie projector.

Even at that young age, I was already on the road to becoming a cinematic omnivore. Granted, my tastes ran mostly toward horror and science fiction movies of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon were my constant companions, at least in the kingdom of the imagination.

Happily, many of those old monster movies could be had in the Regular 8 format in those days. The back pages of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine were really the mother lode. The last few leaves of each issue comprised a catalog of monster and fantasy-themed mail-order merchandise, including upwards of a hundred different 8 mm horror and science fiction digests.

Digests, for those who don’t know, were short reels (sometimes lasting three minutes, sometimes lasting 12) that offered “selected scenes” from popular theatrical films, for showing on the same small projectors that lots of people already owned for presenting their own home movies. Before the dawn of home video, digests were the only cost-effective way to watch Hollywood flicks wherever you wanted, whenever you wanted.

Well, parts of movies, anyway. Like I say, they tended to be very short. The editing ranged from brilliant (most anything from Castle Films) to downright incoherent (Ken Films’ "The Vampire and the Ballerina," anyone?). What’s more, many of these little digests did not even have sound, since most home projectors were silent machines. Superimposed subtitles conveyed whatever dialogue was deemed essential to the story.

Horror and science fiction were by no means the only genres represented. You could walk into most any self-respecting camera store or photo department in those days and buy yourself an action flick, a silent comedy, the occasional serious drama, and tons of cartoons. And I mean tons of cartoons.

Which brings us to the subject of Woody Woodpecker.

MaMa Galloway knew how much I loved collecting my eight-millimeter movies, even on my miserly allowance. And she was forever telling us that once upon a time, when Mom and Uncle Joey were little, the family had owned a cartoon or two. Mom was always going on about a Li'l Abner title, but MaMa specifically remembered one featuring the antics of Woody Woodpecker.

So one day when I was about 12 years old, MaMa Galloway gleefully produced a 5-inch gray reel she had found tucked away in back of a drawer or a closet somewhere. I knew instantly that we had ourselves here a 200-foot, Regular 8 silent film, evidently in color. She assured me that it was a Woody Woodpecker short and that I was welcome to it.

When we got home that night, Mom started dinner. My brother Steve, out of idle curiosity I suppose, wandered into my room as I threaded up the machine. I started the motor and fired up the lamp, focusing the three-foot-wide picture onto a makeshift screen on the back of my bedroom door.

And there before our wondering, innocent eyes, in glorious Eastmancolor-- but without sound!--was the filthiest pornographic pantomime you could possibly imagine!

And you shall have to imagine it, because I won't describe it to you here, except to say that there was one boy, one girl, and not much else to block the view. Well, except for a keyhole from time to time.


Suffice it to say, two lads our age were thunderstruck by this awesome spectacle. And being the kind of lads we were, our natural reaction was to laugh. And to laugh. And to laugh some more. Pretty soon we were in breathless tears.

The sound of our dear, sainted mother innocently frying up hamburgers not 20 feet away only added to our merriment.

About halfway through the third showing, Mom opened the door to my room and looked down at the writhing images being projected now onto her own torso.


Which reaction invited fresh peals of laughter. Of course.

“Mikey! Stevie! You turn that off right this instant! Right this instant!”

“Mom, I can’t. The projector has to keep running until all the film passes through.” I was an amazing liar in those days.

“Oh ho ho, that may be, young man,” Mom retorted, “but that lamp doesn't have to stay on, now does it?”

She had me there. I shut off the lamp.

When the film had played through in darkness and been rewound, my mother confiscated it, ostensibly to be thrown into the trash.

“I knew you kids were up to something,” she fumed. “Ain't no Woody Woodpecker cartoon in the whole world all that funny.”

And you know what? She had a point. A lot of people will tell you that even the best of the Walter Lantz cartoons aren't really all that great. Paul Terry's Terrytoons are worse, of course, but the Lantz titles are generally disappointments.

Many moons later, I happened to find a little gray film reel hidden underneath my dad’s dresser. I don’t know what else to say, except that Dad was not much into Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But my guess is he was darn curious about Woody Woodpecker.
Posted by Graham Ritchie (Member # 559) on September 22, 2013, 04:35 AM:
Nice one David [Big Grin]
Posted by Steve Klare (Member # 12) on September 22, 2013, 06:34 AM:
That's a classic story, and one acted out on many stages by many different characters.

A friend of ours lives in an old brownstone in Brooklyn with her Aunt. She was going through storage one day and found her dearly departed Uncle's Kodak silent projector and a big pile of reels.

I was the first one she thought of...

So one night the bunch of them (including some hangers on) came out and we screened these. The 400 footers were kids birthday parties and vacations and all the expected stuff. (Kodachromes from the late 1960s, just beautiful too.) Then I threaded up a 200 foot reel and it was the sleaziest, cheapest porn you could ever imagine. The opening title was literally a ragged piece of paper with magic marker on it with somebody's hand holding it in front of the camera, then it was basically a couple doing what comes naturally...although probably not legally depending on the jurisdiction...

Aunt Yvonne screamed out "DAMMIT, CHARLIE!!!" and I stopped the machine.

-the poor man was dead like 20 years and we'd outed him!

[ September 22, 2013, 07:39 AM: Message edited by: Steve Klare ]

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