Sliding back to the future

July 2014 Opinion Fr Kevin Neal It was a simple enough request – find a slide projector for my friends. Up to the ‘60s nearly every house in this country…

Sliding back to the future Archdiocese of Wellington

Father Kevin Neal

July 2014


Fr Kevin Neal

It was a simple enough request – find a slide projector for my friends. Up to the ‘60s nearly every house in this country had one.

They ranged from a very simple machine with a low wattage bulb, no fan and maybe one or two slides at a time to view, through to extraordinary machines with huge wattages and massive storage facilities.

But my friends would be easily pleased. Something flash would be nice but a simple machine would do just as well. I told them that I would find one to suit their need. As they say, how hard could it be?

As it turns out, very hard indeed. Apparently, slides and projectors just get tipped out as rubbish during house clearances. All sorts of good things end up on Trade Me but slide projectors and collections of slides just disappear; they don’t rate a mention, it seems. There must be a fair number of these projectors in the local tip!

A word in defence of coloured slides: nearly everyone over a certain age had some lurking at the bottom of the drawer and they were mostly very good to view.
But setting up the screen and projector often put the viewers off – and there were so many of them. ‘We’re busy right now, next week we’ll have a look’, and so it would go on.

Not many folk had the right screen for showing slides and the wall paper was too artistic in those days so sheets were borrowed off the nearest bed and held up with drawing pins. These worked for about half an evening’s viewing, then a corner would come down much to amusement of the more bored viewers.

In a new home there are power points on every corner and some in between. That wasn’t so with old homes; some actually had power added after the building was lived in for years. There would be one or two points for the whole house so extension cords would be running in all directions.

Half-way through the show the power would accidently, or on purpose, take a small kick and the place would be left in darkness. A search would be made, in the dark, for the offending connection of the extension cord, usually right under everyone’s feet. After much huffing and puffing, the projector would be restored and the show would go on… and on.

Of course there were slide shows that were excellent and many used several projectors and tape recorders.

One of the finest, if I remember rightly, was at the Brisbane World Expo in 1988. It was a ‘come to Aotearoa/New Zealand’ party piece and it brought the house down. It was a mix of movie film, slides and stereo sound. One part of the soundtrack was from Sibelius’ Finlandia – I loved that tune!

But with television and video, becoming ever more popular, slides were slowly to be no more as a source of home entertainment.

My friends? I did find them a projector!