My Father, The Early Years

The first showing of these films was on a white bed sheet propped up at the bottom of the yard

As a youngster in the early 1930s, I remember my father playing with a Bowman model steam train. It was not like the toy train that children play with today; this was the real thing.

The locomotive was at least 10 inches long and that was without the tender, then there was the railway track made with real wooden sleepers. All together they could encircle the kitchen table which almost filled the living room. To complete the train there were 5 or 6 trucks.

Bowman models were actually real steam trains and had to be prepared to work properly. The tank had to be filled with water, hot if possible and attached underneath the tank.  A methylated spirit burner had to be filled up and screwed to the bottom of the engine tank. This, you can imagine took some time and you needed lots of space to watch it working; I can only remember seeing it working once in the kitchen and my goodness what a clatter it made.

I of course loved the train but my mother couldn’t wait for it to stop and be put away again. It was such fun watching it whizzing round the track at top speed. I can’t ever remember it coming of the track it was truly a professional toy.

Another of my father’s toys was a 9.5mm film projector which he bought at Turner’s Photography in Pink Lane opposite the Central Station in Newcastle. He used to go there often on a Saturday and search through the second-hand films that were for sale. Often when he got them home, he found some had damaged sprocket holes, these had to be repaired before he could screen them so a lot of his time was spent mending with tiny fishcake sprocket holes before they could be shown on the screen. This was well worth it because when all the laborious work was done he could show them to us on the screen.

The first showing of these films was on a white bed sheet propped up at the bottom of the yard and the projector was focused from behind the living room window in the darkness of night.

This you can imagine was an extraordinary way to watch the pictures of Charlie Chaplin and Snub Pollard in your own backyard.

Later my father made his own silver screen with strong fabric to put up in the living room in our new house. Whenever aunties came to visit they were always keen to see his latest films in our own front room, it echoed with laughter all through the film,

Ah! Happy days and wonderful memories.

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