Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Ads You’re Not Going to See Again Anytime Soon – Chapter 15

Ads You’re Not Going to See Again Anytime Soon – Chapter 15

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 16, 2009

(BEEP!) Some of Keepa’s readers are waa-a-aay too young to recognize this equipment advertised in the Improvement Era in 1964. (BEEP!) Every school and Sunday School used to have filmstrip projectors. (BEEP!) This was considered the height of pedagogical technology in the Jurassic Period of the mid-20th century. (BEEP!) The teacher loaded a filmstrip — literally, a strip of 35mm film — into the machine, and a beam of light projected an image onto a screen, blank wall, a white sheet tacked to the wall, or even the chalkboard (you know about chalkboards? primitive white boards?). (BEEP!) Sometimes each frame of the film had words printed below a picture, like subtitles in a foreign film, and the teacher would read the film to you as though she were reading a story book. (BEEP!) When the technology was really, really fancy, though, the teacher didn’t have to read what was printed on the film. (BEEP!) Instead, she played either a vinyl record, or, later, a cassette tape. (BEEP!) When the recorded narrator had finished talking about a given frame of film, the recording would sound a peculiar high-pitched BEEP! as a signal for the teacher to advance the filmstrip one frame by cranking that knob on the side of the machine. (BEEP!) This, of course, was also the signal for every smart-aleck in the class to chime in with BEEP!

The second piece of equipment was a portable movie projector for films that actually had sound recorded right on them. Kind of like a primitive DVD player, made with stone knives and bearskins.




  1. I was thinking that the movie projector looked more modern than the ones we had down at the Joaquin–and then I noticed that it’s an 8mm projector. Good for the home movies that people shot with their 8mm cameras. Most of the projectors at church or school were for 16mm film.

    The filmstrip projector looks like the one I was conned into buying by the mission office staff in Kobe in November 1973. As soon as I started schlepping it down to my first area, all I could think of was BEEP this lousy thing.

    The best filmstrip (suraido-gento) story ever was told by an Elder C who was serving somewhere in southern Japan, tracting on a warm summer afternoon. A family invited them in, and they set up the projector to show Kofuku no Tankyu–Man’s Search for Happiness. Ere long, the warmth and the dark combined to close the eyes of all–missionaries and their contacts–in sleep. When rosy-fingered dawn (or something awoke Elder C, he saw that everyone was asleep, and that the light of the projector had burned a hole right through the piece of film in the business part of the projector. He woke his companion, and the slipped out into the Japanese evening without awakening the family. When they got home, they checked the filmstrip–the frame that was burned through was number 3!

    Comment by Mark B. — January 16, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

  2. Oh, man, the memories that ad brings back! I really am getting old.

    Mark, your story is hilarious.

    Comment by Ray — January 16, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  3. When I first read this I thought it said (BLEEP!) instead of (BEEP!) and thought that Ardis was using explictives again. Then I noticed what it really said and once again realized the Ardis would never allow such things to escape her tongue (or fingertips as she types).

    Oh, what fun the old filmstrip projectors were. It always seemed that no matter how hard you tried you’d always miss a (BEEP!) and get one frame off. I remember watching a filmstrip with a narration by SWKimball. The projectionist got off a couple of frames so what we actually saw was a young man speaking with a raspy voice.

    A few months ago, I was snooping around the library at church and found an old projector and filmstrip. I took my children in and gave them a history lesson. They were so intrigued by the primitive media. It was a lot of fun.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 16, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

  4. This is so funny! Ardis, I love how you describe these historical artifacts in terms of modern technology.

    Comment by Tatiana — January 16, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

  5. Those descriptions are an homage to the Star Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever,” Tatiana. BEEP!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 16, 2009 @ 3:21 pm

  6. Having sat through “The First Vision” filmstrip countless times as a missionary, I *still* cannot see that movie on 16mm or video without hearing the “beep”s!! Thanks, Ardis, for that great trip down memory lane.

    Comment by Alison — January 16, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  7. You’d be surprised. Somewhere in my memories of elementary school, I remember a teacher digging out one of those babies.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — January 16, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  8. I knew I’d been accepted into my (then) ‘new’ Stake after 3 years’ residency, when the Institute Director trusted me enough to choose me to turn the knob on each ‘BEEP!’

    Try this…next time you watch a class dvd, in RS or wherever, say ‘BEEP’ out loud at an appropriate pause, and see the response.Guaranteed, everyone of a certain age will smile, and probably join in :-)

    Comment by Anne — January 16, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

  9. “Kind of like a primitive DVD player, made with stone knives and bearskins.”

    Ha! This made me laugh. I just *wish* I were too young to know what a film projector is. And no Ward Library was complete without one of those big, heavy, metal things!

    Comment by Hunter — January 16, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

  10. I wondered whether 8mm film could record sound in 1964–and discovered, if Wikipedia is to be believed–that it could not. That fount of truth says that Kodak introduced the “Super 8” format in 1964, but did not add a magnetic strip for sound until 1973. Remember the eerie silence on the Zapruder film? Sound could not be recorded on 8mm film in November 1963.

    So, the projector Standard Optical was selling probably had no ability to play sound, and no film that would fit it could ever record it.

    I remember the Standard Optical store in Provo–on Center Street between 1st and 2nd West. When I started wearing glasses in IIRC the fall of 1963, we skipped that place as too expensive and went someplace where a pair of glasses was about $13. Since I ended up needing about three pairs a year for nearly 10 years, it was important to find a discount spectacle shop.

    [Deleting as irrelevant story of last pair of glasses replaced in an emergency, which “drowned” in the Provo River on Labor Day of 1973, 12 days before I entered the Mission Home in SLC. Dear Wife still maintains she was not actually trying to drown me too, but I’m waiting for conclusive proof.]

    Comment by Mark B. — January 16, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

  11. My elementary school library had dozens of filmstrips. I was very sad that the Jr. High had none. VCRs were on their way in, but still new enough that they didn’t let students touch them.

    Comment by Jami — January 16, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  12. Excellent.

    I imagine any missionary from a certain era can do the beginning of the first vision film with the beeps in the right places.

    Josef, Josef, waar been je geweest? BEEP

    Comment by Norbert — January 18, 2009 @ 9:51 am

  13. Would you believe that for an elementary school project I made a filmstrip?

    It was a book report on a biography of Ethan Allen I read as part of a history unit on the revolutionary war. I took close-up pictures of some of the illustrations from the book and told Ethan’s Allen’s story through the pix.

    If you want to make a filmstrip of your own, use a 35mm camera loaded with slide film. Shoot in portrait, not landscape, and make sure the the direection the film eventually winds to is at the top of the camera as you shoot your pix.

    When you go to develop the film, take it somewhere professional and ask them to leave the developed film uncut.

    And yes, I’m sure that are those reading today who think to themselves, “What is this *film* of which you speak?”

    Comment by Chad Too — January 19, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

  14. While on my mission, I sent home a day-in-the-life-of-a-sister-missionary slide show with an accompanying cassette tape narration. My comp and roommates and I had great fun all yelling “BEEP!” when the slide needed to be changed (and this was mid-nineties).

    Comment by Markie — January 21, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

  15. A discussion of filmstrips is incomplete without a link to Eric D. Snider’s column from a few years back, The Rainbow Correction:

    “Everyone wanted to be in charge of the film projector, because it carried with it a sense of power. It was almost like directing the movie yourself, except the actors weren’t moving, and there was a ‘BEEP’ telling you when to do things. But still. The problem with letting ordinary kids run the projector was that ordinary kids can be as undependable and shifty as a Swiss person, and it was often unclear which frame the strip should be on when the tape was started anyway, and so the pictures being projected were often out of sync with the soundtrack. Perceptive children such as myself would know almost immediately that we were off-track, but we were powerless to act, as the projector had been entrusted to someone else. Eventually there would be an obvious misalignment — the narrator would say, ‘Billy had fun sinning and carrying on in a shameful manner,’ but the picture projected would match what he was ABOUT to say, which was, ‘but soon he felt sorry and remorseful’ — and the projectionist would advance a frame or two and catch up. But in the meantime, the soundtrack not matching the images made it impossible to pay attention to the principles being taught, the same way you cannot listen to a sermon delivered by someone whose tie is crooked or whose hair looks funny. (I’m not the only one, right?)”

    Comment by Sara R — January 24, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

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