Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

SILENT FILMS [T, 10-2-18]

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter… 

I think I have written before about the first movie house [not theater] in Oakland City, IN, but since granddaughter Brigid started film semiotics graduate study at the U of Chicago yesterday, I wrote this up for her, and so I’m sharing it with, you, too…

My Grandpa Mac [Arthur Harrison McFarland] was, with a partner, the owner thereof. This was in the early 1920s.

I think it must actually have been a rental arrangement, with Grandpa and his partner owning only the movie equipment, because their theater was the opera house, which I’m sure they did not own. “Opera house” sounds grander than it surely was, because it was upstairs over a feed store.

Aunt Helen [Helen Beatrice McFarland Bell] was more-or-less the proprietor. She was a young teen then, and was never over four-ten even full-grown, so she probably was not very scary as a fourteen-year-old, but one of her jobs was to get the kids to leave after the show so they could get another batch in to pay for the second show. The kids did not want to leave, and so she threatened that she would let the locomotive actually come through the screen the next time to really run over them.

That locomotive engine scene--coming closer and closer, rushing faster and faster, right up to the front of the screen, right into the surprised eyes of the viewers--is the source of many stories of people thinking those early films were real, sort of the IMAX of its day, along with fear of cowboys and Indians riding their horses through the screen, etc.

The opera house did not have a movie screen, of course, so Grandpa and Aunt Helen used a sheet. They hired the local piano teacher to play during the films.

I don’t think this venture lasted long. Few of Grandpa’s ventures did. He was professionally a stationary engineer, a skill he had learned through a correspondence course, and a bit of an entrepreneur and inventor. He rigged up a bicycle with train wheels so he could ride it on the tracks from their farm house to the coal mine where he was the engineer. When the railroad company learned of it, though, they made him quit that. Since his last job was in a paper mill [in Hamilton, OH], I guess he was also a stationery engineer.


 “All we ask [in old age] is to be allowed to remain the authors of our own story.” Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, p. 140.

I used to keep a careful index of topics and stories so that I would not bore readers with repeats. But that became cumbersome, and since this blog is primarily for folks in the winter of their years, I figure they won’t be able to remember if they’ve heard it before, anyway.

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