Filmstrips in School

Filmstrip projector, 1950’s vintage

How did kids in school see the world in the 1960’s? Frequently by means of film strips.

Film strips were strips of 35 mm film that had positive images on them, much like movie film. However, it wasn’t designed to be quickly run through the projector like a movie. No, each slide was a scene in itself.

Many film strips were silent. Words at the bottom of the image described whatever was portrayed. But it was also common to see film strips that were synchronized to records. The teacher would play the record, and a beep would indicate it was time to move on to the next slide.

Of course, it was easy to get lost. When that happened, the class would loudly offer the teacher their assistance in locating the correct slide for the dialog.

We loved film strips. It meant a break from the tedium of regular classwork.

Filmstrips in canisters

The sound film strips would be shown at my school through an ancient projector, much like the one illustrated above. It had a noisy fan that kept that great big light cool, and presumably the film as well.

But in the school libraries, there were more personal versions of film strip viewers. I remember we had models designed for single use and text-only filmstrips. There was no provision for sound, like the students from 1972 had in the illustration to the left. We had little separated cubbies on a long table so we could view our film strips side by side.

We would be shown pictures from other countries, photomicrographs of cells and protozoa, health/hygiene stuff, and occasionally, fun stuff like cartoons.

I remember one teacher with a two-pack-a-day habit who would appoint a kid to be the film strip advancer and would slip off to the Teacher’s Lounge for a smoke. Don’t worry, Mrs. Finley, your secret is safe with me. 😉

Today, of course, our grandkids in school are treated to live videos streamed over the internet, or perhaps DVD’s viewed on plasma TV’s. But if you’re old enough to remember JFK, you can recall when multimedia in class meant the teacher wheeling in the 1950’s model film strip projector, and playing a scratchy record. It was great stuff.

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