To start with they were the bastard stepchild of movies, which we all loved. On a Friday afternoon we’d hope for a movie. At a minimum there would be entertaining footage of animals or cool science stuff, and if we were lucky we’d convince the teacher to play the movie backwards when it was done for double the movie time and the unstoppable belly laughs we got from watching birds walk in reverse, etc. But if the filmstrip projector came out, we were getting second best. Someone would have to thread the filmstrip into the machine and then help out by pressing the advance button.
Filmstrips were always about the most boring topic available. I remember seeing one about Where Borax Comes From, several detailing How the Indians Ground Up Corn With Rocks, a whole series on How Erosion and Silt Change Our World, and maybe fifty different social science filmstrips about How Some People Live in Big Buildings and Others In Little Huts and related topics.
But the most frequent use of filmstrips was to tell us things the teachers didn’t want to discuss. The nearest we got to sex education, for example, was an extremely medical strip about How Your Bodies Are Changing Now That You’re 12 Or So, with terrifying closeups of peach fuzz stubble and line art of Your Head With Squiggly Red Lines Signifying Emotional Stress. There were separate filmstrips for girls and boys. It was incomprehensible. And of course the drugs ones. I’m not sure I saw this particular drug filmstrip, but we had several on Not Taking Stuff From Big Kids Because It Makes Question Marks Fly Out Your Nose, also known as If You Light Something On Fire and Put It In Your Mouth, You’ll Grow a Leather Jacket and Die in a Car Crash.
I think nowadays teachers put in a videotape and dive under their desks when bad topics arise. But to this day when I hear an old antidrug speech I immediately go to that crappy narrator voice wobbling along with the tape, the piercing beep, and the hum of the fan on the filmstrip machine.
One day the teacher left it on too long on one frame while she explained something and the film caught fire. We all had to go outside while the Fire Department came to check it out. I got a face full of burning plastic film smoke and I was light headed for the rest of the day. Drugs are bad!