Beep! click click click

ch linked me to this marvelous antidrug filmstrip from the 1970s. I have so many memories of filmstrips from my grammar school education.

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!

8 thoughts on “Beep! click click click

  1. 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.
    Not one but two Liars songtitles.


  2. I love that not only did filmstrips allow the teacher to avoid discussion but, with your anecdote as evidence, they actively discouraged discussion by catching fire and destroying all of the evidence.


  3. Your mention of the help out thing reminds me. All of my teachers must have been the most technically inept people in the world. A student always had to load the projector, hook up the TV/VCR etc.
    I recall that the TVs were on these big rolling carts, so the TV was positioned about 6′ high. Well till about 5th grade, it was a student’s job to fetch the TV and return it when done. A TV fell off the cart, bonked the student in the head injuring him badly. So then teachers only could wheel the TV’s around, which previoudly were attached to the cart by gravity and now had more straps and guy wires than a radio tower.


  4. Oh, your description is perfect. I was transported back to elementary school. Which is timely, for me.
    I almost inherited a filmstrip projector — the last one at the site — at the middle school I worked at until this year. The most admirable and veteran of teachers was dispersing her lifetime of teaching materials, and a lot of me was tempted. I had it in my room, with a little case of ONE series of filmstrips, all about how to do literary analysis for middle school minds… though it was pretty hard core for the middle school minds I was dealing with, but then I realized that I have BECOME that techno-illiterate teacher who needed a student A/V assistant. I can work VCRs and DVDs, but that old skool technology? I COULD NOT figure out how to insert the filmstrip into the reel and get it to sync to the soundtrack and its lovely insistant beeeeeps. And none of the kids could figure it out either. I think they would have been mesmerized by the old-fashionedness of it, if I could have figured it out, but now they will never see anything less high tech than a DVD/VCR tape, or laptop PowerPoint projection. I sigh for them.


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