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Ravensthorpe Historical Society

About the Movies in Ravensthorpe

The first public film showings in Ravensthorpe were by Len Price on a portable 16 mm Bell & Howell projector in the old Town Hall on the corner of Morgans and Hosking Streets (now site of Rangeview Park). The projector was owned by the school’s Parents and Citizens Association (P&C) who received the ticket monies which were taken by Bunty King (also dogger for the area). This would have been prior to 1967 because in that year Kevin Hosking, Tom Oakey and Stewart Silvester travelled to Norseman to take delivery of two second hand Raycophone J3 35 mm projectors. Tom Oakey was a Navy trained electrician who served at sea in electrical maintenance on the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Both Tom and Stewart worked in Ravensthorpe at Elverdton Mine where Stewart was a mine superintendent and Tom a linesman, noting that at the time Ravensthorpe power was generated at Elverdton Mine. Stewart was motivated to provide a better film service for mine employees as well as the general public and negotiate the transfer of the projectors through his mining company networks. Although Kevin had previously worked a 16 mm projector in Hopetoun he ‘graduated’ to 35 mm after some instruction/training in Norseman when the three men were there to collect the projectors.

Initially the Raycophone J3s were installed on the old hall where the Shire had to retro fit a projection loft to accommodate them. Thirty five millimetre film projection is a far superior process with better definition, screen size and sound but it requires two projectors and two projectionists to enable seamless transition from one reel to the next as well as three phase power and a means of heat elimination. This is because the intense light required is generated by a high voltage carbon arc process which requires continuous tant manual adjustment to maintain consistent light intensity particularly if power wattage fluctuates (as it does in Ravensthorpe). The projectionists must pay attention to the arc separation distance as well as to the screen through the small windows in the loft. The film sound track was also broadcast in the projection loft.

In 1975 the new Town Hall with a built-in projection loft on the corner of Dunn and Carlisle Streets was opened and the projectors were relocated. Tom Oakey managed the electrical fit out and also served as projectionist and was replaced by Cliff Tink when he (Tom) left Ravensthorpe. Ron Colvin also served in this role. Both Ted Hill and Alan Carmichael manned the door and officiated as ushers as sometimes rowdy children unaccompanied by their parents had to be told to settle down. On occasions Alan himself had to settle down as following a western movie he and Kenny Collard had make believe gunfights with two finger thumb trigger pistols up and down the hall following the movie; ‘got you Kenny’ Carmichael would say, ‘no, got you first Carmichael’ Kenny would reply./p>

The P&C was the beneficiary of ticket monies enabling many improvements to the school. They also selected the films from a list provided by the distributor and advertised them by poster around town and in the local paper ‘Ravage’ which preceded ‘Community Spirit’. Keith Ricky had the job of putting up the film posters, a job he took very seriously and which he guarded as his sole responsibility and no one else’s. The projectionists made it a practice to set up the projectors and have a quick run through on the Friday night preceding the public showing. Films were shown weekly except after the inception of television when they were shown fortnightly for a short period before finishing for ever.

Kevin Hosking tells a delightful ‘sign of the innocent times’ story. Parents usually left their car keys in the ignition and sometimes their children asleep in their vehicles on film nights, particularly farmers coming in from out of town. One night the police sergeant removed the keys and asked Kevin could he please project a notice to say ‘drivers who left their keys in their vehicles can collect them from the Police Station after the show’. How times have changed. The final change came in 1981 when TV came to Ravensthorpe. Film shows as well as regular dancing at the Town Hall disappeared almost overnight and two great community building institutions were lost forever. The Raycophone J3s were donated to the Ravensthorpe Historical Society in December 2020, removed from the Town Hall and put into temporary storage. The Society has approached Norseman Historical Society to offer one of them back. So what goes around comes around – just like the Dunn brothers wool press.

© Ravensthorpe Historical Society archives. From notes compiled by Andrew Chapman from a conversation with Kevin and Lyn Hosking in Hopetoun 11 Dec. 2020
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