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One of the guys transferred in from ZID and was named Al something-or-other. We called him Big Al. Was there ever anyone named Al who wasn’t called Big Al at some point in their life. Big Al was a bit of a rapscallion (as we all were, I thought) and fairly recently divorced (while still in Indy, I believe, although it’s not important to this story), and a very likable character. He was a good fit in Jacksonville. Probably sometime after I left, he organized occasional gatherings at his house (manufactured housing—a modern euphemism for a single or double wide—see earlier reference to recently divorced) for movies of, shall I say, an instructional nature. He would make popcorn and lay in a supply of beer, all for the purpose of building teamwork among the troops, I’m sure.
One December evening such a gathering was held. Remember the ‘70s—before VCRs and video tape, well before DVDs—those were days of 8 and 16 mm films. One reelers, primarily, and mostly in black-and-white. As usual, Big Al had his living room arranged with a blank wall at one end, the projector at the other, and improvised seating for the constituents throughout the in-between. Once everyone was seated, a call for lights out was made and the projector was switched on.
The brief credits rolled (hah! Screen names like “Rip” this and “Candy” that were the norm) and the protagonists appeared and prepared to do battle. Just as the first stage of engagement was begun, the projector lamp went out and the motors ground to a halt. The usual and expected outburst of, “geez, Al,” and, “awww, shit,” ensued along with a turning on of lights for the expected troubleshooting effort. Just then the projector came back on to shouts of, “hooray!” and, “all right!” and the battle was rejoined.
Just moments later, though, the episode repeated, with the recriminations redoubled, and another attempt at repair commenced. Almost mysteriously the projector again resumed its process with a concomitant group rejoicing of the result. However, within a moment (before even the first consummation of onscreen gladiatorial enterprise) the process was repeated.
Since I wasn’t there I can’t say how long it took, but controllers being generally quite bright individuals, it almost certainly wasn’t as long as it takes to read this, however the upshot was (remember the season?) someone (probably Big Al, but blame is really pointless) had plugged the projector into the Christmas tree light flasher. Once that discovery was made the briefing continued uninterrupted until either the beer or the film supply ran out.
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