On 17 February 1954, The Argus ran a feature on the first drive-in theatre in Australia, some twenty years after they were introduced in the USA. The writer of the piece paints an amusing picture of future clients happily, and perhaps shabbily, ensconced in their own vehicles while catching up on their cinema idols. This particular drive-in closed on 22 June 1983.
ITS COMFORT LIES IN ALL THE THINGS YOU CAN DO
At dusk this evening “Skyline,” Australia’s first drive-in theatre, will open in Toorak Road, Burwood, with 1,500 picture-goers snugly seated in their own cars in a ten-acre auditorium. Probably the most interesting development in entertainment here since the advent of sound pictures, the drive-in theatre provides the ultimate in relaxation and comfort for movie patrons.
The key note is informality. Unlike the ordinary cinema-goer, you can smoke to your heart’s content, crack peanuts, wear slippers or shorts or a dressing-gown, come unshaven, or do your knitting. What’s more, you can bring along liquor-provided it’s drunk in moderation. And if you don’t care for the movie . . . just settle back for forty winks and snore your head off. You’re in your own car and can’t disturb a soul.
There are no gossips in the seat behind to irk you, nobody to squeeze past your knees just as the villain draws a bead on the hero. The programme is continuous, and you may come and go as you please.
Husbands who for years have refused to budge out of the home to go to an evening show will relent when they can jump into the car and roll off to the movies without having to “get all dressed up.” If it’s a night out for the family you just pile into the car, pay at the ticket office without getting out of your seat, and let a “car hop” direct you to your parking spot.
The screen, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, towers 50ft. high and 34ft. wide at one end of the large enclosure. It is designed to take not only standard 2-D movies, but also technicolor films and 3-D offerings.
A small loudspeaker hangs on a post beside every parking space. You merely, lift it into your car, attach it to your window or steering column, and adjust the volume to suit yourself. Above the loudspeaker’s volume control is a small switch which, when pressed,flashes a red light on your parking stand and summons an attendant to carry out your slightest whim.
If you feel peckish during the show, nattily-garbed refreshment boys, travelling through the theatre on tricycles, will serve you with hot-dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, sweets or cigarettes. But that’s not all. If your car develops a mechanical fault there’s the specially selected staff of “car hops” who will fix the trouble.
As each car enters, the theatre attendants give windscreens a thorough cleaning to ensure perfect vision during the show. At the first sign of rain your car’s windscreen will be coated with a special glycerine preparation to make raindrops run off the glass without blurring your view. Even a thick fog won’t mar the show. Heat from portable braziers standing inside the theatre’s fence will clear away all but the most dense “pea souper.”
Later this year, patrons will be able to join in supper club dances after the show, on a dance floor in the middle of the theatre ground. This will be inclusive of the admission price, and music will be supplied from modern dance recordings.
Skyline’s doors are open to any vehicle on wheels, except bicycles and scooters. So if you drive a motor-cycle, utility van, or even a horse and cart, all this is yours – and movies, too !
On the hunt for some more shopfront photographs, I came across the so-called San Francisco Instantaneous Photographic Company. This newspaper advertisement on 4 October 1883 appeared in the Warragul Guardian and Buln Buln and Narracan Shire Advocate. They could have saved on printing ink by shortening the paper’s name, but I digress.
So what was this thing called instantaneous photography, and why were customers and photographers alike excited by it?
The UK’s National Media Museum posted this to their blog in June.
The earliest photographic processes normally required exposures of many seconds, or even minutes, rendering the photography of movement impossible.
However, with the right combination of lighting, subject, lens and plate size, exposures of a fraction of a second, whilst still very difficult to achieve, were possible.
The taking of such photographs became known as ‘instantaneous photography’. Whilst the term was in common usage during the 19th century, there was surprisingly little discussion or agreement as to precisely what it meant.
In practice, it was applied to any photograph which contained an element of movement or which was taken with an exposure of less than one second.
In November 1880, an article in the South Australian Register explained.
INSTANTANEOUS PHOTOGRAPHY— The system of instantaneous photography has been recently adopted by Messrs. J. R. Dobson & Co., of the Temple of Light, Bundle-street, and the result of the improvement is the production of photographs infinitely superior in clearness, accuracy, and general effect to the likenesses taken under the old style. We were shown some sixty portraits of adults and children, and all of them were remarkable for the minuteness of detail as well as naturalness of expression, rendering them very faithful portraits. For photographing children this instantaneous process must be an invaluable aid, as the fleeting expression of a restless child’s face can be taken in a second ; and for adults it is very much more comfortable to sit for only a moment to have a portrait taken, without the inconvenience of having the head pilloried in an iron rest. In the photographs produced by the instantaneous process the natural expression of the eyes, the texture of the garments, and the softness of the lights and shades were particularly noticeable. The only fault some people could find with the process would be that it might too accurately portray the features, but they could remedy that by calling up their sweetest expression, and assume a virtue if they have it not.
This (out of copyright) photograph from the State Library of Victoria‘s collection was taken in Toongabbie, Victoria c 1890-1891 by the aforesaid photographic company. I’m not sure that the woman was calling up her sweetest expression as she looks quite sad, even without the inconvenience of her head being pilloried in an iron rest.
Woman, three-quarter length, to right, lace panel down front of dress, inscribed in black ink on verso: Toongabbie
I just had to add this comment to the body of this post. Thanks to pellethepoet for an amusing story on the discomfort of posing for long exposure photographs.
Sir William Macarthur tells a humourous story of the ordeal for sitters of the long exposure –
“One day,” he says, “an old lady from the country was sitting before [William] Hetzer’s camera. Mrs. Hetzer, whose name was Teckla [sic – Thekla], helped in the studio and sensitised the plate in the darkroom while her husband posed the sitter. When the old lady was ready for the plate, Hetzer called out to his wife, ‘Teckla! Teckla!’ whereupon the nervous sitter jumped up in terror and exclaimed ‘For heaven’s sake don’t tickle me, sir, I can’t Stand any more!’”
from The Story of the Camera in Australia by Jack Cato (Melbourne : Georgian House, 1955), p. 17.
For those who are riding the 21st century wave of skin decoration, here’s a nod to tattoos.
Take your pick – blushed cheeks or a serpent wrapped around your arm.
I’m pretty sure that dragons and butterflies are back, only not just on men’s bodies.
When I’m hunting down future posts for this blog, it’s often a previously unknown word that attracts my attention. I was looking generally for articles on women in so-called unusual occcupations in days gone by. The word that attracted my attention on this occasion was ‘bifurcated’ which means, as I now know, split into two parts.
Mrs Bloomer was a temperate woman and a suffragette. The Evening News (Sydney) of 25 August 1894 takes up the story of how Amelia’s name became attached to this garment that was the forerunner of women’s modern trouser and gym wear, to say nothing of the benefits of eschewing a large hoop dress to enable one to climb on and ride a bicycle. I particularly like that her married life was apparently ‘unmarred by other than the fleeciest of temporary clouds’.
now 76 years old, carries her years easily, her 54 years of married life having been unmarred by other than the fleeciest of temporary clouds. It was in 1851 that she began to wear the costume which is now known throughout the English-speaking world as the ‘ bloomer.’ She was then living at Seneca Falls, New York State, where she was publishing a temperance paper called The Lily. In addition to being a prohibition advocate, the paper also devoted considerable space to the subject of woman suffrage. A Mrs. Miller, who in 1851 paid a visit to Seneca Falls, appeared in the bifurcated dress, and Mrs. Bloomer published a description of it. She and Elizabeth Cady Stanton adopted the style and advocated its general adoption. Mrs. Bloomer wore the costume on several lecture trips, and in this way it became associated with and finally known by her name. By and bye (sic) Horace Greeley took the subject up, and was followed by other editors, the result being that the bifurcated dress became known all over the country as the ‘ bloomer.’
So, did Mrs Miller invent the bifurcated dress / miller / bloomer, or was it someone else?
A few months after Mrs Bloomer’s death Australian Town and Country Journal printed this article on 18 May 1895.