I arrived to Sonoma county on Thursday and stayed at the lovely home of Barbara Hoffman. The house is located between the towns of Sebastopol and Occidental and it's so quiet and peaceful that I could have stayed there forever. Plus Barbara and her husband Gary were very hospitable, which made the stay just heavenly. The reason I came there was to conduct my first full-size Magic Lantern Slide Show and I wanted to do it with Barbara present because she is the granddaughter of John Rahill and it was from her that I purchased the slides in 2011. She has never seen them projected and I thought that to hold the first viewing with her present would be a terrific start to the Lantern Show run.
Barbara arranged for the show to be held in a nearby recording studio that belongs to her ex-husband Joe. The room was cozy with estimated maximum capacity of about 25 people. A local newspaper called 'Bohemian' did a little write-up on this upcoming event and Barbara was inundated with calls and had to turn quite a few people away for lack of space. I hope those who couldn't make it will be able to come to the next show in the area on which I will elaborate further down in this post.
The audience started arriving at about 6pm and I gave everyone who expressed interest a tour of The Photo Palace Bus and showed them what it's all about. Here is a quick shot of one of the groups and me in front of the print collection.
At about 7pm we were ready to start the show with all but a few folks having arrived. I must admit I was a bit nervous as I have not really done much public speaking in the past, but I think the fact that it was dark and the audience was facing away from me while looking at the screen helped the situation and I felt rather comfortable.
The first part of my show was devoted to familiarizing the audience with the various uses of Magic Lantern throughout the centuries. I have about a dozen mechanical slides, some of which are humorous in nature. Those evoked a pretty lively response from the viewers. Then I showed a few of dozen slides of various subjects ranging from cartoon depictions of signing of the Declaration of Independence to a lovely little story of "Tiger and the Tub", concluding with a short projection of a Mickey Mouse slides that were made in England under the license from Walt Disney.
The second part of the show was a bit more extensive and focused on Mr. Rahill's travels through Russia, China and Japan when he was working with the YMCA during WWI. I have 69 original slides with me, which I carefully curated to give the most comprehensive overview of his journey and mission without having to show all 500+ slides. Here are a couple of shots taken during this second part by a Los Angeles Times photographer who was sent to the event to cover it for an upcoming story.
Aside from a few slides being inserted upside down I think the show went off without a hitch. I will have to get used to speaking while operating the lantern in the dark and trying not to drop the antique glass slides, which can be rather bad. One of the slides did fall, but luckily it was OK - it's a neat image that I imagine was shown in movie theaters before the start of the film and it alerts the ladies to take off their hats (sorta like today's 'please turn off your cell phones' announcements). The show ran about 1.75 hours including a little break and introduction about John Rahill given in duet by Barbara and me. After the show I had a very lively barrage of questions on various topics and I fielded those while trying my best to place the slides back in the box and keeping their order. Keeping the order is entirely impossible and I will have to re-organize the slides before every show, which I don't mind doing. I do envy the lecturers of the bygone days who had lanternists operating the projector while they simply concentrated on delivering the information, that way all the slides could be put back in the same order as the show progressed and no further shuffling was required. Perhaps with more experience I will be able to do that myself and I look forward to that moment.
After I left Barbara's place I headed to Cloverdale where a gentleman by the name of Will Layfield invited me to visit the Cloverdale Historical Society. Will saw the story about my discovery of the French WWI negatives and wrote to me that he was a conservator in Cloverdale and had come upon a a trove of old nitrate-base negatives. He told me that he was making silver prints from them and I was eager to see that.
The ride from Sebastopol to Cloverdale is not long, so I arrived there around noon. Will met me by the bus and after a customary short tour we went over to the beautiful new Historical Society building. There, on the second floor, I was a really neatly arranged display of vintage items.
Cameras from local owners
Images of Sonoma County residents
Stereoscope with views of the area
A photo postal stamp (I have read about these, but have never seen one live)
And from the archives a 1909 glass negative of the annual Citrus Fair with a swastika made of oranges. Back then that symbol was still accepted as one of peace and prosperity.
And here is Will himself, counting the ways that he had to modify his enlarger in order to make prints using glass negatives and the nitrate-based ones that he had mentioned to me before.
Will also showed me a number of Magic Lantern Slides that are in the archives and we discussed a possible Lantern show to be held during the second weekend of March in the performing arts center. I am very hopeful that we can clear the space and get over all the needed hurdles in oreder to make this happen. Then the residents of Sonoma county will get a second chance to view a Magic Lantern show AND we will use some of the slides from Cloverdale Historical Society to spice it up.
Seeing how excited I was on the topic of Magic Lanterns Will told me that he has something related to present me with and I was eager to give him a ride aboard The Photo Palace Bus to his home when he ended his shift. There, from the back of the closet, Will pulled out a large metal box and hoisted it onto the bed. After opening it up I saw one of the most pristine Lanterns I have ever laid my eyes on. It was likely made in the 1940s by Charles Besseler and judging by its condition I was barely, if ever, used. Will said that it was mine to keep and that I could probably put it to better use than he ever could. I was vary happy because no matter how big this particular lantern is, it is still smaller than the one I used for Barbara's show and I am happy to downsize in any way I can. Plus, from the information printed on this lantern it uses 750W bulb and that's 50% brighter than the 500W featured by my old Bausch and Lomb. Here is the latest addition to the Magic Lantern collection of The Photo Palace Bus. I can't wait to test it out!
From Cloverdale it was a pretty long drive to Humboldt county. I have driven that stretch numerous times in a car, but Gilli is a quite different type of a ride and it took me a goor 6 hours to cover the distance I can usually do in 4 or less. I got to Arcata an hour after sunset, parked (after a few attempts and another ruined lawn) in the back of a friend's house not too far from Humboltd State University and took a breath of fresh redwood forest air.
This morning I met with an HSU professor Don Anton and we discussed the possibility of The Photo Palace Bus making an appearance at HSU during the fall semester. He seemed very impressed by the darkroom and promised to start the ball rolling on funding. Tonight I am meeting a renown carbon printer Vaughn Hutchins and I can't wait to pick his brain about that beautiful process. Let's see if I can pull together a little interview for you all to enjoy.
Tomorrow I will be taking off northbound once again with the goal of reaching Corvallis by Wednesday. Thursday The Photo Palace Bus is scheduled to have an appearance at Oregon State University and in the evening there will be another Magic Lantern Show sponsored by the local Photo Guild.