Modern electronics have all but obliterated a part of my childhood school days that I think back on fondly.

There are no more filmstrips.

Filmstrips was this great time where the teacher turned off lights, lowered the shades and turned on the projector. The classroom would then be treated to a glimpse inside a variety of subjects – we’d learn about everything from manners to mammals.

In case you’re not familiar with this archaic instructional tool, a filmstrip was a series of still pictures that were strung together to tell a story. There was a soundtrack that would accompany the film, which would not only narrate the story, but give you a cue as to when to change the picture – usually a beep or a tone.

The best part of the filmstrip viewing experience was if YOU were chosen by the teacher to turn the knob on the projector. What a sense of pride it was to be given this role of distinction! It was your responsibility to keep the story moving!

The narrators were of your typical variety – dry actors who would describe in perfect pitch and tone why Susie should brush her teeth after meals. Then would come the “ding!” and the picture would change.

Yes, it was totally lame, but it was way better than listening to your teacher drone on about punctuation or long division! Plus, they could be very entertaining, but not always in the manner intended. Sometimes the kids and people in the filmstrips were so dorky it was impossible not to goof on them.

For example:

But another caption would be way more fun. One like “Steve’s mother sympathized with Mrs. Logan for having a hang over after drinking one Old Fashioned too many.”

Or how about this Rockwell-esque scene? The deviant mind would notice the rather lascivious look on dad’s face. Look’s like he’s excited to see fresh meat at the table, and he ain’t talking about the baloney sandwiches.

Steve won’t share and little Billy is left to play pocket pool. Who’s having the real fun?

Some captions needed no embellishment. They were just too fucking funny as they were.

I’ll be the first one to admit that filmstrips sorta sucked. They were a glorified Viewmaster outfitted for the classroom. But there’s a timeless beauty to them as well…it was an era where it was still considered ok to shove morality down our throats…where free thinking was evil and a sin.

It was hard not to giggle during those 20 minutes in the warm darkness of the afternoon classroom. The stray giggle or titter rarely elicited a warning from the teacher. Many of these films were outdated even in the 70’s and were so hokey it was a wonder any teacher found them to be acceptable educational tools.

Who knows – after a long day of trying to teach us knuckleheads our 3 R’s – maybe our teacher needed a laugh too.

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