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Do you remember buying a Film Stip Viewer from Woolies?

By john workman  |  Posted: January 06, 2013

Brightly coloured Film Stip viewer box.

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In the late 1940s the cinema was a place where friendships grew, relationships blossomed, and Hollywood film stars became idols to millions of people.

It was also where members of the audience were given the chance, for a short while at least, to escape the mediocrity of their own lives and live the lives of their heroes and heroines on the big screen.

TV was still in its infancy and television sets didn't come cheap, so matinees at the local flea pits remained popular, and the more elaborate picture houses, built to evoke the splendour of royal palaces, enjoyed a growing and sustained audience.

Away from the silver screen people still craved their movie idols and favourite animated characters, and Alan Keeling, who has already provided us with many happy memories of those long forgotten programmes we used to watch on the little box in the corner, is able to reacquaint us with a form of entertainment that some Bugle readers may recall very well.

It was in the late ‘40s that a new product called the ‘Film Stip’ was launched, that became instantly popular with both children and adults alike. It could be used to educate as well as entertain, was advertised in both newspapers and magazines, and enjoyed overnight success, remaining popular until the mid 1960s.

Alan told us: "To enjoy the Film Stip as the manufacturers had intended you needed a Film Stip Viewer which could be ordered by post or purchased from various stores. I bet a pound to a penny there are Bugle readers like me who remember saving up their pocket money and buying a viewer and a strip of film from good old Woolies. Both the viewers and the various lengths of 35mm film were manufactured at a factory in Edlesborough, near Dunstable in Bedfordshire.

“The viewers were sold in boxes, the film came neatly packaged in paper covers, and most of the film strips were produced in monochrome.

However one or two were occasionally released in colour, much to the delight of collectors. The black and white frames cost 6d for six, a shilling for twelve frames, and fifteen frames would clear out the piggy-bank to the tune of half-a-crown.

“The early Film Stip viewers were made from a rubber-like material, but later on plastics were used, and as regards the film-strips you could buy, there was quite a variety.

Every so often specially packaged items were released, including ‘The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth - 1953’, a ‘Christmas Pantomime Set’, and even an instructional strip on ‘How to Play Better Golf’.

“Hundreds of other strips were available with subjects raging from ‘Ships of H.M.

Navy’, ‘Blackpool by Day’ and ‘Whipsnade Zoo’. There were also Disney favourites like Mickey Mouse and Treasure Island, Western favourites like Hopalong Cassidy and John Wayne, and later in the ‘50s TV favourites such as Robin Hood.

“I personally discovered these pocket-money delights when visiting my local Woolworth's at Bearwood, and still have William Tell, The Buccaneers, Sir Lancelot, Lawman, Dial 999, and two Western Films in my collection.

“Because the viewer was such a great success in the early fifties, it wasn't long before a mains operated ‘Stip Master’ projector was introduced so that the whole family could view their favourite film strips at the same time.

The Film Stip was a memorable possession in my younger days and a means of entertainment which I'm glad I was able to enjoy. Hopefully there are other Bugle readers who are able to share the same memories as myself"

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