(image c/o Cinema Treasures)
Continuation of the series that began here.
By the mid-70s, I needed a steady job to support my endeavor of higher education. Perhaps affording me money in my pocket for dating purposes, too. Youth and hormones can be mercenary. A college education was something my second-gen Mexican-American mother pushed for, and I (the oldest surviving) was on the receiving end of that obligación. Now, my younger brother (by a year and eight months) on the other hand sought work foremost.
Had done so since he finished high school. He consistently dreamt of having his own business some day. So, he was already working as the lead projectionist at the Huntington Park Warner Theater by the time I arrived there, having bounced betwixt odd part-time jobs in between classes.
Now, there is always a rivalry between brothers. I didn’t write the rules, no matter what my brother tells you. It’s just the natural order of things the youngest of a set take the brunt. Age doth have its privileges… So when the tables are turned, it can be a little galling for the older sibling. Imagine how wonderful it must be when your fantasy comes true, and you get to rub that fact into the face of your tormentor since birth.
Well, I may not have been that bad, but you get the picture. Payback. My brother interviewed me before I passed onto his boss, the theater owner. If I hadn’t passed his interview, end of story…do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Monopoly rules. No recommendation for hire, therefore no job. My sib clearly laid the terms of employment, and hierarchy can be a bitch.
By this time, the Warner had become an independent theater. Pacific Theatres was the last chain to operate it before this. Normally, theater chains employed union projectionists — most of those went through apprenticeships to reach their skill/pay levels and positions. Independents, on the other hand, didn’t have to hire trained professionals.
No, anybody they could instruct, stick in the projector booth without burning down the theater, and pay a fraction of the normal wages would work just fine in such instances. And if you entered at the bottom rung of this particular projectionist pool, well, let’s let Don Pardo list the prizes, shall we?
If my brother had to work his way up to senior projectionist under such conditions, everyone else would too (“…oh, and by the way, what are you getting mom for Mother’s Day? I’ll go halves with ‘ya.”).
- The last choice for days and hours worked — meaning you-know-who, the senior projectionist, got all of the best (his choices); the next guy down then got to pick theirs, and you the leftovers.
- You do not get to complain to said sr. projectionist about [insert hours, pay, co-workers, equipment failures, etc. here], or you get replaced by another slub looking for steady employment during the 70s.
- New projectionists always worked Amateur Night — more about this later.
- “... and don’t screw up and make me look bad.”
I look back on it now and wonder if all of that was worth it. Ultimately, it was.
To Be Continued…
Next up: The Owner (Part 2)
The entire Warner Theatre Project series can be found here.