A Mysterious Box Found in the Attic

Among all the ephemera from four generations of the my extended family that seems to have ended up in my attic have been some truly interesting, personal, and moving objects. Memories have been recalled, and feelings too. Sometimes I’ve sat and looked and remembered, and wondered too.

I have also found:

– Some ancient and rather crumbly 200ADs.

– Lots of LARP kit, much of it decent. Apart from a costume and item or two we couldn’t bear to part with, this is all now re-homed with a good friend who is still avidly gaming.

– Four suites of mail (or coats of fence, as we used to say). Three are now re-homed. I kept the bronze one.

– Large quantities of small black and white photos of people called Mr Hoskin; Aunt Evelyn; Dorothy in the garden; Malcolm & Joan; Daphne Sumner; Len & Maurice & Stuart Roland & Muriel & Brenda & Cicely & Beryl at the Tower of London; Thelma; Blanche, and more.

Rebecca(L), Judy (T), Amanda(R) Tessa

I have no idea who these people are.

However,  I did find this wonderful picture. What a bunch of scamps! They don’t half look like trouble.

I don’t know who they are either.

And then…



… there was this box. Locked, wooden, about 50 x 30 x 20 cm. I knew this was something dad must have made. It had much of his careful, meticulous style, with a light seasoning of bodge.  (Note the lock fitted upside down.)

I’ve only successfully managed to pick a lock once in my life. Several minutes fiddling with bent hairpins proved this was not going to be the second time. Instead, I took out all the screws securing the front face.

And then I opened it.

What on earth?

A grey machine, and two windy things. At the front, a metal plate in two parts that hinge, lifts, and fold. The left side has a spring-bar.

Behind it all, you’ll see a Bakelite wiring box. I haven’t opened that yet.

That shallow red cardboard case on the right held a couple of clues: a cine film spool, and some instructions for the intricate gray plate mechanism – it’s a film splicing device.

This, I realised, is dad’s Standard 8 editing suite.

Then I noticed the grey machine in the center had a liftable lid. Underneath is a small viewing screen.

With a reel on each hand crank, you can view the film frame by frame, back and forth. When you’ve reached the right spot, cut and splice. Neat.

What do do with it? I’ve many hundreds of feet of old cine film, if not a few thousand. Like this device it’s all 50-70 years old, all filmed on dad’s clockwork camera. If I’m going to do anything with that, it needs cleaning and digitising.

I could try watching it, because in another box I found his cine projector.

Considering the age of the wiring of this editing box, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to plug it in and flip the switch. (Yet.)


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