We began exploring the new neighborhood and finding some interesting things to do, not long after we moved there. One place we discovered that was only a stone's throw down the hill was the Tacoma Public Library. I don't know who thought of doing it, but either Dad or Red Fred got the idea of renting a 16mm film projector from there, with a few films to go with it.
Only just a few years later, VHS tapes would be commonplace to check out, superseded by DVD's by twenty years, but in the early summer of 1981, that's all there was for checking out films. I remember the group of us walking up the incline of 11th Street, some of them taking turns carrying this heavy projector up the hill. We finally got it to the house, and Dad began setting up in the living room. A poster was taken down off one of the walls, creating an "instant screen" right there on the wall. One of the films was taken from its canister and threaded into the projector. I didn't catch what they picked out, but I was excited as the light was turned out and the film started.
It was Hardware Wars, the now-legendary takeoff of the original Star Wars film, but done in the style of an upcoming film trailer. My knowledge of Star Wars was pretty threadbare, but I was able to enjoy and get a good laugh out of what was going on. I especially liked Chewchilla the Wookie Monster, as he looked and sounded like Cookie Monster, going after Princess Android's hair "buns". This was also the first time I had ever seen a parody of something, and the utter cheesiness of everything in this short movie was unreal. After it was over, they didn't rewind the film, but played it backwards, just for a laugh.
I seem to remember a Pink Panther cartoon as the other film that they rented, one where he was a rancher with a little sheep, battling a nearby rancher who sort of looked like Yosemite Sam. Angie was pleased with that one, as she really liked Pink Panther.
Oddly enough, this was the only time we ever rented a projector from there. I think we began seeing so much good stuff on cable that we sort of forgot about doing that again. One thing we noticed on Showtime was that they would show short films if there was a ten-minute gap to fill before the next film came on. I remember being impressed with one called Vicious Cycles, showing a bunch of bikers tearing down the highway on invisible motorcycles. They also showed the followup, Stop, Look & Listen.
One that was disturbing as it was fascinating was one called Recorded Live, about a guy going to an empty building for a job interview, only to be stalked and chased by two reels' worth of brown videotape. He wards them off with a big magnet he manages to find, but the tape outsmarts him in a locked room he's hiding in, covers him in the blink of an eye, and eats him on the floor. Not quite the kind of thing to show to an impressionable 5-year-old, but I managed to see it a few times, and although I'd forgotten the title for years, I never forgot seeing it.