DDQ also owned and operated four of the region’s drive-in theatres. The Oakey drive-in was managed and staffed by a lady herein after called “The Bosses Wife”.
There was an occasion when, as Assistant Engineer, the bosses wife (angry) came storming into the Chief Engineer, Paul Ament demanding action after the drive-in male toilet had been vandalized by some of the local wanton youth. It had already been decided that a microphone would be installed above the urinal trough and connected to an amplifier and speaker in the canteen. Privacy issues were not on the horizon in those days. That way, if the tell-tale sounds of shattering glass, fibro and toilet bowls were heard, immediate action could be taken to apprehend the culprits.
Paul Ament was not terribly impressed - with some comment like “bloody stupid – they’ll be able to hear all the swearing and f#@ts”. In any event, the task fell to me, and I rigged up a tiny hearing aid mic right on the centre upright of the louvres above the trough. Although at face height ,it was never noticed. The speaker was a drive-in speaker mounted straight above the bench where the hamburgers were made. From that time on hungry patrons had hamburgers and chips prepared to the roaring sounds of the incessant flushing of the trough.
I heard that one patron had glanced at the speaker, looked the bosses wife straight in the eye and said “Oh - if only I had known, I could have ordered my burger from in there”.
On another occasion, in latter years, the very quiet sound booth used for voice over work for commercials was replaced by a lesser soundproof version further down the corridor from telecine.
The bosses wife came in one morning totally perplexed by the weekend events at the Oakey drive-in. It seemed that a lot of patrons had asked , as they paid their money and got tickets, “and where’s my free condom?”.
A forensic check was immediately performed on the commercials that had been put to air the week before. When they were played in a quiet environment a small voice was heard in the mandated half second of silence at the end of the commercial.
The voice was that of a curly red headed tech who had waltzed past the booth, just as the voice over ended and shouted toward the (sound- proof?) booth, “and get your free condom at the gate”
Telecine was a very noisy environment and the very low level piece on the end was not heard when the commercials were edited.
Then there was the time that the projectionist at Chinchilla was taking holidays. I was asked to tow the station caravan (large) to the Chinchilla caravan park, for the relief projectionist. I had enlisted the help of Ollie (Daryl Oehlman) to help with hooking up and detaching it. While we were in Chinchilla. I decided I would go around and have a familiarisation tour of the drive-in for future reference. We went there, opened the gate and entered the building – master keys fitted everything then. As I closed the door and looked up, it seemed the sky had grown unusually dark and very quickly, in fact there were a few large drops of rain. I hurriedly drove through the gate intending to bolt before it got worse. I got the gate shut and stepped into the car just as the wind built up to a fury. Nestled into the corner of the fence, ahead of the gate, I decided it was too dangerous to move, as the wind was likely to bring down a large branch from any one of the mature gums on the far side of the road. What followed was a maelstrom of rain, wind, dust and blowing objects, like the 44 gallon drum that flew past the car at something like 80 km/hr. We could see nothing and were, most of the time, in fear of something smashing the windscreen. It was all over in 5 minutes and we were wiping the fog off the glass to look back at the drive-inn. It was just a heap of bricks. The mini tornado had taken the roof a hundred metres across the paddock and the walls had collapsed. I have always known that had I been able to get back through the gate when the storm started, I would have sheltered there.
It was with considerable difficulty that I convinced General Manager, Laurie Burrows a little later, on the phone, that we would not be able to “patch it up for Friday night’s showing”.
At one stage we upgraded the lamp houses in the projection booth at Oakey. The originals were old and rather burnt out so I found some better ones, refurbished them and fitted them in situ. At the same time we built new audio gear for the projectors and fitted that too. Aligning the lamp houses to projectors was a slight problem as nothing could be seen on the screen in daylight and we were running out of time. The big night had arrived. David King and I were there as projectionists and the station had been promoting “Man from Snowy River” for weeks and the venue was filling fast.
Start time arrived – just on dark - and we rolled the first reel. A great thundering of hooves was heard in ever increasing volume until it was a deafening roar. I was totally focused on the lacing of the projector to ensure that the loops were correct (as a stalled filmstrip in the gate resulted in torn sprockets and often a frame burnt out in I millisecond). We glanced up and the screen was in darkness and we should have been seeing something by now - and there was light through the projector. David suddenly noticed horses approaching through the trees off to the right of the screen. Realizing in a flash what was wrong I jerked the projector to the left and LO - a thousand horseman suddenly leaped onto screen.
I can’t be sure - but I don’t think anyone noticed.
We were ready for the other projector when reel 2 was due.