Slideshow Sideshow

There’s a techie theme in this blog lately, between slide carousels and bookselling websites and such, so let me talk about some collectibles I have sitting around which combine old technology and new technology. Someone gave me their Panorama Colorslide Travel program.

These were dandy little books published for the Columbia Record Club around 1960, presenting guided tours of a country or a museum. The book included two oblongs of cardboard with sixteen color slides in each, eight pointing up and eight pointing down. You needed a special projector to show these, but having the slides mounted on cards meant you couldn’t get them out of order, lose them, or get tangled in slide trays (the precursor to slide carousels.) AND they were easier for the Record Club to mail. But why was this offered by the Columbia Record Club? Because each book also included a recording, each side of the record corresponding to one of the oblongs. A famous narrator would actually read the book to you and tell you when to move from slide to slide (Obviously,. you couldn’t read the book yourself because you had the lights off to show the slides.)

There seem to have been 13 country tours and 10 museum tours, and the recordings represent lesser-known performances by some big names; Columbia having access to a wide range of performers. For example, Edward R. Murrow narrates the book on England, Vincent Price does Italy and Greece, Carlos Romulo the Philippines, Basil Rathbone India as well as Hong Kong, Charles Boyer does France, David Wayne The Holy Land, George Sanders The South Seas, Cesar Romero Mexico, and Hans Conried does Holland. I understand Burgess Meredith did a couple of the museum tours, so you could consider these a kind of Batman collectible, too.

It’s all great fun in retro style. But what’s the connection with new technology?

Well, while hunting around for background on the series (and check the list of Batman villains), I hit a link which carried me to YouTube, where a Vincent Price fan has gone to the trouble of turning the slide-and-record shows into YouTube videos. Yes, you can now see slides of paintings from the Prado or the Louvre with Vincent Price’s original voiceover. Mind you, I think this lacks the fun of putting up the screen, remembering where your turntable is, etc. That may just be because I have this projector to sell which shows nothing but Panorama Colorslides. (I assume it works, but I haven’t plugged it in. I have a phobia about plugging in fifty year-old appliances if I don’t know where they’ve been. What if I get transported back in time and have to play dodgeball again at recess?) 

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