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Dumbest thing I did this month... 25 Jul 2003 01:15 #20155

  • BurneyFalls
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I fell through the ceiling of my auditorium today! Fortunately I was not hurt--caught my armpits on the rafters before falling 15' or so onto my stadium seating. My foot somehow slipped off one of the 2' X 6' up there and I thought I was history. I am lucky I have been lugging those film cans up the stairs for a few years and have maintained enough upper body strength to pull myself back up into the attic. Otherwise I would have hung there or been crumpled-up like a pretzel on top of one of my seats until my projectionist came in eight hours later!!

I have a wonderful neighbor who gratiously did a temporary repair of the damage. I spent the rest of the day cleaning up the blown-in insulation that was 3" deep all over my seats and floor. It was a mess.
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Re: Dumbest thing I did this month... 25 Jul 2003 01:22 #20156

  • Ken Layton
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Wow! Glad you're ok. I've fallen through the ceiling several times myself. In fact I've tripped and fallen down stadium seating stairs, too.
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Re: Dumbest thing I did this month... 25 Jul 2003 02:33 #20157

  • outaframe
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Jeeze, BURNEY, you could be amoung the out of commission with a trick like that!... Walking on the top edge of a 2by is NOT a good idea... I keep a couple of 2'x2' squares of 1/2" plywood up in the attic with cleats nailed on the bottom (to keep 'em centered on the 2bys) and when I need to go up there, I can stand on one, push the other ahead, stand on it, lay the other ahead, and move around without any danger of sticking a foot through the ceiling... Works like a charm, and it's SAFE... You better make up a couple of these before you go up there again... We don't heal up as quick as we used to!...
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Re: Dumbest thing I did this month... 25 Jul 2003 08:47 #20158

  • John Pytlak
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So glad that you weren't badly hurt.


Why do Showbiz people say "break a leg" to wish luck, when it IS sometimes such a dangerous career?

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: 585-477-5325 Cell: 585-781-4036 Fax: 585-722-7243
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Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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Re: Dumbest thing I did this month... 25 Jul 2003 09:59 #20159

  • RoxyVaudeville
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I'n so glad you're ok BURNEY. That is such a dangerous thing to do. I know and I still do it all the time. All of our dimmers are in the attic just in front of the booth, but the only way there is from the stage loft and then you must cross the entire length of the ceiling to get to them. There was always a catwalk half way to get to air conditioning equipment, but the rest of the way was on the 2bys. About 15 years ago I had a catwalk installed the rest of the way. However, it seems as though something always comes up that requires someone (usually me) to venture out over another part of the ceiling. Most of our air conditioning equipment is on the roof. The constant vibration created from it running causes the seal around the support legs to separate slightly and allow water to get in. We are always up there resealing it. As added protection I had installed plastic sheeting under the roof below the AC equipment to catch any water that makes it through and directs it into a bucket which of couse must be emptied on occasion. One time many years ago after a very heavy rain I went up to check the bucket and it was almost full. To empty it I have to do the tightrope trick of walking the beams back to the catwalk. Making sure that I watched exactly where I put each foot I didn't realize that I was at the center and hit my head on a steel beam that ties the steel trusses together. Down I went. Luckily for me I had just gotten to where there were some boards lying across the 2bys. I landed on them and, believe it or not, managed not to spill hardly any water from the bucket. I had a crease in the top of my head and it was a bloody mess. I was quite dizzy but managed to get myself back down stairs. I drove to the medical center emergency walk-in facility only to find it closed as it was a Saturday morning. The hospital is 10 miles away so I drove home. My wife who is a nurse patched me up. I had a mild concussion, and a somewhat more then mild headache. After that we put more boards down to get to that spot when we need to. We have since put on a new roof and don't need to do that any longer.

[This message has been edited by RoxyVaudeville (edited July 25, 2003).]
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Re: Dumbest thing I did this month... 25 Jul 2003 12:17 #20160

  • jimor
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Those attic 'walkways' are nothing to fool around with, fellows. Your experiences are not by any means unusual, sad to say. I think that the building codes should require that catwalks be installed in any such attic during construction, but that will never happen.

The Theatre Historical Society owns an infamous photo of the 1931 SOUTHTOWN TH. once in Chicago which in an auditorium view shows the faint patch in the newly-opened theatre's ceiling where a construction worker had stepped off the catwalk onto a suspended plaster ceiling's steel strut, thinking it would support him. It didn't. He fell to his death on the seats 70-feet below where they reportedly scraped up his remains.

Closer to home, I talked with a guy who was hired to replaster and paint some holes in the auditorium of the former PARADISE in West Allis, WI and he told me of how he went up to the attic and set up a suspended bosun's chair and lowered himself down through the plaster hole to work on a weeknight. He told me how difficult it was working while swinging in the 'breeze', so to speak, and how it was not until he dropped his trowel down the attic side of the plaster shell and heard it clatter down four stories between the outer brick and inner plaster wall, that he realized that if something happened to his rigging, he and the bosun's seat could both clatter down to that same one foot wide space where no one was likely to find him for some time! (he was alone in the theatre and the owner had given him a range of time to do the work over a span of two weeks when the place was closed.) He said that when he realized this, he got a sudden chill and became a little sick to his stomach, and then hoisted himself up and went home to arrange for another fellow to come there later to help him, and to call for help if something happened to him. He finished the job, but said that he had new respect for the fraility of humans in such large spaces. He had no family, so he may have been found only when somebody smelled his remains between the walls!

Take care even if you aren't working in a giant movie palace! Make safe the work area, and don't work alone.

Jim Rankin, member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Dumbest thing I did this month... 25 Jul 2003 12:47 #20161

  • Large
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Wow!, I'm glad you weren't hurt. I have just spent some time in my house attic installing an exahst fan. I was very careful and moved very slowly because I was worried about all those 2 by nothings holding up my 300 lbs.
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Re: Dumbest thing I did this month... 25 Jul 2003 15:27 #20162

  • revrobor
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Boy Burney!

Glad you were not seriously hurt. Whadaya doin' up there?

Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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