How not to spool 400 ft of film into canisters!

Years ago I worked as a junior darkroom assistant in the back of a camera store in Brisbane. The proprietor sold Leicas but most of his money came from selling film. He had a scheme of buying Ektachrome in 400 foot rolls and getting darkroom junior (me) to cut 5 foot 3 inch lengths and load empty 35mm cassettes. Everything was done manually in a darkroom with cassette bodies, cores, ends, film tape, scissors, and a bench top with a measuring nail all laid out exactly. Then I made a big mistake.

About 20 minutes before closing time I dropped a naked 400 foot roll and it clock-springed into huge tangled festoon of film loops about a yard across. In pitch blackness I could not find the end to try to re-spool it. The stuff was worth hundreds of dollars , the store was closing, I had to open the darkroom door, I had to leave. I was dead. Or was there a way out?

The garbage bags, of course! Gathering up armfuls of film loops I managed to stuff the whole lot into a huge black plastic garbage bag. That bag went into another bag, into another bag, and so on until the mess was light tight. At closing time the boss opened the darkroom and saw everything in order. He didn't look behind the door.

The next day I got the film tangle out of the bags and just started cutting 36 exposure lengths from any loop I could grab. By lunch time it had all been loaded and labelled. The several short left over ends were easy to hide. I walked out of the darkroom sweating but smooth faced.

That film had been kinked, stepped on, scratched, buckled, and abused. Hundreds of transparencies came out of that unfortunate roll, mainly from Leica users, but there was not one single complaint. Amazing!