Back in the late 1960s, when I started collecting 16mm films, I subscribed to a paper called "The Film Collector's Registry". Through this paper, I met many 16mm film collectors from all over the country but none could compare with Clyde Carroll from College Park, Georgia. Clyde probably had the largest collection of 16mm films of anyone I had known up until the early 1970s. Clyde and I began trading at a time when I would go into Manhattan and pick up hard to find films from Abbe Films, National Cinema Service and Old Timer Alan Starr, Jaarc Films, among others. Clyde's main genre was westerns, as was mine back then and we traded quite a bit. I also bought films from Clyde.
Then I met Charles Crane who lived in the Bronx, NY, right on the other side of the Whitestone Bridge. I do not recall how we met, but it might have been through a mutual film collector since Charlie was a very quiet, private, film collector. Charlie collected all genres from "A" films to the lowest "B" westerns you could find. Charlie Crane would not trade a film unless he had doubles of any particular title. From Charlie I received titles like 'Stagecoach" with the Walter Wanger logo, 'Fighting Caravans" with Gary Cooper and my all time favorite Zane Grey film, "Wagon Wheels" with Randolph Scott----all original pristine prints as Charlie never would have a "dupe" (Poor Copy of a film).
I remember the day we went into Charlie's garage to look for "Wagon Wheels". He had piles and stacks of 35mm cans with titles written on the cans in magic markers and against his walls, he had 10 ft high metal shelving all loaded with 35 mm cans containing two reels of 16mm film. When looking for Wagon Wheels, which I wanted so badly that I traded him a Rocky Lane & Durango Kid for it, we went hunting. I recall almost being buried alive as Charlie stood on a chair to get to the top shelf and the entire metal shelving started coming down towards us. Luckily we were able to steady it and Charlie then secured it with ropes tied around a metal pipe he had attached to his water heater which was in his garage - but what a way to go! I could see the headlines; "Film Collectors Buried Alive By Their Booty". My life flashed before me---WHEW!----we finally found it and it was in a corner in this rusty old 35mm can, buried under about 10 other films all in rusty old 35mm cans.
Charlie had titles ranging from 'Gone With The Wind' to 'The Jazz Singer' and everything in between - he had them all mixed up. Then came the day I decided to hook up these two giants of the Film Collecting world----Clyde & Charlie----I vouched for each one to the other and they made a massive trade. Clyde had obtained what was thought to be the only surviving print of the original Lone Ranger Serial which was missing some chapters and was in rough shape with Spanish Subtitles. He told me it cost him $1000 back then. He cleaned each chapter he had as best as he could, then made dupes from the original print. Charlie wanted a copy of this landmark serial so bad that he traded 5 Buck Jones Columbia's that Clyde had been looking for, for years. They were in perfect shape. Charlie was very disappointed by the quality of the dupe. It was dark as I recall and Charlie never traded with Clyde again as he felt Clyde's description was not what it turned out to be and that he had given Clyde way to much to obtain it.
I met Clyde Carroll and his wife Juanita back in 1976 when I moved to Florida. Louise Stanley was having a party at her house in Cocoa Beach, about 35 miles from my house, and Ray Thomas, a collector buddy of mine had invited me and asked me to bring Wagon Wheels for the guests to see. When I got to Louise Stanley's house (for you folks who do not know, Louise was a contract player for Paramount in the mid 1930s - but that's a story for another time) there was Art Davis, a country western musician and former PRC star of the Original Texas Ranger series. Ray Thomas was behind the bar manning the projector. Louise's son Bob, and his wife, and Clyde & Juanita Carroll. Clyde immediately remarked about my age. "What's a young man like you collecting old westerns for?" I was 35 years old at the time, and I simply said, "I like them, don't you?".
I especially liked my Paramount Zane Grey collection of which Wagon Wheels was one - anyway, other then Clyde, Juanita & myself, everyone else was cockeyed and feeling no pain. Clyde his wife and myself had coffee. They were showing some of Art Davis's old PRC westerns when Clyde asked to see Wagon Wheels. He had never seen it before and my print was perfect. As the finale played - I could see the look on his face as he exclaimed "Joe!, I'll give you two Gene Autry's for that film. (Clyde had bought out a warehouse full of Gene Autry films and had 5 or 6 titles of each Republic Autry ever made) The night was pleasant and Louise and I would become friends over the next 6 years before she passed away; but what started out with 2 Autry's for Wagon Wheels, became 7 Gene Autry's for Wagon Wheels as I left clutching my print under my arm. I was waiting for old Clyde to pull out a revolver and say "Stick Em Up, I want that film!". Well folks, over the years, Clyde would call me and made me all kinds of offers for Wagon Wheels and I turned them all down. Right up until I saw Clyde for the last time in 1984 at the Atlanta Western Films Convention. No, that was one film I was to be buried with as it was my favorite.
The dawning of the VHS tape slowly killed off many of us 16mm collectors, as we all, or most of us sold our 16mm collections. I often think of Charlie Crane and what he or his sons did with his massive 16mm collection or what became of Clyde's warehouse full of films, mainly westerns. They both had the biggest collections I have ever seen on 16mm films. Those were the days I will never forget. The days I would hook up a film and show it on a Giant Screen in my home. Titles like True Grit & Cabaret that I had obtained before their NYC Premier. Had the entire Family over to see them in my projection room. When I had large audiences, I would tack up a bed sheet to my wall in my living room and it was just like being in the theaters with my two 12 inch Jensen Speakers. It was a joy and it still is a thing that is fondly remembered as I get older. Another time in my life that I will never forget...Respectfully submitted... (sasheegm)