With Oboler we bounced first around the Kenya area. We went to the Indian Ocean beach for a couple days, and while there we filmed and recorded in a cashew nut farm where they had about a hundred natives wielding hammers. They were using them to get the nuts out of a shell. It was quite a sound to hear all those hammers clonking away at the same time, especially while Arch was interviewing the farmer. Oboler wanted all recordings done from the true location, so we went everywhere to get the recordings on site.You can see from these maps on the back of the record album, that we didn't cover the eastern African area too well on the disk; it is a big place; but Oboler chose the various ngoma recordings that were on the long-play record.. We made many that didn't make it into the album, and we recorded interviews at many, many places that don't show on the maps. The audio tape was really rolling through the recorders in those days. We went from place to place with the help of Geoff Hutchinson and missionary Father Fornier, and we taped a broad range of East African music for the album, and also we got representative bits of African life for the Ziv shows.We went north to the Acholi tribe and did filming and recording sound of their ngoma dancing. (I came home to Fargo with an Acholi shield that still graces my basement rumpus room (which is now filled with furniture and stuff from my wife's sister's and my mother's estates.)While in Africa, Oboler was having all kinds of souvenirs crated to ship back to the states for his Frank Lloyd Wright designed home. I did only a few pieces that really told a story to me.What a difference Arch Oboler made in my life. When I was with Gatti, I was a slave to his whims, so to speak; however, with Arch we were doing things that were very interesting, and I was part of the creative work without a blizzard of Gatti-grams eating me out.. For example: we climbed up on Mount Kenya with two male Swedish university scientists who were investigating the ancestry and lives of a little animal called the rock hyrax. They were collecting specimens of the little rat-like creatures on all the high mountains in the East Africa.Oboler made a number of recordings of the Swedes at various locations on the mountain. The thing that got me, was the fact that while were there, it drizzled when it wasn't raining, and raining when it wasn't drizzling. The rain fell on and off every day we were on the mountain, and fog and clouds obscured the peak of Mt. Kenya most of the time.With the weather against us, we only saw the peak of the mountain about a total of 20 minutes and each view was slightly foggy. I didn't get any film that amounted to anything due to the moisture in the air all the time. My boots were soaking wet for five days. I think we climbed up to about the 12,000 foot level of the majestic 15K peak. I know I was cold, wet and tired from the climbing.One of the Swedes spoke very good English, the other none, so when we got back to the famous Outspan Hotel we had an impromptu party. Steeg, the non-English speaker opened a bottle of Norwegian Aquavit that he had saved for a special occasion. After a couple of drinks from his bottle, Steeg was talking English with a Swedish accent. Great stuff, that aquavit.At the western edge of our four months of travel, we filmed the nearly seven foot tall Watussi dancers performing the same thing they later did for the African movie, King Solomon's Mines. The king of the Watussi was a French speaking native, and we had a good time with him. He furnished the beer...Another great muscle-busting adventure happened in the Impenetrable Forest near Kabale, Uganda after Arch met a gold miner named Peter Mathews in the Kampala, Uganda Imperial hotel. "I've got to go to Peter Mathews' gold mine and record the big ngoma he is going to have one of these days," said Oboler, and so we went. It was some trip, believe me.Like most of our travels, we never did do things on time, Peter Mathews gave Arch the instructions on how to get to his mine. "It's a long trip through gorilla country," he said to begin with, "and I suggest you get a real early start because it measures about 17 miles you have to walk after you cross Lake Mutanda in the dugout canoes I will have waiting for you. And all that hike is over a series of mountainous ridges, one right after another and some are steep climbs.. You'll sweat every one of those ridges to be sure. I'll have some native carriers for the lady, if you want to bring her."Peter was a wiry sort of person, no fat or excess poundage to haul around. So on the day appointed by Peter, we drove to the edge of the lake Peter had named, got into the long native dugout canoes paddled by dozen or so husky natives who met us there. The native oarsmen paddled us, along with rhythmic vocal singing, for what I estimated three miles to the other side of the lake. It was a nice ride and it reminded me of the canoes I had seen on Lake Sentani in Dutch New Guinea during WW-II.When we beached the canoes, there were porters waiting to carry our camera and battery boxes, and the recorder and allied equipment, plus Eleanor Oboler. We had a number of extra porters whom our guide said were to carry us, if we had any hiking problems. Peter Mathews had thought of everything. When we beached the canoes, there were porters waiting to carry our camera and battery boxes, and the recorder and allied equipment, plus Eleanor Oboler. We had a number of extra porters whom our guide said were to carry us, if we had any hiking problems. Peter Mathews had thought of everything.This was in mountain gorilla country and the porters were a noisy bunch. Every now and then they would emit a string of wild yells. "That's to keep the animals away from our safari," said our native guide.As we progressed towards the mine, we kept picking up other native groups who had been waiting for us to arrive. Our guide kept us posted on the new members of the trek, who they were, and why they were joining us. Peter Mathews had a good group of native followers that were going to the party.The day went by slowly; it was a grueling hike. I lost count of the ridges we crossed, but someone said there would be one a mile before we got to the Mathews' mine. Eleanor was riding to the ngoma on the shoulders of husky natives who never seemed to tire of hauling her along. We hikers were slipping and sliding on some of the trail to the mine. Then daylight left us in a hurry as it does in the tropics, and we began traveling in the dark.Imagine this scene, Oboler had only one little one-cell flashlight to light our way. But some of our native traveling companions had made torches which they lit in order to see.The jungle we were now in was hard to get lost in, because the trail had been literally hewn out of the green vegetation we were walking through. As we crossed one ridge close to midnight, we could see lights being carried by another group of natives coming toward us. They were on the last ridge, and the torches were being carried by a native group that Peter had sent out to find us and guide us to the mine. By now, we had a big crowd of dancers and drummers, some who were occasionally beating time on the drums they were taking to play at the ngoma.I was really glad to see the torches coming down into a valley as we came down off our ridge to meet them.Peter was a great host. He had a shot of whiskey, Scotch that is, for us when we hiked into his camp about 2 a.m. The Ngoma got its start right then and there. And the dancing continued for the next whole day and night. We only recorded some of the dancing, but it was fun to watch all the natives having fun at the party. And they did have fun!A few years later, back in the states, I got a Christmas card from Peter who remembered that night:"I shall never forget the skilled technician who although able to rectify an intricate recording machine by improvisation and genius strange to the center of the Impenetrable Forest, yet had eternal youth in his eyes when he plodded up the last steep hill having canoed Lake Mutanda and climbed many weary rocky miles to arrive in the black of night with his pigmy and Wakiga escort.I feel that you'd be a real good side partner to have in a scrap and fine to relax with. In fact, think of you as of the forward line of the USA and to me you make me sure that America is a real country to live in. May you have all good fortune and the best of luck as you go ahead.Was glad to get your address and sincerely hope we may again meet."I can't remember what I had to fix so the recorder would work after that trek, but I must have done something to cause Peter to write that line.I'll never forget the Impenetrable Forest, believe me. Today, part of the forest is a National Park with tourists taken to see the gorilla family groups. In our day it was just what the name implies, impenetrable forest.I spoke of the Imperial Hotel in Kampala, Uganda earlier. Another time we arrived in Kampala and wanted to make future reservations for a few day stay, as was our custom while traveling. I said to the white lady at the desk, "I'd like to reserve our rooms again for the 15th and will be staying three days.""I can give you rooms for the 15th, but not longer," she said, "You see the Aga Kahn is coming and he reserves all the rooms on the second floor, and all the rooms on the floors above that, too. He can't have anyone staying above him in the hotel.""How does he get away with that?" I asked."It's very simple," the lady smiled at me, "He owns the hotel."So we stayed at another hotel after the 15th.Oboler was fascinated by a book about building the railway in East Africa..." I'd like to get the rights to that book and make a movie of it." he said to me one day. By then I had told him of my days at Technicolor in Hollywood. I explained the imbibition method of putting color on the movie film, and how it had lasted so well.The book that fascinated Arch was by an engineer named Patterson who, when the railway was being built, had to kill man-eating lions that tied up the progress of building the railway. It was a really dramatic story... The lion were old and hungry, and they would invade the construction efforts and dine on Indian workers imported to build the line.
A GREAT IDEA WAS BORN
"I was thinking, Arch," I said to him as we drove to a new location, "If you were to make a movie of that book, you should do it in three dimension film. The lions cold jump right out of the screen at the audience.""I never thought of that," he said, as he slowed down for a herd of wild elephants crossing the roadway."The reason why I thought of that, Arch, is because when I worked at Technicolor we made a bunch of Pete Smith one-reel shorts in 3D. They put a mouse on a stick and poked it at the audience. And they dropped a heavy safe out of high building right at the audience. I guess people jumped almost out of their seats at the realistic view.""You know, Bill, I remember those shorts," Oboler said as we waited for the elephants to clear the road.From then on, we talked again and again about what later came to the screen as " Bwana Devil." I explained how the Technicolor IB process worked using a red image for one eye and a green for the other, and then projecting them both at the same time so an audience wearing glasses that filtered the two colors saw the realistic film.I also told him about seeing a polarized 3D film at the San Francisco World's Fair in 1941. "That is way to go," I said, "but it still takes two cameras synchronized together to do the job."
CARR HARTLEY, GAME EXPORTER
One of the great African friendships we made was that of Carr Hartley, the African game exporter of Rumuruti, Kenya. In the map that Gatti has in his website story, I see that he admits he stopped at the Hartley ranch after we were there. So, you can be sure the pictures of rhino, the albino zebra, and other "wild "animals that Gatti shows in his books were probably taken in Hartley's many pens. So here are a few of the pictures we got from Carr after we had been there. Hartley had two white rhino that the kids could ride. And he had a big pen of giraffe that could pose for close shots, and a flock of 26 ostriches that I recognize as being shot at the ranch. Riding a rhino, a child can do it. The photos of cheetah posing on top of the International Station Wagon are certainly taken at the Hartley ranch. He had four that were petting quality, and I heard it took a lot of Gatti's coaxing to get one of them to stand on the top of an International station wagon for a still picture. .In a Gatti movie originally called "African Adventure" for the International Harvester Company, of which I have a worn out and damaged print, there is a sequence of Hartley's cheetah climbing all over an IH station wagon. Those were Carr's barnyard animals posing for the pictures. I got the damaged film print from a local IH dealer and had it transferred, after patching, to DVD in the year 2003.Oboler's recordings were about Hartley's game farm, and how he collected wild animals for circus and zoo use. We filmed capturing a giraffe, but the young animal died from the chase.Another one of our adventures was in a Pygmy village in the Ituri forest. It cost us a cow that one of our negotiators found for sale. On the cover of the Decca photograph record is a drawing of one of the Pygmy drummers, the one with the hole in his drum head, which was taken from a photo that we snapped there.The little people, many less than 48 inches high, showed us how they made a village in a hurry as they were nomadic in nature. With their machetes they chopped bushes down and made the beehive-shaped frames first, then they covered their little huts with long leaves from some local trees. It was in no time at all that their village was up and ready for occupancy. I often wondered if the same group we had demonstrating for us, were the ones that Gatti used when he was there before the war and was featured in his "Jungle Yachts in the Congo" booklet that he gave to Bob and me when we were interviewed in Derby Line, Vermont.At a luncheon in the nearby Parc Albert headquarters, the park superintendent made his famous statement about keeping Gatti out of the park he controlled. I'll never forget those words.Where Gatti was pretending that East Africa was in need of exploration, and he was the man to do it, Arch Oboler was trying to tell of how life in both the native and European villages was going on. And he wanted to paint the picture that it was a modern country, because there were railways with dining cars and steamships carrying passengers in comfort on the inland waterways.One of the wonderful water trips we had was on the SS Murchison on the Nile river from Lake Albert to Murchison Falls. This river voyage started the night before and we anchored during the night just a short ways from the falls. The accommodations were small but very comfortable, and the food service was excellent. The next morning the boat was surrounded with hundreds of Hippos, called river horses in the local jargon, while on the river banks, there were many crocodiles of giant size basking in the sunshine. So the skipper of the Murchison started to take us up the river to the falls landing. As we journeyed, he kept swinging the boat toward one shore and then the other to let me get shots of the animals, including rhino and elephants, which also populated the Nile river area. It was great!The boat docked near the falls and all the passengers hiked up to the top of the falls to cap the greatest boat trip I have ever been on for seeing wild life. The Oboler's liked it very much, too. We made a lot of recordings on the voyage also. It was something!I seem to remember that Ernest Hemingway, many years later, was injured in an airplane accident near Murchison Falls. It made big headlines in the newspapers.I also remember the day we were at Jinja, Uganda where the second largest lake in the world, Lake Victoria, dumped water over Ripon Falls and started the Nile river flowing to the Mediterranean Sea. This was just before the British built a huge dam there, knocking out the falls. However, the dam harnessed the power of falling water and changed it to electricity in the Owen Falls scheme.Nearby was a Jinja golf course, where I saw a sign which said, "Balls hitting hippo may played again without penalty." I always wanted to play that course and hit a hippo.
Oh there were other things that now dot my memory in this 21st century. Every now and then I have a mental picture of Africa and things like filming in a leper colony or the one day we went to record and film a volcano in the Belgian Congo. That was a terrible experience for Eleanor.Oboler and Father Fornier wanted to hike to the volcano where lava had been pouring out and running over the ground. So we hired a bunch of porters and a native guide to haul our equipment for us. I did part of the negotiations but it was our first few days in the Congo, and over in that country everyone spoke French at the time.So when we were hiring our native help, I asked the guide who spoke very little English, "How far is the volcano?" in Swahili. Now the Congo Swahili had a French accent and I did not know that so when the native said, "Kido kidogo," which to me translated "very small," We left Eleanor sitting in the Jeep Father Fornier was driving and started out walking to the volano. We walked and walked and nobody thought of the poor gal sitting along the road in that open Jeep.Oboler wanted to keep going, so we kept asking the guide and getting the same answers each time. We kept going and going and going. At about 4.p.m. we arrived at the volcano and did our thing for the record. Then we started back. Now keep in mind we did have a sandwiches for lunch, but no water bottle of any size, and we were tired from the hiking. But we kept going and Arch started to worry about his wife when it grew dark. We didn't hire enough porters so when one of them carrying a 40 pound battery stepped in a hole and turned his ankle, we didn't have anyone to take his load. I finally talked the guide into taking it for more money.The natives did not have any trouble with water, when they were thirsty they would find an elephant track that had rain water in it, break off a hollow reed and poke it into the water and drink like a straw. We ran out of our water. And boy, was I thirsty. So were every other European on the hike.It was 2:30 a.m when we reached Eleanor in the Jeep, and she was really a mental wreck. The stories she told us of her fright caused by the natives passing her spot on the road. They kept stopping and looking into the Jeep at her, and that was multiplied by her worry about Arch being gone so long. That was enough to send anyone to the looney bin. And so we slowly kept moving toward South Africa by auto. We stayed at many of the White Fathers Missions in the various countries we traveled through. Beside the Congo, Ruanda, Urindi, North and South Rhodesia we arrived in South Africa by railway. It was a pleasant trip from Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia to Capetown.My room mate on the train was a local man going to Capetown on business."What do you do for a living?" I asked him."I have a small company that makes farm machinery." He said quietly."What kind of farm machinery, tractors and the like?""No, I make hoes and rakes for natives to use." was the answer. Africa was a different world!We had to wait in Capetown for a ship on the Farrell Lines, so we did a lot of visiting. Oboler had a diamond merchant relative there, and I found that I owned a case of amoebic dysentery which had been with me since Kenya. The doctor gave me a prescription to take on the voyage home. When I finally got back to Fargo, I had the local doctor there finish the treatment.After a short time at my parent's home, I went to California where I worked for Arch Oboler Productions. Working with Harry Komer, an old time MGM film editor, I finished the short film we made for The White Fathers missionary group in payment for all those many nights we ate and slept in their guest rooms. They were fine hosts.I have some good memories of the African traveling. We took the SS Coryndon for an overnight voyage from Usumbura, Ruanda-Urundi at the northern tip of Lake Tanganyika to Albertville on the west shore. It was there we left Father Fournier and his jeep. He was a great friend. From there we took the train to CapetownI also recall vividly crossing Victoria Falls on a train just at sundown. It was quite a sight. I stood out in the vestibule of the sleeping car and watched the train carefully chug across a big bridge so we could see the falls.And so my African Adventure came to an end in Capetown. Instead of the six months with Gatti I had applied for the year before, I had been there nearly a year. There were many other places we we visited, it was a great trip.We took the Farrell lines ship, "Morgantown Victory," back to the states, arriving in New York city And, I"m sorry to say, not one other empty booze bottle of the Hallicrafters' bon voyage present of 48 jugs of bourbon that we tossed into the various oceans with fake notes inside, ever showed up to haunt us. Darn it!And as a couple of afterthoughts: Years later in the 1960-70s, I used to fly to Los Angeles quite often in my own Cessna airplane, and I usually took one of my employees along, Arch Oboler would always take us out for a dinner while we were there. He always gave me a verbal chewing out for flying my own airplane over the mountains, so I never invited him to ride with me anywhere.On one trip Arch invited me and one of my film editors, Jerry Fiskum, to a local Hollywood theater after midnight to see part of a Japanese movie that he was making. It was in 3-D and beautiful! I never did find out what he did with it later. Any way, I outlived him by many years, and I sold my plane when I retired and sold Bill Snyder Films, Inc.And about this long story, I really wrote most of this years ago, I didn't date the copy I dashed off in the early days after I returned to Fargo. My memory was a lot better in those days, and much of the dialog was well stamped into my brain, although I can hear some of the lines to this day, especially the bon mots from Gatti.I can hear him now saying, "...keeping in mind the resale value!" I'll never forget that one, and I don't think Bob has forgotten it either.