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Farewell to the true “Picture Show Man”

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A tribute by his daughter, Debbie

My dad, Merv Cousemacker, sadly passed away on Monday September 7.
The 1977 movie “The Picture Show Man” was the true story about a man travelling around the NSW North Coast with his “Touring Talkies” van screening movies….. Where this movie ended……Merv Cousemacker took over.
Seventy four years ago, a nine year old Merv (helping out for his sick uncle), screened his first movie in Ulmarra, and there began a life-long love affair with film and projectors, which resulted in dad running the travelling cinema show in the 50s and early 60s, operating a cinema in Maclean and finally owning his own in Yamba.
During the 1950s, dad, along with mum (Elaine) travelled and put on screenings, complete with newsreels in Copmanhurst, Tucabia, Glenreagh, Brushgrove, Lawrence, Ulmarra, Iluka, North Beach and Red Rock. …until the introduction of television put them out of business.
If you watched a movie in the Clarence Valley in the past 74 years, there’s a good chance Merv Cousemacker was operating the projector.
During the 1970s dad operated the Picture Palace in Maclean – the cinema’s name is still ingrained in the pavement. Dad often recalled his greatest memory was filling the theatre there several times in a day, which seated 1200 people. When screening “Born Free” he recalled watching the school children marching down the street with their teachers, carrying buckets filled with bob pieces…admission was two shillings (20cents). He remembers their time in Maclean fondly, especially when pipe bands would walk down the aisles playing for the patrons during the Highland Gathering.
“You can’t imagine the noise,” dad would say.
After the cinema was sold to make way for the current shopping arcade, dad opened up screening movies in the Maclean Civic Hall.
Then in 1980, dad fulfilled his dream and started his own cinema in Yamba.
Dad was very conscious of his duty to his patrons, he believed if someone took the time out of their life to come to his cinema, it was his duty to give them the best show possible…..sometimes this even meant driving through storms and even flood waters to get to the cinema to open.
Merv, with Elaine by his side, was very passionate about the community and their commitment to helping others. If you belonged to a charitable organisation, sporting group, or school in the Lower Clarence Valley chances are your group would have benefited by a fundraiser which was held at and sponsored by the Yamba Cinema.
Although dad retired from screening movies in 2005, he was still very much involved with the Yamba Cinema. He watched with sadness but also filled with pride, when in 2013 his cinema moved into the digital age and his original projectors were replaced with new digital projectors. He was very proud that what he started all those years ago was able to keep up with the times.
Screening movies was dad’s life…. his passion, and the Yamba Cinema is his legacy to the Yamba community. Dad was very happy to see the next “generation” of locals and holiday makers coming to the cinema, and was pleased to hear them recall their memories of the Cinema, to him.
With dad watching over me, I hope to continue his work and keep it as something he would be proud of.
“You have left a great legacy dad”.

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