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Peter H Rondum
A sons recollections - Work in progress

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Peter H Rondum Date: 17 May 2005
Erik and Peter Rondum. Image from Peter Rondum´s Collection

I always knew dad had worked for Cinerama. But being that 3 panel Cinerama simply did not exist for most of my lifetime, I never really grasped impact of Cinerama until recently stumbling upon the "Cinerama Adventure" Documentary website. The only two Cinerama films I had ever heard of were "This Is Cinerama" and "Cinerama Holiday". There were copies of each program booklet around the house growing up. Dad is credited in the "Cinerama Holiday" Booklet.

Dad also had this group of pictures in the family room when I was a young boy. A WWII era B25 Mitchell Bomber with the pilot waving out the window while a man was bringing up reels of film on a wood ladder. Polynesian people, tropical nature scenes and a large sail boat. The launch of the atomic powered submarine Sea Wolf. An audience in a theater with startled & amused looks on their faces. Other items were a plaque from Pam Am airlines “Jupiter Rex”and a small wooden Tiki set. Having a strong affection for airplanes dad would tell me stories about a certain pilot who could fly loop after loop after loop after loop in his airplane. Something about rough landings on an aircraft carrier. And how dirt would fall in your face when doing barrel rolls. His first experience working with cameras came in the area during the depression.

A map-making company Aero Service Corporation operated out of an airfield that dad would frequent and also to look for work - anything to do with airplanes. He was also studying mechanical engineering at the time. Turns out when he approached Aero Service Corporation for work, while they did not need any aircraft mechanics, they were having trouble with their camera shutters freezing up at high altitude. Story has it that dad went to a pawnshop and picked up some used cameras to study. And he landed the job! Later he was to develop a mapping camera that became a leader in the field of the time.
Further in 70mm reading:

in70mm.com's Cinerama page

Internet link:

Launch of the atomic powered submarine Sea Wolf. Note Cinerama camera and Erik with his hand on the sound blimp. Image from Peter Rondum´s Collection

How Dad ended up at Cinerama is not entirely clear to me. I do know he and Bill Latady, one of Cinerama’s vice presidents, were very, very good friends before and after Cinerama’s 3 strip era. Dick Babish told me that Bill Latady sort of brought dad along. Dick had re-joined Vitarama the founding company as a Vice President after Cinerama’s Broadway premier to help build a patent wall with Fred Waller & Bob Dresser. Dick told me that Wentworth Fling, Bill Latady and dad had already been working for some time when he returned. He also recalled for me that dad managed the contact with Wall to build the cameras and the camera was dad’s sole responsibility. Dick also mentioned that dad got to go to Switzerland for cold weather technical direction while he was assigned to Florida for the aircraft carrier work.

Dad started with Cinerama in May of 1952 according to an old resume. Also this box of slides labeled “Western trip with Paul Mantz July 1952 “. My mother who first meet Erik in the mid 1950’s, introduced by mutual friend Mary ‘Sis’ Biddle, mentions that dad had fixed some sort of problem with the system and “got it working”. What she specifically refers to I can’t say for sure due to lack or loss of information. Dad had mentioned the indoor tennis court to me. He lived in an apartment above a garage on Berry Hill Road in Oyster Bay NY. Later he would move to Los Angles with wife and first chilled where they stayed in Malibu Colony. Some of his post Cinerama work would be development on CBS Labs EVR “Never some much gray scale work in my life!” Also animation stand & optical printer development work for Oxberry-Richmark in Carlstadt, New Jersey. My older brother who worked with dad at Oxberry as apprentice draftsmen once described him to me as a film-handling specialist. And that Dad was always in constant demand for his technical savvy & advice.
Erik  Rondum. Image from Peter Rondum's collection.

Fast forwarding to the early 1990’s. One day I got a call from Willem Bouwmeester who was looking for dad and mentioned Cinerama. I immediately supplied him dad’s number. I planed to attend their meting. Regretfully I was held up at work and then hit heavy traffic in route on I95. I arrived just after Willem Bouwmeester, Dick Babish and (I think?) Thomas Hauerslev had left.

I found out they were working on the installation of Cinerama for the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Bradford, England. Dad informed me he helped them regarding a tachometer that was in fact electric not mechanical. Dad cracked a smile about it when I got there. It was at this time dad told me of the prototype single lens “Globe” system camera that he and another fellow had worked on. Also brought up was the filming of an Atomic Bomb test in the south pacific for Cinerama.

Fast-forward to around early 2003 when I happened upon "Cinerama Adventure" Documentary web site. One thing led to another and I ended up traveling out to LA to see the 40th anniversary presentation of "How The West Was Won" in full 3 strips at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. The last Cinerama film my father was involved with. Dave Strohmaier showed me my first 3-strip film presentation in the [Crest, ed] screening room on Seward. Marty & Pat Hart drove me around LA. I got to focus and frame a bit during on of the shows & had a good time. John Sittig is an absolute gentleman. I can’t win sometimes though; I did just miss meeting Steven Spielberg on Saturday.

It was an eye opener for me to see Camera camera #3 on display in the lobby of the Dome. I never had any idea Dad’s contributions would be on public display before. Let alone in Hollywood. Please allow me to express my appreciation to all those who have played a role in this, you know who you are.
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Updated 07-01-23