Peter Hartland

Peter Hartland  (1927-2014) Late of 1A Pembroke St, Bicton WA 6157.

Pioneering Western Australian Peter Hartland toured his marionette shows extensively throughout Australia – and on retirement passed the tradition, skill and puppets on to Leon Hendroff of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle.

These words from Brian Muhling as he reflects on Peter’s life and family……..  I knew the Hartland family well through Terry the oldest of the four boys. I met Terry in 1954 when I wanted to buy an 8mm camera and he steered me in the right direction. We then became good friends and I made a point of having lunch with him most days because I worked just around the corner from him. As I entered the shop, he would get out his sandwich and a rule and measure the height of the sandwich and then say “Five eighth packing today” let’s eat. Those days he had his shop in James Street after first having a shop in Stirling Street. He then shifted over the road in James Street and then much later went to Stirling Street with the new up market Hartland Cinemex. Next stop was Brewer Street in East Perth and then to Brisbane Street. Terry was instrumental in being one of Perth’s first camera repair technicians and a very good one at that. His son Ray continued with the business in later years and also a very capable technician.

Terry’s brother Bernard was next oldest and was a very capable projector engineer having developed several different Geneva movements for extra illumination in 35/70mm projectors and also made water cooled gates for the very high powered drive-in theatres and a host of other fine inventions. He installed many new projectors in Western Australian theatres and Drive-Ins.

Peter was a School teacher when I first met him and I do have some 16mm film of him at Castledare Miniature Railway in 1975.
John was the youngest brother who regularly visited Terry at the time I was having lunch with him.
The word is now getting around and I feel sure that as others will add to the information on the Hartland’s . They were a great bunch of guys and I learned so much from Terry and Bernie over the years I was associated with the family. Terry had so many funny anecdotal tales to tell from his war years through to the the time he designed and built his house brick-by-brick by himself in South Perth. It would be great to get some comment on Terry and Bernie over their work on cinema products repairing, designing, modifications and installations in Perth and suburban theatres. 
I felt as a 17 year old, so privileged to be involved with the installation of the plant in the Willagee Gardens in Archibald Street about 1958 or 1959. I think the 35mm machines were Cummings and Wilson, but not certain. Richard Ashton has written a wonderful article on Cummings and Wilson projectors. I spent many weekends with the team getting in the road mainly but it was all good fun.
My next door neighbor was Ken Booth who worked for Hoyts running between the Plaza and the Ambassadors Theatres. As a side line he built the Willagee Gardens. It did not last very long due to the rapid growth of TV and I imagine Mr and Mrs Booth lost money over the whole business, still they brought a lot of happiness to the locals while it operated. I think the opening night was “There’s No Business Like Show Business” in CinemaScope and Mum and I went along. We got in the box office cue and when Mr. Booth saw us in the line he grabbed Mum’s arm and said “This way Dulcie, no neighbor of ours pays on the opening night or any other night, especially as Brian spent many hours helping us.”
Just another bit of wonderful memories I have of the early years playing in suburban picture theatres.  I believe a book could be published on the life of the Hartland boys.
Windsor Gardens Nedlands 1958 taken by Eric Hill. It clearly shows the projector ports.

Windsor Gardens Nedlands 1958 taken by Eric Hill. It clearly shows the projector ports.

Philips dual gauge machines in the Plaza Theatre about 15 years ago.

Philips dual gauge machines in the Plaza Theatre about 15 years ago.

Richard Ashon also produced a documentary on AMMPT “Members in Action” which covers in detail the camera repair activities of Ray Hartland.

AMMPT’s film library has a 16 mm film record of Peter in action. Details are as follows:

Project Puppetry AMMPT 16mm film Library Cat No A6828 .20minutes, Colour and a Western Australian Educational (WAVE) production. This documentary opens with some rare scenes of Peter in action handling one of his many puppet creations to tell a good story and giving us an insight into his mastery of the medium

The body of the film is an excellent record of creative arts education and presents a marvellous project for young people to learn the art of puppetry. This film was made at Takari Primary School inPerth Western Australia where a class under the guidance of Peter Hartland and the teaching of John Lewis, has nine and ten year olds making papier mache glove puppets, researching and devising a script based on their social studies and finally presenting their creation to the rest of the school.


Peter Hartland LIFE AMONG THE LITTLE PEOPLE Australian Puppet Biography SC 1991. The author describes his life working with puppets. Publisher: Perth, W.A. : Pembroke, 1991 ISBN 0 646 04682 9. 1000 copies were printed.

Peter Hartland