James Arthur “Jim” Wagoner

James Arthur “Jim” Wagoner, 82, of Pampa, Texas and formerly of Denver, passed away on Wednesday, December 30, 2020 in Pampa. A private graveside service was held at Fairview Cemetery in Pampa. Arrangements are by Carmichael-Whatley Funeral Directors of Pampa.

Jim was born August 20, 1938 to Bill and Helen Wagoner in the Worley Hospital in Pampa, Texas. His parents farmed in the Grandview community so, at an early age, he was fascinated with machinery such as the Holt combine.

He attended Grandview Elementary school, a two-room country school, which had outdoor toilets, no electricity, and no phones. When Grandview got electricity, they acquired a 16 mm projector. Jim became the school’s student projectionist where he began his love for film projection. His family moved to Pampa where he graduated from Pampa High School. While in high school, he spent time working at all four of the movie theatres in Pampa. His favorite was the La Nora. 

In his spare time, he would go to the train station in Pampa. Jim would talk to the conductors, and they would let him ride in the engine compartment going east to Canadian and west to Amarillo. Being an avid railroad fanatic, Jim knew just about everything there was to know about trains and railroad operations and was happy to share the knowledge. He loved to follow steam engines and the new diesel electric locomotives in his car when the trains were traveling close to his location.  He would visit railyards, talk to the crews, and keep up to date on the latest railroad activities. Jim also loved aviation and anything to do with airplanes.

Jim was a graduate of the University of Denver with a degree in Business Management. He worked his way through college as a movie theater projectionist and never left that profession.

During his Denver career, he worked with every type of film projection available, which included 35 mm, 70 mm, Todd-AO, CinemaScope, and three strip Cinerama. When the opportunity came to service Inflight Motion Pictures for TWA and United Airlines, he jumped at the opportunity.

After retiring, Jim annually provided tours of the Denver Paramount Theater’s projection booth, sharing with others his passion for the art.

After 40 years in Denver, he moved back to Pampa and became acquainted with the modern farm equipment and rode the new John Deere combine every chance he got. Coincidentally, his apartment windows overlooked the Pampa Railroad Facility.

Jim is survived by a brother, John Wagoner and wife Terry of Amarillo; several cousins; and many lifelong friends in the Pampa and Denver areas. 

Jim was preceded in death by his parents.

Caboose Books, in Canada, hosted a collection of stories about theater projectionists. They had heard about Jim and asked him to provide an article which turned out to be a delightful telling, by Jim, of some of his memorable projecting experiences.  

The document can be found using Google with a search: “Jim Wagoner Projecting in Thin Air.” A direct link to the article at Caboose is: https://caboosebooks.net/node/136.  

Memorials may be made to a favorite charity. 


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