If you could afford it, Saturday mornings
at the flicks was definitely the place to be. It cost 6d to
get in to the morning matinée show. You had to be aged
seven or over to get in. I used to go along with my older brother
sometimes, when I was younger than the age of entry. I remember
being given my brother's cap to wear which was supposed to make
me look older. I still remember how very nervous I felt at being
found out as I paid my 6d for my ticket at the foyer.
Sometimes, as a bonus, the Manager
stood in the foyer given away free bars of Palm toffee to the
first few dozen or so kids through the doors. I can't recollect
getting one, but my mate Bert says that he used to get so mad
when he'd see him with his younger sister Fay and say, as he
gave them one bar, "She's wiv you so ya can share wiv 'er!
Now if you were extra cunning, you got
a mate to go in and he would then sneak behind the big old 'black
out' curtains. These heavy black curtains still hung in front
of each Exit door. They were used during the war years to prevent
the theatre lights from showing outside at night, letting the
enemy see a possible target to bomb. Once positioned and hidden
behind them you'd push the bar on the door down; open it up
a bit; just enough to let your mates in for free. Inside, hundreds
of kids were all babbling loudly, filling up the many rows of
The best way to sit on these flip up
seats was on the edge of the upturned seat, in order to get
a better view of the screen, as we were only small fry then.
Many of the kids sat on the arms of the seats, with their shoes
on the seats, but the ever-vigilant usherette lady with her
big long chrome torch shone it at them and told them sternly
to "Sit down properly!"
These closely packed rows of kids came
from all kinds of homes and were often from large families that
were having to live in too small a house, which meant overcrowded
bedrooms and unhygienic living conditions. Fleas and head lice
were quite common in these poorer children and they'd bring
their tiny bloodsucker hitchhikers along to the flicks.
In those days each local picture house
was colloquially named 'the flea pit' because of this well-
known reputation they had as a source of getting infected by
these wee jumping critters.
In all honesty though, our local flicks
was quite clean. I went to the Globe's Saturday morning matinée
and it was grubby and even more rowdy than our local flicks.
Some of the kids had rubber bands and they fired staples at
the big screen and it was peppered with tiny holes.
I remember when Tommy Steel told his
recollections about his childhood visits to his local fleapit
matinees. The kids there bombarded the organist with every thing
they could get hold of, as he rose majestically up from the
orchestra pit, still managing gallantly to keep playing a tune
on the big Wurlitzer organ as he ducked and dived trying hard
to miss the great volley of missiles aimed at him. What a way
to earn a crust, poor fellow.
At our local flicks though, the music
was played from records. It would strike up when announcing
Uncle Tom. He would bounce onto the stage and tell a few jokes
and announce some kids' birthdays, along with the following
week's coming attractions, competition winners and what have
Once, when he was trying to speak,
the kids were being extra noisy, so he threatened to expel any
one who continued to make a noise.
Now, my wee friend Ken; he was totally deaf; his mum paid for
Ken and me to go to the pictures. This gave me a spare tanner
to spend on other goodies. This particular Saturday, though,
another friend, Robert, had taken Ken to the pictures instead
and so I missed out.
When, after this threat, Uncle Tom
heard a child make a noise he immediately had him removed from
the show. I looked across at these kids who were being evicted
and saw that it was Ken and Robert. I thought, Cor blimey, that
could've so easily have been me! Shortly after this I saw them
both returning down the isle and back to their seats, each holding
a LARGE ice cream in a cone. It transpired later that when they
found out that Ken was deaf and that this was why he'd made
a noise, as he didn't know he shouldn't, they were each given
a big ice cream each, to make up for the mistake of expelling
them. I remember feeling very peeved about this, because I was
the one who normally always took Ken to the Pictures and reasoned,
quite reasonably I thought, that it should have been ME enjoying
that big ice cream cone. Life can be very tough sometimes, especially
when you're a kid!
Yes, it was sure packed with hundreds
of rowdy and very excited kids at those matinées. As
the lights dimmed down and the piped background music faded
away so did the noise from all the kids. The fire curtain was
raised and very gracefully the stage curtains, beautifully lit
up, were drawn open as the beam of light from the projectionist
room flickered above our heads and the screen lit up with the
first cartoon film, loudly accompanied with its own familiar
catchy theme tune such as, Bugs Bunny or Woody Woodpecker's,
all firm favourites, as the kids loudly cheered their approval.
When the kid's National Anthem was loudly
struck up, the cheer went up as well, as this was the very popular,
'Night Riders In The Sky' song, sung so stirringly by Frankie
Lane, a top pop singer of those days.
As this song was cranked up to full
potential on the speakers, his deep rich voice sang out those
so familiar lyrics and, right on queue, us generation of baby
boomers boomed out loud, in total unison, with all the voice
we could muster, the words to the chorus, "Ghost Riders
In The Sky." Gee, it sure stirred us all up as being one
big loyal family.
This was only a warm up, though, to
much bigger things to come. The real action started when the
feature films lit up the big silver screen and the heroes acted
out their daring deeds. Such stars as the Cisco Kid or Roy Rogers
and his white horse Silver; Batman and Robin; the Lone Ranger
and Tonto; Tarzan and the Apes, and so many more. We kids would
get right into the action, all booing and shouting our anger
at the villains, and then cheering at the tops of our voices,
as we spurred on the cavalry or our heroes, with our hands and
arms frantically waving and our bodies shaking and straining
forward. Our faces would be contorted with scowls of anger as
we continued to hiss and boo, and then at the very next scene
we were cheering and clapping and shouting again, as each dramatic
turn of events unfolded; all being acted out right in front
of us. A child's world just couldn't get much better than this.
Then it was the much looked-forward
to funny films. Kids' laughter, so infectious, rolled in great
waves through out the theatre, as Laurel and Hardy, Charlie
Chaplain, The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers, and similar
comedians of the day did their wonderful and outrageous slapstick
Later on, there might be a feature film
such as 'Lassie Come Home'. The kids would sit enthralled, eyes
wide with intense concern as the story unfolded; you would have
been able to hear a pin drop, it was so quiet. Then, later in
the film, when Lassie got so exhausted and weak, and she looked
as if she was going to die, while the film's violin music played
so softly, there wasn't a dry eye in the theatre.
Such were the treats that we Common
kids would talk to our mates about at school on the Monday.
Then, up on the Common, we'd act out our hero's role, doing
battle; the 'goodies' against the 'baddies'.