I reckon the movies are excellent entertainment – reasonably priced especially as some theatres give Supergold card discounts, plus they’re perfect for bad-weather days and are wonderful escapism. I saw Little Women the other day – different from the usual rendition but still very good. I have two favourite movie theatres that I go to – not too far away, cosy with well-padded relaxing seats and where wine, chocolate chip biscuits and Magnums are also sold.
Quite different from childhood movie-going. In fact, we used to call the movies – the ‘pictures’. ‘Here you are’, Mum would say giving my slightly older sister and me one shilling and sixpence each (15cents) for us to get out of her hair and go to the Saturday afternoon pictures. Bliss!
We had a lovely local old theatre called The Prince Edward which was a twenty minutes walk away – slower on the way home as we gossiped with friends and dragged out the day. The theatre has long since been demolished and I think apartments have been built on the spot. The large, high roofed theatre had a sloping floor, an upstairs area (expensive) and a downstairs one (much cheaper). Guess to which area sister and I went? Opaque decorative windows with lit up coloured glass edged each side of the screen, which was hidden by deep red, velvet curtains. The film ticket cost one shilling which left sixpence for lollies. I would buy a Quench Bar for tuppence because it would last for ages; a penny’s worth of five jaffas (I bet you know why), a penny for something else such as five aniseed balls, and a one penny bubble gum for when I’d finished the other lollies and off course for popping.
The theatre would be dimly lit when we entered but bright enough for us to check out our mates. We would choose our turn-down seats – with friends if they were there and hold our paper bags of lollies waiting for the film to start. Then the lights would dim further, the theatre darken and we would all scream with excitement as the velvet curtains parted. The pictures always started with a showing of the Queen’s Coronation and the music of ‘God Save the Queen’. We would all stand for this and it never occurred to us to not do so. When this was finished, we sat down again for the real stuff, rustling into our paper bags to start on our lollies. Worst was first and a boring newsreel would start showing the building of some bridge or dam. This was a good time to chuck a jaffa towards some unsuspecting kid. The jaffa would roll down the sloping floor and everyone would laugh.
By the way I should mention that grown-ups didn’t come to the kids’ picture sessions. No wonder either. It must have been a nightmare for the theatre owner with the screaming, jaffa throwing, kids being sick and seats being banged up and down (just for fun).
Anyhow, after the newsreel, there would be huge excitement as the serial began – often some cowboy and Indian or cops and robbers film. Political correctness wasn’t in then and we were all innocently culturally insensitive. We yelled for the goodies and booed for the baddies. Incredibly interactive. The serial would end with a cliff-hanger to tempt us to come back to the pictures next week. Further excitement if there was a comedic Fatty and Skinny film or even better, a Mickey Mouse cartoon coming next. More enthusiastic screaming of course.
When this finished the theatre lights would come on and it’d be half-time. Time to go to the toilet (run there quickly to avoid a long, long wait and having to come back in the dark with the embarrassing possibility of not being able to find one’s seat). Boys wearing white jackets and little white hats would have trays of rock hard ice-cream cones to sell. The trays would be suspended in front of them with a leather strap which circled the boys’ necks. The ice-creams were very expensive so sister and I never got one of these. I only know they were rock hard because other kids told me. After a short time, there would be a ding ding ringing and we knew it was time, quick smart to get back into the theatre for the second half.
Once again, the lights would dim and darken and the main movie would start. This was serious business – the main film and everyone went very quiet. We watched films such as Old Yeller which was awfully sad, Black Beauty which I loved, Pollyanna, The Parent Trap – both of these with Hayley Mills, The Red Balloon which I thought was rather strange, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which the boys went nuts over and old films starring Shirley Temple. How did she get such perfect ringlets?
When the main film was finished and we left the theatre with our eyes blinking in the brightness of the daylight, we started walking homewards hopefully with mates who lived nearby. We would dissect the film and discuss what we thought would happen in the next adventure of the serial. Of course, we all lied and said we didn’t cry when Old Yeller, the dog was shot.
‘See you next week’, we shouted to each other as we departed ways.
Now – how many kids would get such fun, independence, freedom from parents and so much kid-sociability for such little money nowadays? Weren’t we lucky?