Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Friday, 17 February 2012

The Reel Thing

Tyrone Power, screen idol

For this week's Sepia Saturday Alan has presented us with a picture of film actor Claude Rains. The most obvious theme to be taken from this is the cinema. I have no appropriate photographs, sepia or otherwise, in my family albums, but for those who missed it first time round, let me point you in the direction of a previous post, 'Not Rhett and Scarlett' where you can see an original 1943 cinema ticket (The Ritz, Leicester Square) for 'Gone With the Wind' and read about the part it played in my parents' early courtship. I asked them both this week what other memories they had of picture-going in the the thirties and forties. They told me that when embarking on a new romance, a second date was usually to the cinema. When Dad, aged barely eighteen, asked Mum out she said she'd like to see 'Suez’, (1938) with Tyrone Power. Mum was already head over heels in love with Tyrone and it was just as well that Dad could see what he was up against. Being the considerate chap he was, he readily agreed, not letting on until much later, that he had already seen the film the previous night. Tickets cost sixpence and ninepence and courting couples would usually gravitate towards the back rows. Some way into the screening of 'Suez' Dad felt brave enough to put his arm nonchalantly around Mum's shoulder whilst she was either absorbed in the plot, or having romantic fantasies about Tyrone, and Mum pretended not to notice. Having already seen the film of course, Dad was free to put his mind to planning his campaign to woo his sweetheart. This July they will have been married for seventy years, so it must have been a good plan.

Dad, Mum's idol 
My own early memories of 'The Pictures', as we called them, are of queueing on a Saturday morning for the children's show put on by my local cinema, ‘The (ABC) Metropole’, in Nottingham. For a couple of hours we children were treated to a varied programme of shorts, cartoons and a serial. Laurel and Hardy were great favourites, proving that even thirty years after their films were made, they had timeless appeal. During the interval a cheerful individual would tell a few jokes and give out on the spot prizes of chocolate bars for knowing the answer to a question or riddle. Anyone who had a birthday that week went up on stage to be cheered and given a free ticket for next week's show. The 'highlight' of the morning was singing the 'ABC Minors' song, with a kind of enforced jollity only equalled by the Redcoats (holiday camp hosts) of the fifties and sixties. Sadly I find I can still sing the song fifty years later.

We are the boys and girls all known as
Minors of the ABC
And every Saturday all line up
To see the films we like and shout aloud with glee
We love to laugh and have a sing-song
Such a happy crowd are we - ee
We're all pals together
We're Minors of the ABC

My parents recall that ice-cream 'wafer sandwiches' were available during the interval and young men would buy their girls a box of Cadbury's Milk Tray or Dairy Box before the performance. Things hadn't changed much by the time I was attending 'Minors', when Paynes's Poppets were the confection of choice. Mum reminded me that during the intervening war years and those immediately following, sweets and chocolates were rationed and even hard to come by. She remembers being in a local sweetshop when a young man, hoping to impress his ladyfriend, left crestfallen and empty-handed. The next customer, however, being a regular, was rewarded with his confection of choice. At that time cinema-goers would stand respectfully for the National Anthem and behave with decorum. These days a trip to the cinema is not complete without a bucket sized tub of popcorn, and a litre of Coke, whilst audiences munch and slurp their way noisily through the performance. The cinema would be packed to capacity, Mum tells me, and as people left, the commissionaire (usher) would allow in more of those in the queue. You often had to watch the tail end of the film's first showing if you wanted to be sure of a place for the 'second house' and in-between you endured trailers for films 'coming soon' and adverts for predominantly local businesses. In the sixties these seemed to be mainly Indian restaurants.

As Mum's vivid recollection proves, a  cinema date back in those early days must have been eagerly anticipated and talked about for long after. These days many of us can't even remember whether we've seen a particular film before, let alone recall the plot. We often see the film for the first time through television or other media; I wonder if some of the magic is lost.

So, ladies and gentlemen, form an orderly queue please, and take your seats for Sepia Saturday. I can promise you a varied programme of dramas, shorts and comedies, thanks to our genial commissionnaire, Alan.


  1. When I first looked at this I was very busy and I thought I wouldn't have time to read it all. But here I am, having read every word. So interesting and well-written. Right to the very last two sentences...which were my favorites.

  2. You have far better detailed memories of the movies than I do. All I remember is running to the bathroom at the end of the movie to hide so we could stay and watch it a second time for free.

  3. What an idol your dad was back then too...it shows! Your Mum was very wise in her selection too! They had a very good plan indeed...congratulations to the happy couple! Your opening photo of Tyrone is a favorite of mine, although he appears more like a child than a handsome dapper actor, of all time! I too am pressed for time, but your post was well worth reading! I believe for me the magic still lives!

  4. Your dad looks as handsome as a movie star in that photo.

    Although I didn't know it at the time, I really missed out on movies as a child.

  5. I remember the cinema being a special occasion, and also I vaguely recall having to see the end of the previous performance before the one I paid for started. Not only is the cinema experience less fun these days, but there are so few new films that I want to see. Age I guess...

  6. The cinema was once THE place for capturing one's imagination. Now we get overloaded by everything else and the movie house lacks the impact it once had. Great essay.

  7. What great memories. Tyrone Power was a handsome fellow, but so was your Dad.
    I'm not sure who decided that popcorn was a good theatre food. It's noisy and messy.

  8. Ah, Tyrone Power - so handsome :o)

  9. I remember arriving late and having to sit through the beginning of the next movie to see what I missed.

  10. They still sell Payne's poppets at my cinema of choice, they seem to come in more varieties than they used to.

  11. So many of my childhood Saturdays were spent at the movie theater. Your delightful post made me remember them in vivid detail.

  12. Saturday morning in the village hall was the place for kids when I was a boy just after the war - a cartoon and a cowboy film were the regular items. Later my first date with the girl who was to become my wife was at a Stamford cinema. I don't remember much about the film but I do remember my ear got entangled in her spectacle frame. She says that's why she eventually changed to contact lenses.We've got almost 20 years to go to catch up with your mum and dad.

  13. Tyrone Power was yummy. My first date movie with my husband was "Europa, Europa."

  14. I've never been a great cinema-goer but you've nevertheless brought back memories of queuing and struggling in past people already watching..

  15. And thanks to you for taking your Commissionaires torch and showing the way to some great memories. Oh, I remember the Saturday morning cinema club although I was a member of that alternative crowd the Odeon Club (2,4,6,8 who do we appreciate, O D E O N, Odeon)

    1. As was my husband, who tells me you Odeonites looked down on us Minors! I just went to the nearest cinema.

  16. First of all, a hearty congratulations to your parents, for staying the course, all these years. Secondly, thanks for posting such an evocative piece. Southampton City Centre had four individual cinemas, when we were kids, although our local 'flea pit' had been closed for some years. I can still smell the heady mix of celluloid and confection.

    Oddly, Mags and I weren't great cinema-goers during our courtship. We did attend a lot of live gigs, though.

  17. My mom had a thing for Clark Gable, and since her dad operated a movie theater for a while, she saw him aplenty!! Theater for me is mostly in the past due to my spinal problems. I like my blurays on my flat screen. I can move around and still see movies I love.

  18. Your Dad is the more handsome of the two idols. This was such a fun post; I enjoyed the interview with your parents so much. That song is funny. That was a great idea to give the birthday kid a free pass, because they knew that they wouldn't come alone.

    Hope your week is awesome, Little Nell.

    Kathy M.

  19. Hey! Fellow ABC Minor! God I Remember That Song Too!!!!


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