We had a great time at the end of May, making microwave popcorn and talking about the old days of cinema, when a trip to the flicks cost tuppence, and you’d stuff yourself with choc-ices and monkey nuts bought from the greengrocers next door. Kids flocked to the Saturday morning picture clubs where they could catch up with the latest cowboy serial – or cause havoc by throwing sweets around. There were also fond memories of teenage clinches in the back row of the pictures – the cinema was a good place to go for a first date, as you didn’t have to talk much.
Most people lived within a short walk of their local cinema – it was a friendly, local experience, a far cry from today’s huge multiplexes and bank-breaking popcorn concessions. Before the age of TV, cinema newsreels were the only place you could see what was happening in the news – essential in war time. In the 1960s, the ABC cinema in Chesterfield also hosted rock ‘n’ roll shows, including Jimi Hendricks, and one patient recalled seeing Billy J. Kramer there.
But by the 80s, local cinemas were really on their last legs. I remember exciting trips to the Palladium in Kendal in the Lake District where I grew up – enthralled by E.T. and old Disney films but scared by the peeling wallpaper and dog-eared posters from long-ago films. A few years later, most of those cinemas had closed down, soon to be replaced by big modern cinemas with surround sound and the latest films. However, in recent years, there has ben a revival in the interest in the old At Deco style and luxury of the old cinemas, with the craze for all things vintage.
A trip to the flicks
Cherry lips, floral gums, Parma Violets
Sour apples, torpedoes and bon bons
Pontefract cakes, Rainbow Drops and wine gums
Crisps and ice cream tubs with a wooden spoon.
A big brown bag of monkey nuts for half a penny.
Kia-Ora and choc-ices our weekly treat.
A boyfriend with his arm around your back.
Meeting for a date in the milk bar.
Ideal for a first date – you didn’t have to talk much.
Half the time, you didn’t watch the film.
Too busy canoodling in the back row,
Watching out for the usherette’s torch.
Scary films were the best for cuddling.
But no easy feeling!
My sister always came as a chaperone –
We had to be home by 10pm or there would be trouble.
Expectation mounted at the start of the film:
The curtains drew back,
The organ came up through the floor
Entertaining us while we settled in our seats.
The Wizard of Oz.
John Wayne as The Duke
Old Yeller – about a dog
Crying at Lassie films,
Bambi and Black Beauty.
Jaws made us jump.
Saturday morning picture show for tuppence
You could afford to go twice a week
Cowboy films and serials
Newsreels before every film.
As TV arrived, cinemas grew shabby and scruffy
Peeling plaster and worn plush seats.
The old ones closed down,
Demolished or turned into bingo halls
Popcorn and multiplexes just aren’t the same
But our flea-pit memories still remain.