Saturday, 19 March 2011
52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Movies
When I was older, about 8, I think, I was allowed to go to that great British institution 'the Saturday morning pictures' at Gillingham Odeon. It cost sixpence for a seat in the stalls and ninepence for the balcony. The great advantage of the ninepenny seats was that you could throw your sweet wrappers, lolly sticks and other confectionery detritus onto the peasants in the cheap seats below. To be honest, I remember more about the sweets than any of the films, and every kid in the place seemed to have handfuls of them In retrospect, the only job in the cinema worse than working on the confectionery stand must have been cleaning up the mess ready for the respectable paying customers on Saturday afternoon.
The only film I remember was a black-and-white serial called 'The Valley of the Vanishing Men', and all I remember about that was the opening credits, which featured men, presumably of the vanishing variety, toiling round a capstan, in a cave, to music that I later discovered was The Ride of the Valkyries'. To this day I can't hear it without conjuring up the same image. What would Wagner think?
At the end of each Saturday's show the Odeon would unleash hundreds of excitable children, hyped-up on sugar and pretending to be cowboys, spacemen or whatever onto the High Street. The cinema was just off the High Street, and while we could have walked (or run) the short distance down the street and around the corner, it was much more fun to take the short cut through Lefevres department store. Every week the staff tried to intercept the swarm of miniature delinquents, and every week they failed. My cousin Ron was particularly good at this, being small, fast, and lippy with it.
Now I am much more likely to buy a DVD than to go to the cinema, although getting round to watching them is another matter. I tend to watch films on long plane journeys - I see that 'The King's Speech' is now on the Virgin Atlantic in-flight programme, so that's my next flight sorted!