John Marston remembers what it was like inside the Tunnel Road picture house

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 17th February 2012 by Liam Physick

John Marston remembers how, inside the Tunnel Road picture house on Saturday afternoon, which was especially set aside for children, it would be impossible to hear the film because everybody was screaming: as a consequence, the staff had to threaten to turn the film off to get them to quieten down - not that it ever worked! In the absence of usherettes, you had to find your own way to your seat. Inevitably, many tried to “bunk in”. John also remembers how on the balcony, there were pictures of old film stars, including Boris Karloff, who famously played the monster in the 1931 film adaptation of Frankenstein, and of how there used to be fancy dress functions for certain films e.g. dressing up as cowboys if a cowboy film was being screened. Jean, sitting in on the interview, mentions how her mother would collect jam jars: 20 of them would suffice to gain entry to the cinema without needing to pay

Interviewee: John Marston

Interviewee Gender: Male

Date of Interview: 2nd September 2011

Interview Transcript

Brenda: You couldn’t hear the film cos everyone was just (inaudible due to John interrupting)

John: Saturday afternoon, the kids would be screaming, shouting . . .

Jean: Well, didn’t they used to say, “We’re turning it off, we’re not turning it back on until you shut up”

Brenda: Yeah, there were still on the . . .

John: Nobody took any blind bit of notice (Jodie laughs) of me, and he’d just turn it back on again, but they also, I remember, they used to have, like, a, like, a caretaker, like, a caretaker-type person who was wear (sic) a black uniform with a, with a cap, and he’d be the guy that would come round with a torch, they had usherettes, I think, as well, but by the time we were going I think the usherettes had well gone, someone didn’t – in them days, people would show you to your seat, but that had gone by that time, so you just found your seat by yourself, as you would do nowadays, but in them days, in the better cinemas, there was usherettes, people with torches who would show you to your seat and so on, but . . . God, I feel old here! (bursts out laughing) Me too, you know what I mean!

Jodie: Yeah, yeah.

Brenda: (indecipherable) You’d try and bunk in, wouldn’t you? (indecipherable)

John: You’d try and bunk, there was always ways of trying to get in,, you’d try and bunk in, try and get in for nothing, and so on but it was so old, that’s how bad it was, and when you went upstairs to the balcony, there was pictures on the walls of old film stars . . .

Jean: Yeah.

John: . . . from the 1920s and 30s, there’s an old horror film star called Boris Karloff, who made that picture, Frankenstein, which was the iconic one and his picture was, in the 60s . . .

Brenda: Yeah.

John: . . . his picture was still on the wall . . .

Jodie: Oh.

John: . . . from 30 years earlier, they’d never taken it down, in that sense, but the, I also remember, they used to have, like, in that picture house, they used to have, like, fancy dress things, you know, where kids would dress up . . .

Jean: Oh!

John: . . . and they’d have, like, shows on every, every now and again where, best dressed, you know, dressed as a cowboy or something . . .

Brenda: That’s what you’d get, they showed the cowboy films, all the lads would do the cowboys actions . . .

Jean: (indecipherable)

Brenda: . . . that’s why all the seats were loose! (Jodie and Jean laugh) It was just bedlam, wasn’t it, they were (inaudible due to John interrupting)

John: Yeah, it was just unmitigated, you know, mayhem (Jodie titters), basically, on a Saturday afternoon, basically.

Jean: Well, my mum, my mum told me, she used to collect jam jars, right . . .

John: You could get in, you could get in . . .

Jean: . . . wash them out, and so many jam jars, you could get in.

John: You could get in, just give them the jam jars . . .

Jodie: Oh, right!

John: . . . didn’t have to pay, you just, I don’t know, say, 20 jam jars and then they’d, you’d get in.

Jean: Yeah, take a pack of jam jars with you! (she and Jodie laugh)

Tagged under: cinemas, tunnel road picture house, jam jars, frankenstein, boris karloff

Categorised under: Social Life

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