The show would change twice weekly in each picture house. Nobody who wasn't posh ever called them cinemas then. Each showed two films nightly for the price of one ticket; the main film and a 'B' film, so it was possible to see up to eight films weekly at an affordable cost for all. Indeed; every old film that now daily appears on our television screens, I have probably seen!
For most folk, the pictures was clearly the place to be. From the age of six years, hundreds of screaming kids would attend the Saturday morning matinee and when the film reel broke down, which it always did (and usually at the most exciting part of the main film), the universal groan that automatically went up would always be followed by screams and shouts amid ducking and diving all manner of thrown objects from every direction imaginable. For the boy without the entrance fee, a friend would go to the toilet once the lights had gone down and the film had started and open the fire escape door and let them in. There was nothing unusual in seeing one person walk into the toilets and two or three walk out in single file shortly after.
The picture house played a very important part in one's growing up and was in many ways a learning curve for many of life's adventures. It was the place to get hooked on the weekly serial of 'Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and Tonto' or 'Flash Gordon.' The picture house also had the obligatory 'intermission' selling ice cream time half way through and this was also the time to see who was there. Anyone caught talking loudly during the film showing would be escorted out and anyone caught underage smoking a secret cigarette would soon have the usher's torch light shining in their face with the finger-wagging instruction,'Put it out, boy. Put it out now!' Because these instructions were always issued in pitch darkness where it was easier to sneak up on one, one frequently became accosted by 'The talking finger.'
The picture house was often the place for 'firsts.' Whether it be the first fag, the first kiss, the first teenage feel or the first breaking and entering (illegal free entry through the fire escape doors I mean!). The picture house was where it all went on. Everyone knew that they had started to grow up when they started to occupy a seat on the back row with their girlfriend and especially if they got into an 'X' film while they were still at school.
Many couples who got engaged would go to the pictures together in order to be more alone as there was no custom allowed of 'doing homework' in each other's room then; particularly when a couple of school pals were of mixed sex. Neither was it unusual to find two young women together who would look around the picture house in the interval when the lights went on to see if there were two young men who might want to sit next to them? The 'seriousness' of any relationship between girl and boy was often apparent by whether the boy arranged to meet the girl outside the picture house or inside, as no extended financial outlay would be made by the male until he was satisfied that the show would be worth attending and that he'd get his money's worth should he outlay the expense for two!
Then, sometime after my twentieth birthday, both the 'Palace' and the 'Savoy' Picture Houses were demolished to make way for some food arcade and we all found a large part of our childhood wrecked by the ball and chain of modernity.
In was ushered the glorious 60's, the Teddy Boys, winkle picker shoes, drainpipe trousers and Brylcreamed-hair styled in a D.A.(1960's code for Duck's Arse) for the boys. The girls wore their fabulous mini dresses and had their hairstyles like the singer Helen Shapiro as they sat drinking Babychams that lasted all night long. Out went Bing with a bang and in crooned Johnie Ray singing his hit, 'Cry.' Then, 'Rock and Roll' was born and the world went crazy. Instead of throwing popcorn in the Picture House during the showing of Bill Hayley's 'Rock around the Clock,' the previous Saturday morning matinee crew ripped up the cinema seats and threw them in the aisle instead.
None of this would ever have happened I believe, if they'd only left things alone; if only they'd left things as they'd always been instead of wrecking our two lovely Picture Houses, the 'Palace' and the 'Savoy.' The closure of these two magnificent entertainment centres represented the closure of my teenage years and the start of my manhood." William Forde: July 5th, 2017.http://youtu.be/gxFyZ-ZJZA4