Pathé news, ice creams... and cuddles on the double seats

THROWBACK THURSDAY: More of your memories of going to the cinema back in the day — as JO KERRIGAN recalls the news reels, ice cream treats... and the odd romance!
Pathé news, ice creams... and cuddles on the double seats

BIG TREAT: Children queue to see ‘David Copperfield’ at the Savoy Cinema, Cork, in 1936

YOUR tales of going to the pictures are endless and every new anecdote is fascinating.

Last week Dermot Knowles regaled us with his lively memories of cinema-going in the 1950s and ’60s, and even thought up a quiz for Throwback Thursday readers.

Remember the newsreels which kept us up to date with world affairs, he asked? Which Cork cinemas showed Movietone News, Look At Life, and Pathé News?

Well, he gives an answer, but there is still a question out there which other readers may be able to solve.

You could catch the latest Movietone News at the Capitol, he says, Look At Life at the Savoy, and Pathé News at the Assembly Rooms. So now you know.

Or not quite. Because Kate O’Brien, a staunch cinemagoer at the same period, never patronised the Assembly Rooms (“I think it was sort of not the thing for girls to do, only boys”) but has clear memories of Pathé News with its distinctive crowing cockerel.

“Now where did I see that? I can’t remember but my friends and I went mostly to the Savoy, the Capitol, and the Pavilion. So if it wasn’t either of those first two, then it must have been at the Pavilion that we saw all those newsreels with stories from around the world.

“I can still hear that didactic tone of the very British announcer, giving us the approved version of the news, London-style.”

Can anybody else throw some light on this? Which cinema showed Pathé News other than the Assembly Rooms?

Log on to https://www.britishpathe.com/video/sales-scramble-aka-london-winter-sales/query/wildcard and see if a brisk review of the London Winter Sales in 1957 will remind you of longing to see huge department stores like that! Or look for a recording of the famous Pathé cockerel. That unforgettable sound of the cinema will perhaps remind you of where you first heard and saw it.

Newsreels were our contact with a wider world. They brought us the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965, splendid in its pomp and dignity, with all the huge cranes along the Thames bowing in reverence as the barge carrying his coffin passed up the waterway. That is on YouTube now — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= GC1WEdgXKEI.

You can find more on https://www.britishpathe.com/ which also has the old Paramount, Gaumont, and Empire news bulletins.

The Florida State Fair of 1963? Balloonists studying the Nazca Lines in 1976? Irish news too: https://ifiplayer.ie/reel-memories/ will bring you rare footage of An Tostal, Ireland’s feisty answer to the UK’s Festival of Britain,

Or, even earlier, The Irish Riviera, made in 1936 to showcase our sunny south-west coast. Little did they know back then what they were starting in the way of a tourist boom!

While the cinema is barred to us because of the Covid-19 lockdown, what better way to enjoy an evening reliving old news stories and long-gone events? Go try it and tell us next week what treasures you found.

Jimmy Barrett sent a nice note. “Your Throwback Thursday feature on Cork cinemas, and particularly Dermot Knowles’ contribution, brought a tear to the eye. Especially his recollections of the Savoy. I well remember my first trip to The Gods, as Dermot called the 100 steps. When you entered The Gods it was like looking into the Grand Canyon. You certainly wouldn’t want to have a fear of heights. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a man appears playing an organ, and simultaneously the words of the songs appear on the screen. What an experience to hear upwards of 2,000 people giving full vent to their voices.

“I think it was 1/9 to get in there and I also seem to remember having to queue on Saturday afternoon to get tickets for Sunday night. I think this also applied to the Capitol and the Pavilion. Thanks for the memories.”

We questioned Jimmy further about this mysterious set of regulations about tickets for Sunday night showings and he obligingly answered.

“If memory serves me correctly, tickets for the Sunday night shows went on sale at 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. Tickets were sold on a first come, first served basis, so a queue would form from the ticket office in the foyer and it would not be unusual for it to extend outside on to Patrick Street and around the corner to the entrance to The Gods.

“Films of that time that spring to mind would be Dr Zhivago and West Side Story.”

One can only suppose that the box office didn’t open on Sundays. Thanks, Jimmy.

Fintan Bloss found his father’s old diary which carefully recorded the visits both his parents made to the cinema in 1963.

“On February 14, it was Norman Wisdom in On The Beat at the Savoy. My youngest brother, Don, was born three days later.

“In March, they saw Term Of Trial at the Capitol, starring Laurence Olivier and Simone Signoret, and Sodom And Gomorrah at the Savoy, with Stewart Grainger, Pier Angeli, and Anouk Aimee.”

The Wild And The Willing, Bank Of Thieves (with Acker Bilk), Mutiny On The Bounty, From Here To Eternity, and countless others are all recorded. And, in case our readers are wondering, Sodom And Gomorrah (as with many other ‘questionable’ movies) was allowed into censor-ridden Ireland, but only as a ragged shadow of its full self, with innumerable scenes and much of the dialogue cut.

Viewers had to keep on the edge of their seats to work out what was happening and why the action seemed to leap from one place to another without warning!

“As a 10 or 11 year old, I remember a film, Helga, which caused some controversy as it featured child birth scenes (something I discovered when I was older),” remembers Fintan.

“But far more interesting to me then was the cinema usherette with a tray full of chocolate bars and ice cream. A lamp above the tray illuminated the tempting treats.”

The Quish family, next door neighbours on the North Mall, used to get Photoplay magazine, which featured glossy photos of movie stars of the day, and were eagerly sought after when they were passed on.

And, a nice detail, whenever the gasman emptied the gas meter, any rebate was used to take the kids to the cinema.

“A rebate of £10.1s.4d was recorded in my dad’s diary in 1963. I can remember a lot of half crowns on the dining room table (with the Echo underneath the coins).”

When his parents went on their own, the Well Bar, Harp Bar, Courthouse Tavern and Bob Casey’s were pubs that were visited before or after the cinema.

Great memories, Fintan. Anybody else got old family diaries to share?

Jane McCarthy remembers being taken to horror movies by boyfriends hoping for a quick cuddle during the scariest scenes. “And those double seats at the back of the Lee, upstairs, they were a favourite choice with the boys too.”

This, after all, was back in the days when you had to search for somewhere to be together in some measure of privacy, as the rules were strict on visitors to a girl’s house. They could come into the main living room, under supervision, but never on any account be left alone with their inamorata.

Small wonder the cinema was a welcome option, being dark and warm and reasonably secluded, even though in a crowd.

Incidentally, does anyone remember the nefarious ‘Confession-ahs’ off Lover’s Walk? A steep, corrugated little lane sloping down to the Lower Glanmire Road, with old, long-disused doorways at intervals in a high wall, just right for a couple to tuck themselves out of sight.

The nickname linking them to confession boxes in churches very much reflects the over-riding ethos of the time when the clergy ran the country with an iron hand.

Have a think. What did you get out of the cinema? Ideas for new games? (Robin Hood, cowboys and Indians?). A glimpse of an incredibly luxurious lifestyle that contrasted vividly with the relative hardship of mid 20th century Ireland? Romance? Mystery? Crime? What did you carry home with you and think about afterwards? Let us know what film made the most impression on your young mind.

Cowboys and Indians were the most plentiful films but they didn’t exactly reflect the truth. The so-called Indians were the original inhabitants of the land which the U.S government was anxious to populate with its own settlers for political reasons. Naturally enough, they were rather upset at these strangers driving across their age-old hunting grounds and building homes on their territories, but often they were willing to be helpful, only resorting to violence when there was no other option.

And they never came up against cowboys. Cowboys were just that — the lads who looked after cattle. The native Americans, accustomed to fighting with bows and arrows, were actually faced with crack troops of the U.S army, against whom they didn’t stand a chance.

Of course, you didn’t get that side of it in the movies. Without realising it, we all imbibed and in the end completely believed in the myth that to be a cowboy with a gun and a fine horse was Good, to be a befeathered native with bow and arrow was Bad. Pretty unfair, when you come to think of it, but then, history is always written by the winners, not the losers.

Remember, your own memories, as well as anything your parents may have told you about their young days, will always be welcome here on Throwback Thursday. Email jokerrigan1@gmail.com

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