Pages 82 to 84:
|The Tallylyn Railway in Mid Wales, where I met Peter Handford.|
‘Rebel Without a Cause’:
In all the years I was Manager at the Heanor ‘Empire’ cinema, there was not really a time when I had any regrets about accepting the post. However, at certain times, there were incidents that tested one’s patience to the full.
Timmy Knowles was such a case, a six foot tall youth when only 14 years of age, he was the most unruly person that I had ever met. There were very few nights when he remained in the cinema for a whole performance, if he didn’t talk all through the film, he threw things at other patrons, or would tear the foam out of a seat cushion, and then move to another place in the auditorium.
I telephoned his mum one night to explain that we regarded him as the ‘patron from hell’, a description she agreed with, and I explained how sorry I was to keep taking his admission fee, and then have to turn him out. What a lovely person she was, she knew exactly what I meant, as he was beyond her control she told me.
I suggested that next time he came, I would charge him only if he was good, and stayed through the programme, and we ended on good terms. This was unusual, because past experience had taught me that I was always the one in the wrong, their darling offspring NEVER did anything like I was trying to suggest! He threw a brick through passing a bus window some time later….
‘The Things You Wonder’:
“Some things you wonder – Did this really happen?
I found myself working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, so I decided it was time to give myself a break, or end in an early grave. Management was not too happy about it, but they couldn’t do much as it was due to me, so the family and I, decided we would go to Wales.
As I was a steam fan, I thought it would be nice to go to Towyn, Merionethshire, the home of the Tallylyn Narrow Gauge Railway; then in its early days of preservation. Here we would hire a holiday caravan for the week.
On my second day there, I met Peter Handford, who was recording the sound of steam, to be published on record for the Argo Transacord label. He was a very sociable fellow, and took great interest in my questions about his recording equipment.
I was so impressed with the quality, that when I returned home I treated myself to similar equipment, which cost a small fortune. Peter went on to do greater things, particularly in films such as ‘Gorilla’s In the Mist’ and not unexpectedly, ‘The Railway Children’.
‘A Helping Hand’:
Thanks to my contact with Sid Dann, the area ‘Western Electric’ Service engineer, he made other contacts for me; which gained me permission to have special connection leads fitted in the ABC Cinemas at Nottingham and Derby, along with the Scala Cinema, Ilkeston, so I could record direct from the amplifiers whenever I needed to. Included in this group as well, was the Heanor ‘Empire’, where I could do special recordings, and playbacks, for top films.
Local radio and television shop owner Eric Worthington, from Loscoe, brought his wife to the ‘Empire’ for the first time in 30 years, on a cold Thursday night. It was a terrible programme, the feature film was filled with bad language and sex, so I apologised as they entered the foyer in advance. They paid, and climbed the stairs to the balcony, returning some 30 minutes later; Mrs. Worthington obviously shocked with what they had watched. After a short chat they made for the front doors, and I called them back, asking them not to judge us on what they had seen, and offering them Complimentary tickets for ‘The Sound of Music’, when it returned in two weeks time. They accepted, and did return, saying it was the best film they had ever seen, and remarking how films had changed in thirty years!
We all loved Christmas time, and at the Saturday Matinee Club, we would give all the children free ice lollies, (courtesy of Wall’s), and some sweets each. Harold Brown was always our Santa Clause, in a costume loaned to us by Mrs. Buxton, a Committee Member from the Heanor Labour Club, next door.
One year Ken Searson, the owner of Heanor Haulage, brought his open landau coach to transport Santa all around Heanor, to advertise our Christmas Show.
We made front page in that weeks ‘Ripley and Heanor News’, and proved to us that it wasn’t necessary to spend huge sums on advertising, it was the quality what mattered.
Local radio and television star of the time Ted Moult, turned down a fee of £200 to appear the following week, saying he would want overnight accommodation at a nearby hotel. I refused because he was only 35 minutes drive from home, as he lived at Ticknall, near Burton on Trent.
There were times when firms and companies, wanted to hire us for other events. Aristoc stockings of Langley Mill, hired us for 3 hours one Thursday morning to show a series of trailers for their latest line in silk stockings and tights; these were to be shown in South Africa in cinemas and on television. It was not until the show started, did they realise the films had an ‘Afrikaan’ sound-track, so no one that was present knew what the advertisements were saying! We gave our visitors special attention and they enjoyed every minute of the experience. As they were about to leave the cinema, the Marketing Manager asked if we would accept some samples of their products which I accepted. A few moments later he came back into the foyer with a large box of mixed nylons and tights; there must have been at least 300, all new and sealed pairs. That night I got two of the girls to sort them into packs of twenty, which we shared amongst everyone who worked there.
‘Beat out that Rhythm on a Drum’
Just one of the song’s from the film ‘Carmen Jones’, which starred Dorothy Dandrige and Harry Belafonte; and it leads me to tell you about the time I was once fooled into giving someone a chance to become success full. I happened to get into conversation with a thirteen year old who visited the cinema regularly; and who told me he could play the drums. Would I give him a chance at our Saturday Children’s Matinee Show, to back the disco; to which I agreed. After beating away on his drum kit for two hours, for about six weeks, I came to the conclusion he was never going to learn them, and wanted somewhere he could practice without disturbing his parents. It was certain he was never going to be another Gene Krupa, or Sandy Nelson; so if he ever gets to read this and has finally become famous, then I claim no rights to his success. It was nice to once again regain the silence of the empty auditorium.
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