Don and I spoke of cinema this morning, appropriately following ‘A Retirement Project’ of 3rd. August. I had been a regular cinemagoer during my teens in the pre-television era. What we found we both had in common was weekly visits as small children to Saturday Morning Pictures, not far away from each other in South London. I went with Chris to the Odeon, Wimbledon, and Don visited the Granada, North Cheam. An early entertainer was Tony Hancock who, in ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’, had us glued to the radio. He allegedly lived in Railway Cuttings, East Cheam. My friend, who lived in Cheam for twenty years, could find no matching location. The only reference to East Cheam he knew was a corrugated iron hut housing a religious establishment including East Cheam in its title. Hancock followed his radio series with one on television. The most famous episode is ‘The Blood Donor’, in which he bemoans having to part with ‘very nearly an armful’. As Don is a few years older than me, our trips to the cinema were not quite contemporary, but near enough.
I still remember the words of : ‘Here we are again, Happy as can be, All good pals, And jolly good company’, in which the MC led crowds of excited children at the start of the proceedings. This would be accompanied by an organ which rose from the orchestra pit. There followed a programme of cartoons, comedies, and Westerns. Cartoons would be Disney or Looney Tunes. Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton were the funny men. I remember Buster Keaton being sped along on the front of a steam train. Don’s recollection is of Harold Lloyd being suspended from the hands of Big Ben. These men performed all their own stunts without the benefit of modern technology. Big Ben must have been a model. The Westerns offered a different thrill. I particularly remember Kit Carson. We would be treated to twenty minutes of a serialised film starring the cowboy hero which would leave us all on tenterhooks until the following week. He would be left surrounded by Indians on the warpath, or tied up by villains. We had to wait seven long days to see how he would extricate himself. Other such stars were Roy Rogers and Trigger; the singing Gene Autrey; and The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Magical stuff for children who had no screen at home. They all vociferously joined in.
Later, Don and I, still unaware of each other, would visit the newsreel cinemas at the London Terminal Stations. We would watch Pathe news covering the previous week. These eventually became cartoon cinemas and those offering subtitled foreign films. My venue was Waterloo station in my early commuting years. Now we have DVDs and downloads from the internet.
We went on to compare memories of all the areas mentioned in my Morden-based ramblings. Don finds these posts so intriguing because they feature streets and venues with which he is very familiar. They represent his personal history as they do mine. His maternal grandparents and his Aunt Kass lived in Pelham Road, Wimbledon; and his Uncle Tom taught at Wimbledon School of Art.
Tonight we will be dining at Andy and Keith’s. This will be posted tomorrow.