Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Saturday morning pictures

A very enjoyable evening over a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine with friends and, as one does when one gets to our age, we fell to reminiscing.  Jacquie mentioned that she used to be given a shilling and sent off to Saturday morning pictures and the memories came, if not quite flooding back, well, they were seeping slowly to the forefront of my mind.

Saturday morning pictures was an occasional treat for my brother and me.  It certainly didn't happen often enough for it to become habit-forming, but every now and then our mother would give us the money to go to the Palace cinema.  I have no idea how much was involved, whether it was sixpence each or a shilling, but it didn't run to an ice cream at the interval. We lived in Gillingham and the Palace was in Chatham, but the boundary between the towns ran along the middle of the A2, the main London to Dover road officially known as Watling Street but known to all our neighbours as "the top road".   We lived in a side street running off the top road, only about 200 yards away from the cinema.  Mind you, we had to cross the main road and I am surprised that we were allowed to do so without supervision.  I certainly have no recollection of ever crossing that road without my mother, at least until I was about 13 and far too grown up for Saturday morning pictures.

This was before the wide-scale introduction of colour films and all those we saw were in black and white.  The programme would include a comedy with Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy (who were my favourites) or similar, probably Roy Rogers and Trigger in another amazing adventure, and other films of a like kind.  There may well have been a serial and we would have missed several episodes, but that was of no matter as we were very quickly caught up in the ongoing action.

During the interval, the cinema organ would rise from below and the organist would play while the words of the songs were shown on the screen.  Thinking back 60+ years, I must admit to some wonder at the songs selected for us to sing.  There was a sprinkling of songs from World War I days such as Pack up Your Troubles and Keep the Home Fires Burning, and one of 9to me) indeterminate date - Nellie Dean.  And I still remember the words to that!

I have discovered this picture which shows the cinema as I remember it.  (Of course, it's not a cinema now.)  That's Chatham on the right, Gillingham to the left, exactly as it used to look as my mother walked us home from school along the top road.

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