Sunday, January 16, 2011
Usher Nazis and Choo Choo Bars
As with Dad's family many of Mum's relatives lived in the same general vicinity and so when we visited their were always other members of the family present. When I was a toddler my great-Grandmother Janet Woolley lived there and I still have memories of playing hide and seek where she would let me hide my head under her apron. It was out of sight out of mind, if I couldn't see anyone then obviously they couldn't see me either.
Nana's brother, Uncle Alf, who won the Military Medal in World War 1, had lung cancer and Nana nursed him until his death which seemed a long time coming at the time. I don't remember too much about him but I did inherit his 3/4 size bed [a bit smaller than a double] and thought I was a king when I got into it. It was the bed I slept in until I got married in 1982. It never occured to me at the time that it was the bed an old uncle had died in. Incidentally the citation for his medal states that it was awarded when he entered the trenches and captured thirty Turks alone. Must have been a pretty gutsy effort.
That bed had one other unfortunate accident. At my 21st Birthday, Dad had invited a young bloke he worked with. He was always bringing home people he'd met for meals and the obligatory sharing of the beer. Unfortunately this bloke got absolutely paralytic and was put to sleep in my bed which he promptly wet. Took days for the mattress to dry.
But as I sometimes do, I'll move from the digression back to the topic at hand, which I should have said early on is about what we did in Brunswick on Saturday afternoons. Often if we weren't at the footy watching our beloved blues play at Princes Park, we would be sent off to the pictures at the Padua Theatre in Sydney Road, Brunswick. It was a big deal for little kids to walk to those places by themselves in those days and generally there were at least four of us, Karen and I and our cousins Gavin, Kerry and Phillip at various times.
This was a typical art deco theatre of the time, the stalls down below and the expensive seats where the more well off could sit up top in the dress circle.
The Padua had been built by Hoyts in 1937 and was closed in 1968 much to our sorrow. It was then leased to a couple of Itialian blokes Tony and Franco Zeccola who re-opened it in August 1969 as the Metropolitan playing Italian language films which wasn't much help to us. This continued until December 1981 when the doors closed for the last time before it was demolished in January and February of 1982.
A full page article in The Argus Newspaper in Melbourne was published on 23rd July 1937 announcing the opening. It seated 2000 people, had such luxuries as foot warmers, air conditioning and a crying room for children. The first weeks entertainment included Charles Rainsford and his Swing Orchestra on stage with screening of the Errol Flynn and Olivia De Haviland movie The Charge of the Light Brigade. The paper also announced that there would be short screening of the Walt Disney Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey's Circus in full colour.
In 1954 a cinemascope camera system was installed which allowed the display of wide screen movies and I can remember one in particular that stuck in my mind. How the West was Won was a mind blowing movie on the big screen at the time.
When the theatre opened in 1937 The Argus reported that the entire work force was male. Certainly by the time we were going in the mid sixties many of the usherettes were women. I am pretty sure that they were women, but some of them had mustaches that would have made Groucho Marx proud, and voices that reminded me of the bad guys in the World War 2 movies. "Feet off Seat" and "Quiet Down" were growled at the kids whilst London Blitz Spotlights were shone into our faces. I truly thought they may have been Nazis in disguise and I feared for the lives of the kids who were occasionally grabbed by the ear and escorted out never to be seen again. Woe betide anyone who was actually found to be in the wrong seat. I was pretty certain that such a heinous offence must have meant the gas chamber or hanging for them.
What movies stick in your mind from your childhood?