'What do you remember about the
people who worked in the cinemas?'
'/ can't remember anything that was more popular amongst us
in the thirties than the pictures. We'd be up town most nights waiting
outside one of the picture houses and it seldom mattered what was on.'
'To my generation the pictures was the absolute. We didn't need
drink, drugs or music, it was the film and the cinemas which gave us all
'The Commissionaires were always immaculately
dressed in their military styled uniforms, with peaked caps and even
epaulettes. They looked so impressive, I was frightened to say anything
out of place with them.'
'Commissionaires were on most of the doors of the cinemas and I doubt
if anyone would willingly try and get past them. They were often quite
big blokes as well.'
'There were sometimes two commissionaires on
the doors. They kept the queues in order as well as the people inside
the cinema. Any trouble and the commissionaire would come in and throw
the troublemakers out. I don't remember where it was exactly, but in one
of the cinemas in town the commissionaire threw out one of my mates just
for talking too loudly. Imagine the trouble there'd be nowadays if the
same thing happened.'
'There was one commissionaire I remember who had a fantastic
cauliflower ear. I can imagine how he got it, probably throwing some yob
out of the cinema.'
'No matter what the weather was like you'd be standing in the queue
and the commissionaire would be at the door. He wouldn't let anyone in
unless he got his orders from the manager to do so. Mind you, most of
the commissionaires were a bit of fun and would joke with those waiting
outside the cinema.'
'It wasn't just the big cinemas in town which had commissionaires you
know, some of the smaller cinemas out of town had their own
commissionaires as well.'
'My dad told me one story about a commissionaire who threw one feller
out of one of the cinemas and then chased him through town because he
cheeked him. I don't know whether he caught him but my dad reckoned he
would have given him a right good hiding if he had caught up with him.'
'Commissionaires were always gentlemen and
treated the ladies really well. When I was in one queue and it was
really squashed, I remember the commissionaire making people move back
just to give me a bit of air.'
'I once fainted in the foyer of the cinema and
woke up to find this huge man wearing a cap looking down at me, it was
the commissionaire. He was most concerned and lent me his handkerchief
and brought me a glass of water. He was a real gent.'
'The person I remember best at the cinemas was the broke at the door,
the commissionaire I suppose. He always wore a uniform and acted really
important. I think he was probably an ex army chap who liked wearing a
'I don't remember the commissionaire wearing a hat but I do remember
him having slicked down hair. I should imagine it was brylcream or
something like that He also had a waxed moustache.'
'Commissionaires were one thing about the old cinema I do recall. If
you had to wait in the queue, it was the commissionaire who decided when
you could go in. He used to stand by a 'Full House' notice.'
'The uniform of the commissionaire was always piped in gold. He
looked like some sort of army officer. I think some of them wore medals,
or at least the ribbons. I suppose they had served in the army during
the war or something, the First World War of course.'
'There was always a lady behind the ticket kiosk. She didn't always
wear a uniform. She often seemed like she might be the wife of the
manager or something. The tickets would shoot out of the machine and
were different colours for different parts of the cinema.'
'The lady behind the glass took your money and gave you a ticket.'
'Tickets would vary in cost but the lady at the kiosk would always
give you the change and the ticket. If you were going upstairs the
ticket was a different colour than if you were going downstairs.'
'As you entered the cinema you had to pay for your ticket at a kiosk
where a lady sat. Most of those kiosks were very small so the lady
didn't have much room to move.'
'There was a glass fronted desk or kiosk at
which a lady sat and she gave you your ticket. I don't remember any of
the ticket ladies wearing uniforms, not like the usherettes.'
'My mother worked in a cinema in the 40's and she was in charge of
the tickets. She used to sit behind a glass and pass the tickets through
a little space at the bottom of the glass.'
'Usherettes were wonderful. I was really in love with usherettes. I
was pretty young remember so I suppose it was seeing young ladies
wearing uniforms and being in the dark which really affected me. It
sounds a bit stupid now but I used to love going to the cinema just to
see the usherettes.'
'Most usherettes wore a uniform. They carried a torch and
they would show you to your seat. They were indispensable when it was
dark and you first entered the auditorium.'
'I was an usherette and used to feel really powerful when a
customer came in and it was dark inside the cinema because I had to
decide where that person sat. If they were a bit rude, and some of them
were very rude I would find them a place where they would find it quite
difficult to see very well.'
'There were usually about four usherettes downstairs and upstairs in
the bigger cinemas and they shone their torches to show you where to sit
and where there were empty seats. They were needed more in those days
because many people would arrive for the film in the middle of the show
so it was very dark inside the cinema and people could not see clearly
where the spare seats were.'
'The usherettes would sell ice cream during the interval. They would
make their way down to the front of the auditorium and stand there with
the ice cream tray around their necks. I think there was only usually
vanilla ice cream and it was in a tub with a wooden spoon to eat it
with. I think the usherette would often be standing with the ice creams
in the dark and when you bought one you used to have to hold your change
in the light of her torch to see if you had the right money.'
'Usherettes would wear a uniform and I suppose the colour of the
uniform was determined by the cinema at which they worked. I can't
actually remember the different colours of the uniforms but I know they
'An usherette would stand at the bottom of the small flight of steps
from the upstairs foyer to the auditorium and she would rip your ticket
in half before you could go in. She would put the ripped piece on a
string so she knew how many people were in the cinema, I suppose.'
'The usherettes were always very nice to us kids when we went to the
pictures and would look after us if we were on our own. I can remember
often going to the pictures on my own and having an usherette coming up
and asking me how I was very often during the film show.'
'Most of the usherettes were really polite and
delightful. Mind you, they could be really awkward with some customers
in the picture if they were making too much noise or being a nuisance to
others in the cinema.'
'I can remember usherettes telling some courting couples to cut it
out on the back row of the stalls. Perhaps, they were jealous.'
'Most usherettes were quite young and so they used to get quite a few
comments made to them by young chaps, I don't suppose they minded, at
least it meant they were noticed. I don't remember ever hearing a really
indecent remark made.'
'When I was an usherette I used to start work about 12 noon
and work through to about 11 at night. It used to get
ever so boring when you'd seen the film about three times and you had
the whole week to go and you knew you would see it loads of times more.'
'As an usherette I used to love giving out the ice cream
because the kids were so keen and mad about the ice cream in the cinema.
I believe some of those kids only went to the pictures for the tub of
'Carrying the load of ice cream was really
heavy and you used to have to stand for ages, or so it seemed at the
front of the auditorium while you were serving it.'
'My mom worked as an usherette and she reckoned the worst part of the
job was standing with the ice cream container around her neck during the
intervals of the films, especially if there was only a few people in the
'When my mom came home she used to tell us what the film was like and
whether to go, even though we got free passes from mom. I remember her
coming home after she'd seen Gone With The Wind and saying it was the
best film she'd ever seen.'
'I can't remember ever seeing the manager of any of the
cinemas, they must have stayed in the background and left the day to day
stuff to the usherettes and the commissionaires.'
'There was often a gent in a suit wandering around the cinema and all
the staff used to treat him with respect so I suppose he must've been
the manager or something.'
'One of the managers of one of the town's cinemas used to wear a
dickie bow and a carnation. I can't remember which cinema it was
'One person you could often see was the projectionist He, and I'm
sure it was always a man, used to be visible at the end of the beam in
his little room. He was very important but I don't think anyone ever
knew any of the projectionists, while we often knew the names of the
usherettes or the commissionaires at the different cinemas, especially
if you went as often as we did.'
'The only time you ever bothered about the projectionist was when the
film came off the reel which was quite often in those early days when I
first started going to the cinema. Everybody would start shouting and
calling the poor broke all sorts of names.'