When I was a lad, Saturday evenings were strictly reserved for ‘the flicks’! Our cinema was The Tivoli in Mumbles. At one time, they started showing films on Saturday mornings, for the younger generation, and these would invariably be Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Lassie, et al., but the evening show was for us ‘men’!
It was 6d (six pence) to sit towards the front, and 9d further back. Some of us had to sit at the front as we couldn’t afford 9d and, well, you were only allowed to join the 9d-ers if you had a girl friend to cuddle up to. They looked down on us, of course! I honestly think that, not ever qualifying for the 9d-ers, gave me a lifelong inferiority complex!
The whole experience was, of course, much more than simply ‘going to the flicks’! Much of the time we spent baiting Alfie Lee! Alfie was the middle-aged attendant. Resplendent in his maroon uniform, with yellow stripe down his trousers, and thick, thick National Health Service spectacles! Alfie was armed with a torch that threw a spotlight wherever in the crowd he thought was becoming raucous – usually us, it has to be said. Alfie would die every time that there was a Walt Disney cartoon film. This was because, when the credits came to the line, ‘Produced by Alf Quimby’, the entire cinema would stare at Alf and bellow in absolute unison, “Good old Alfie!” He would race up and down the aisle shining his torch everywhere, red in the face. Well, he couldn’t throw us all out, now could he?
Another of our tricks was to gain entrance to the cinema, then, when Alfie was not around, go the the ‘Gents’ toilet. This was, needless to say, out of sight of the audience, and happened to be adjacent to the fire doors! These we would quietly open, and let our mates in. Unfortunately, Alfie quickly sussed this out, which meant that, thereafter, there was not much traffic into the Gents!
All good things must come to an end, and so did television kill off the local cinema. It became an Amusement Arcade! Hmmphhhh.
Tomorrow, Sunday, 13th September 2014, the Tiv closes it’s doors for the very last time. It is part of the re-development plan for the area, and will become yet another supermarket – the Co-Op. Although I am very much in favour of the (ANY) re-development plan for our village, I must confess to a little sadness as yet another part of my wonderful childhood passes into oblivion. Indeed, the words spoken by a very local man, Grafton Maggs, puts it thus:-
The Mumbles Cinemas have long gone and as a result, the village lost a precious common meeting ground. Television took that away but sadly the expectancy of a family-evening-at home culture was not fulfilled, on the contrary, in the profligacy of the times a house full of electronic entertainment broke down the integrity of the family unit as never before.
The “Old” and the “New” were not just places of shallow entertainment and their influence was not limited by the physical boundaries of their halls, they were an integral part of Mumbles life, where we regularly bonded as a community.
I doubt we shall ever have anything like of it again.
Well said, Grafton.