Ronald Grant

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24 Apr 2023
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Mike Dick  0:01  
the copyright of this recording is vested in the British entertainment history project. The name of the interviewee is Ronald grant. The interviewer is Mike dick, on cameras, John Luton. The interview number is eight to nine. The date is the 24th of April 2023. And we're filming at the cinema Museum in Kensington, London, which houses the most remarkable collection of cinema memorabilia collected over the last 70 years by the man sitting opposite me to do. We start, who are you? And what do you do?

Speaker 1  0:34  
Well, you would like to know what I do here. Yes, yes. Well, Martin and I began the museum because of my trip to Aberdeen in 1982. When I had sold an old tumbled down house, and for the first time in years, had a little bit of money in my pocket. And with that money, I went to Aberdeen. And by an extraordinary accident, I was on my way, possibly to the Donald's offices. But as it happened, Dick Donald was walking up scheme, terrorists round the corner from their offices. And I, we saw each other and he knew I was, and I said, You've closed a number of your cinemas down, what happened to the old projectors? Because being a projection as I was interested in finding out what their fate had been? And he said, Well, it's funny, you should ask me that. Because at this moment, but you and the retired operator from the Capitol is upstairs, breaking them up for scrap that was in the officers behind him. So I said, Oh, can I have a look? So he retreated, he was going up to get his car, I think, parked somewhere. And so we went backwards into 42 Union terrace, which was the Offices of James left Donald Aberdeen cinemas, and also the head office of the Aberdeen picture palaces, which were two companies that had amalgamated into the same family, the Donald family, who were four brothers, who of whom two of the brothers ran, the cinemas that I'd worked in, have a Donald and Richard Donald. So it was deck I was talking to. And up, we went to the offices and there's Beth, on his haunches on the floor, and the room had a polished Line of Floor. And there were rows of projector mechanisms on the floor. Oh, I said, and that there was the, originally from the Kingsway, but later in His Majesty's were the twin shutter simplex II sevens, beautiful projectors, which had a shutter before and after the picture. So that the the the because of the reversal of the lens, and also the shutters are on the same shaft. And going together that because of the the lens reversing the image, the fixture was being cut off top and bottom quickly. So there was more light allowed because you could adjust the cut off and all that beautiful machines and they were there they were ready to be broken up. So I said, Oh, I'm interested in them. And then and that one and that one. And there was some super simplex heads of which I'd work. And then oh, and that one and that one and that so of course his face lit up. He thought he has a mug from London. And he I said now what would the money be? How much would you want for this? Make me an offer. He said that a Kenny Aberdonian. So of course, I knew that deck was no fool. But I wanted the things as cheaply as I could buy them for. But I didn't want to offer more than I needed to. So it was a difficult navigation to be both the buyer and the seller. So I made a figure and he was thrilled because they were just going to be that was splitting the win when he was dismantling them. He was splitting the aluminium from the brass from the steel. I suppose it was also to give him a bit of a job. He'd gone from the capital to the His Majesty's Theatre, and he was in charge if something is edge empty. And I think he was he'd retired, but I think he was being given a little job does it give him I don't know. Anyway Hey there it was. So when we were chatting he said oh if you're interested in this Oh scrap he said we're have to move out of the store. Now the Donald's always had a store where they kept all the things they needed the disinfectant, the cleaning things, the dust, goats that clean the new dust coats for the projectionist, all the things they needed to run. And they had huge bales of carpet for going down the aisle and between the seats and so on. And in the foyer is a huge foyers in the cinemas carpeted from here to that. And so the store had been in Gulf Compston Park off Rosemont viaduct, and I had no idea where it was. He said, we're in an old Keck and row straight and we've got to get out of there because it's been sold for housing. Now, he said, if you're interested or scrap, go up there and have a look. Well, when I went into that cat, it was an absolute Aladdin's cave, it was filled, because of course, they bought the Donald's, me being aberdonians, as well as Scott. They were canny, and didn't waste money. When they closed their cinema, and at this point, they'd closed 10 of their 1350 and whatever, however many cinemas they had, they've closed 10 of them, and they'd stripped out everything from these places. they'd taken down all the showcases from the front door outside the front and in the foyers. they'd taken out the seats, they'd take it stripped the place taken down the light fittings, and they were in the store in the story a case, of course, because I'd worked there, this was wonderful for me. I don't know how a stranger would have got on. I saw things that are outside this door. Now. I saw things I thought, that's the Astoria. What's the word again, the ambient speakers from for the stereo, when it went in and cinema scope coming out. I recognised that, you know, they're tilted down towards the audience. And there was a pile of them. There were coat hangers, long coat hangers with uniforms, sent tended to uniforms, there was everything in there. They also always in the store was combined with the carpenters and join us that maintained. So you found there were rows of cinema doors, they taken off the internal doors, the draught proof and noise proof doors that went between the foyer and the stalls, say, or the balcony. They take that unscrew them, and there was rows of these beautiful polished doors. There was a door the big speakers, the Big West Lexus speakers. Later, of course, there was a slight story about that, in the sense that I went to the Tory No, sorry, I went to the picture Hearthstone haven to the Grand Central. My memory is failing at this moment. And there was a third oh the Queen's so the Queen's the Grand Central and the picture has done Haven and I bought from Dec. I think it might have been another year than that when I went up on holiday next year. Or whenever I can't remember that. I bought the complete projection suite, the two West our projectors that peerless magnox, the lenses, the rewinder all everything in the projection room. And I said, I'll give you 200 pounds for each. Because a portable projector was about 150 pounds for a good one at that time a 16 mil project and I thought 200 pounds wasn't bad. And I wanted him to say yes. So you you made it a figure that sounded fairly realistic and not, you know, fantasy. So he said yes. And then later on, because I the

Speaker 1  9:34  
the red carpet went out when I came in succeeding years, because I was spending money. And that was it was you know, he was pleased to get checks from me that I don't know what where they went but he was always thrilled to see me. And of course I then was directed to the store. Which when that placed was finally emptied. They had a small store, above the cinema house in their office building, they had this 42 unit terrace, which was an old Oddfellows hall or it had been some. And they had the cinema on the ground flat floor, another Auditore, a little auditorium above where they used to. The people in His Majesty's Theatre used to dress in there. And they bought anti rooms and rooms everywhere. And their offices were there, but it wasn't big, and shops on the ground floor and so on. So I used to be, they used to love to see me there, because I was going round and Mac, who had come from Inverness, he had this way of saying, talking. And he was an old attendant with the Donald, and he was the store man. And he was thrilled to see me because he got rid of some old stuff that was of no use anymore. And of course, it pleased the boss, if I was spending money, but if you hadn't if you hadn't met Dix that day, I it might have been completely different. Yeah, yeah, it was just that the selling of the house. in Suffolk. It was an old tumbledown house, I bought it for 4600 pounds. And I sold it for 21,010 years later, as the prices had gone up. And I had 15,000 debts at the bank, who I borrowed money to live on, because things were not as good as they'd been before the decimal change. So I the bank said, you'll have to, it's all going one way, you will have to sell the house and pay us back this money. So I did that. And I had five grand to spend or not to spend but self pity is this It was absolutely. So if the man there was a man going to buy the house previously, if he'd bought that house then, but there was a calamity where he'd he'd gone after somebody's girlfriend and holiday and they'd be in a row and a man with an axe had been chasing him and all that. If that hadn't all happened, then it would have. So it was all just coincidence. Coincidence. Coincidence? Brian, I'm

Mike Dick  12:26  
gonna take you. That's I mean, that's the remarkable remarkable story about everything is here, but we'll get we'll get a wee while. Can I Can I ask? Where and when we were you born?

Speaker 1  12:40  
I was born and banchory in October 1936. The date? The 21st Trafalgar de sees easy to remember as my memory gets shaky.

Mike Dick  12:56  
Tell me a bit about describe banchory them. Well,

Speaker 1  13:00  
it's it is a lovely little. It's an Deeside, which is the side of the river D which goes west and comes out into Aberdeen harbour practically it's very scenic, and in the sense that it's got hills all around. It's forested, heavily forested. And it's a small village, which I'm very pleased to say, looks very much today, like it used to when I was a child, and at my house we lived in is still there. And I can point to the window and say I was born in that room, which I bought, because there was many home births at that time. And my father had a restaurant on the ground floor called the D Valley cafe. And we left above and it was my mother ran off with a soldier when I was about four or five. And so I was looking at my brother and I was five years older. Well looked I was looked after by our dad. And he of course was he'd been a ship's cook. He wanted to have his own business I think or something. He was very good with money. My dad, another Scottish trade. He I don't know whether he saved up to do this or his stepfather does he was a legitimate and that was very he I think at a time when that was not accepted like it is now. I think that was a shadow on him. And his mother married a man called Charles Grant who was came from the Finns and And he took his stepfathers name so I'm having no grant blood in me it was. My Granny's name was Kevin, the surname was Gavin. And she was the daughter of a Miller at inch, had the just outside the village of inch, which I later showed pictures in. When I was going

Mike Dick  15:21  
to your parents have any connection with the, shall we say the entertainment industry? None

Speaker 1  15:26  
at all? No. My mother was half the age of my father. I think when they married, she was 20. He was around 40. So it was a it wasn't surprising that she loved dancing, he had fallen off at sea. he'd fallen off the mast at least once and had a bad leg. So he was lame. And so he didn't go out dancing. And anyway, he was busy with the cafe, his business. And it had been a former coffee shop owned by either one old lady or two old ladies in the High Street. And he dramatically changed it put in much bigger windows and so on. And I've no idea if he borrowed the money to do that. Or if he had an architect who did this because the shop always looked very smart, and had a nice facade on it. And because he was so busy, he did all the cooking and up because she'd gone. By the time I was growing up. He would work all day doing the soaps and the dinners and the high teas and the pots of tea and scrambled eggs and God knows what. And then in the evening, he got food ready for the next day. So he'd be preparing tatties, and getting everything ready for the following day. So I was not supervised. As a child, I was allowed a lot of leeway, which I enjoyed. When on a Saturday, we'd be out playing. And some buddies mother would come out and say, Oh, come in for your piano lesson. And I just thought I don't have any other either great freedom. I would hate. I love the piano I wish I could play. But I wouldn't have liked to have to do all that kind of thing on lovely sunny Saturdays. When we wanted to go out to the hills. There's a hill called sculpty to the south of banchory with a tower on top Memorial tower. And we were in the ferns, playing cowboys and Indians on the hills and everything. And I love the freedom. And the fact that I wasn't supervised by somebody who was looking to see where you were, if you didn't come home for your dinner. Nobody worried your lunch that nobody cared.

Mike Dick  17:56  
So where did you see your first film? What was it? Do you remember your first the

Speaker 1  18:00  
big and a very important thing was that in the village hall got it was called the town hall. And it was the village hall, there was a projection booth box in the corner, the back corner of the whole shining off at an angle and the screen was slightly tilted towards that corner. And in there, there were two old silent film projectors. With sound conversions. They both had two drums at the back that you could wrap the sound round to get the sound red. That was sound readers clipped on the back. So they were worn out and the sound added terrible. There was a goggle on the sound because the sprockets were very hooked. And in order to the film to get off the sprockets it had to go forwards after being pulled backwards. It there was this goggle on the sound because it was they were so worn. And it was amazing. The the projectionists were boys they were teenagers. Lads and 15 or 16 Probably not underage. But the whole thing was run on a shoestring. And it was there. It happened because I was at school and Kenneth Stephen Kenny brought this roll of film bits there were rolls of pieces at his school and he laid them all on the playground and set fire because this is 1949 It was all nitrate film and then he he put a match to the end and then was burned along quickly. Like a fuse sometimes in these western films when you see them igniting viewers and watching it run along. And I was saying, Where did you get that from. And he said that he'd helped. The man carried the film boxes on a Saturday. And he'd been asked for the bits of film, and told he could, he could get in free at night. Because he'd given her hand with the, the boxes were very heavy nitrate film is about 20 20%, maybe 20, maybe 25% heavier than safely film acetate film layers. And so the boxes were heavy. And at that time, that many of the feature films were in single reels, that is 1000 foot cans. So in order to make them last long enough, that you had to add two together to make reel of about 18 minutes or so. And that was all work to be done. And when I helped the man carry the box, I then thinking, Oh, I could get some fabrics of old failed. And I went and hovered outside the the hole. And then Jimmy, the man he was he worked in the sawmill. He came on his bike and the films had been they went into the double decker bus. Everybody's screaming about nitrate. They were on the double decker bus under the stairs, and they put them off on the pavement outside the hall. And they sat there until Jimmy appeared. So this would be the bus coming from Aberdeen. Yeah, every every hour, it took one hour to go the 18 miles. And there was one every hour. Alexander's bus, it was when tend to battery and battery was the terminus, it turned round, and then it went back in slow.

Mike Dick  21:53  
And they would drop the film's off on the play board.

Speaker 1  21:55  
Yes, in some places, I think the other villages the carrier, if there wasn't a bus that suited fitted, then the carrier took them out. And by this time, of course, they were out of the cans. So in these boxes in these boxes, sometimes it depended. They went round six or seven cinemas or villages. So sometimes, whoever got them first made them up onto spools. So the person had them first got them in the cans, and they put them on spools. Then the two boxes were sent to Aberdeen, and then only one box, which had spools in it with the films with the spools full of film, where then went round to the next place, and the next place. And then the last place when the film went out the empty cans in the transit cases, and the last person had to strip the film off with a plate onto a roll to go back in the cans to be sent back to the film distributors.

Mike Dick  23:09  
I'm just I'm just trying to picture the town hall it was the cinema was called the Glen. Have I got

Speaker 1  23:16  
that right there. Glenn was the company right? Yes. Mr. Burns was the person who ran the Glenn cinemas. So all the village halls that ran the pictures was called the Glen cinema inch the Glen cinema new pit Slager the Glen cinema here, there. They were all called the Glen except for the Argosy and bucks burn. Now it had been the shepherds Hall. And it was the early posters. I have one that says the shepherds Hall. Glen cinema, shepherds Hall bucks, but then it was some point it was called The Odyssey. It was a dancehall as well, as all the cinemas were down sold, because they would be on cents at night. There would be whist drives, jumble sales, that would be cinema. There would be and so all the holes were multipurpose.

Mike Dick  24:10  
So we're talking about the 40s at the moment. Yeah, is that right? Yes. Well, I mean, describe it was like going going to, you know, to the town hall to see those days, right the atmosphere,

Speaker 1  24:21  
the cinema, the halls were crowded with a backdrop particularly see boundaries in a middle of enough forested halos. So it's lots of spine, pine, spruce, all of the deciduous trees and that's when you go out in the evening the air you can smell that wonderful smell of lovely trees and it's fresh air and it's in there from the mountains. It smells wonderful. Anyway, the enduring the war they needed to get timber because they couldn't be imported to Aberdeen from the Baltic Sea because of the torpedoes and ships being sunk and all that. So they were cutting down their own the forests in Scotland. And they got Canadian Lumberjacks. And the Canadian lumberjacks would cut the they would cut the trees at chest height. So you had these enormous stumps? Because in Canada, there's plenty of wood. Whereas they said here No, no, you've got that then down and so much near the ground. We don't want to waste all this wood. Anyway, they there was a castle called Black Hole castle. And it was later demolished or it was demolished at some point. And I'm not sure if it was existing then or were these. These foresters went, but they were all at this castle area. They had an encampment or the police built for them, I don't know. So they went to the pictures, apparently, and I'm told the Italian prisoners of war went to the went to the pictures to they were so thrilled at being out of the war that they didn't seem to be guarded or looked after, to a point where they might escape, because they were so thrilled to be free of the fighter and be in this fabulous place. So I don't remember them individually. I remember they were Italian. And they were Polish soldiers there. They were all lots of regiments and camped around banchory. So the pictures were packed. Well, did they have any special children's screenings? No, no, no. No matinees at all? No.

Mike Dick  27:02  
So you would go in with with with the outdoors? Yeah. And I

Speaker 1  27:05  
was told a long time ago that in Scotland, the census certificate was only advisory. So we got into all the horror of all the Frankenstein's and mummies and everything. And my brother, when I said to my dad, oh, can I have some bins for the pictures? He my brother Gavin said, Oh, don't give it to. It's the Mummy shroud of what's one of the lawn Cheney films from the 40s. He said he'll be waking up in the night screaming, don't give. I didn't get it. But I could have gone in, because they already seem to bother. But

Mike Dick  27:48  
we're the ones that stick in your memory of the kind of the movies have that sort of well. There's a number

Speaker 1  27:52  
of genres if you like, for example, there were all these detectives, many from either books or radio series, mainly in the States. There was a few British but Bulldog Drummond and so on, but they were often made in Hollywood anyway. It was all the whistler there was a detective who whistled and his shadow was on the street as the as the credits came on at the beginning. And there was a whole string of them with detectives and Sherlock Holmes, of course, when the when the war was on the Sherlock Holmes films, the American films with Basil Rathbone, and, and I've forgotten his name, who was Dr. Watson. They were adapted with Japanese spies and so on against the enemies of the time. They were investigating things to do with the war.

Mike Dick  29:04  
I mean, presumably, just thinking about that sort of era as well. Did the war impinge on you and your life as a as a child

Speaker 1  29:13  
when well, the man whose was in charge of the cinema shows, because Mr. Burns who owned the Glen cinemas was never seen, and some of the people at the Hall had never seen him. He never it never came out. What happened was that the manager was appointed. They were in other places, often the whole keeper, but in banchory, they were the local electrician who was Alexander Fraser. And he had a apprenticeship as a watchmaker. So everyone knew him as watchI Fraser and he was a man in his Well, I think, when I was going there as somebody who know He knew a bit about it, and had seen the winding and everything. He was probably close to 70. He was an older man with a still and a very nice electrician, local. He did lots of yeah, that a lot of work locally. And he was the manager. Then Jimmy Stewart, the sole Miller, he was the man in charge of the projecting, and he had a boy or boys with him apparently, watch. He then retired, and Jimmy moved up into manager. So there were two teenage boys running the projectors. And they often went wrong, and sometimes would often go dark. And then we'd all stomp our feet and whistle and, and shout until the picture came back on, it always came back on a completely different place. So either they must have abandoned the reel, and just gone on to the next one. But it never started. When it had stopped. It was always something completely different. Anyway, that was a great thrill we loved when it broke down because you there was a sort of chaos, everybody screaming and chatting. What about

Mike Dick  31:15  
this romantic interludes that used to get in these ghetto movies as well. That's the

Speaker 1  31:19  
moment that you went to the toilet. There was a parade of kids running in and out. Whenever there was romance, they wanted action. They didn't want a lot of love talk. And I'm sure that must have been really aggravating for the adults, the noise of kids and the doors going, banging and so on.

Mike Dick  31:39  
So you can see me passion for cinema really started started. And that's when

Speaker 1  31:44  
I've seen Jimmy repairing the films. And of course, they'd been round all the army camps and everything. There was a shortage of film stock. So the prints were probably used. Beyond that, in peacetime, they would have Well, I mean, this wasn't what this wasn't wartime. I'm talking about this 4849. So it was the war had finished. But there was big shortages. Everything was in short supply. And the films were run before and of course, Mr. Burns liked. He liked to get bargains. So he was getting old films that were maybe three years after their first release or longer. So they were in a bit of a bad state. And of course, at that point, and then this cinema, the one no splices, you cut the film, and you wet at the end to make the emulsion soft, and you scratch it off with a scissor end of the scissors on a razor blade, you scratched off the picture and expose the clear cellulite. And then you put this solvent on and then stuck the other end on and they hopefully blended into each other and were then one.

Mike Dick  33:09  
But it was cement wasn't.

Speaker 1  33:12  
It was it's called cement. Yes, but it was a solvent. It didn't look anything like cement, it was a clear liquid smelled of tear drops. And the minute you went into the projection place, you could smell the cement. It had a strong odour. And you got it from the cabinet chemists made it up i Except now when you go to the chemists, they want they think I'm going to make something explosive or something. They're very nervous if you say guy would love if you get any annual acetate or any acetone of what do you want it for? And they can't see they don't have bottles of everything when I was a child because the chemistry was bottles of everything that you might want to pour or it was all completely different. If you wanted things the chemist had them now everything's made up in factories, and they only have a limited supply of stuff. It

Mike Dick  34:12  
talking about cinema going and Banksy Did you did you ever go into Aberdeen for Watson?

Speaker 1  34:18  
did occasionally my dad used to go into Aberdeen weekly to order the thing, the food for the cafe, our supplies for the cafe. And I do remember going to the Capitol, which was the one of the best cinemas in town, a very large main street, Union Street, the main street of Aberdeen cinema with an organ and I do remember I remember being slightly tearful when he was playing My Bonnie lies over the ocean. As a child, I had had new gloves. And as we left I realised I'd love The glove and we went back with the fascia and the torch and everybody to look for it was never found. So I remember that particular visit to Aberdeen. And of course, it was a sorted day out really in the sense that other things were done. There were lots of shops that were department stores, Isaac Benzes, water and grants that were very well known had been there for years. And occasionally I was once we went to the, to the department store Cafe, and there was a little trio playing in the corner with the man. Remember, he had white air down to his shoulders, very kind of unusual at that time. And he, he was one of he played in the orchestra in the Tivoli in the evenings. And in the afternoons, I can't remember what instrument you play. But he was there in this trio with two women, I think and this man with a long white could

Mike Dick  36:08  
be used this this kind of point in the story to talk a wee bit about the history of cinema and Aberdeen because it's quite an important history that the media will know about. Well,

Speaker 1  36:19  
Aberdeen had quite an important part in early cinema, because there was a man called William Walker, who had a shop and Bridge Street, going down to the main station, where he sold, he was a bookseller and as a sort of sideline, or may have been not quite so much of a sideline, he rented out or sold a lantern slides, which are large, three quarter inch square slides that can be projected on the screen. And often were accompanied by someone who explained what you were looking at. They were used for religious purposes, lots of church halls would show show the slide shows and that people showed them at home. And they would be the slides would be in sets of perhaps the history leading up to the Boer War or somebody's expedition Livingstone's expedition to Africa or they were all in different subjects. And he was very much into that. And then when this cinema arrived in London, in it was in March at the beginning of 1896. He then very quickly got a camera and made film took our film records all around the area, including soldiers going off to, certainly to the Boer War in 1900. And he then, because Balmoral where the Queen's holiday home is, is west of banchory and Aberdeen's east of Balmoral, he would go to Balmoral and show films to Queen Victoria, who died in 1901, I think. So, he had a very important part. And then there's another man called colder, Robert colder, and he was a kind of in opposition, or he was arrival, too. And the films were only 50 foot long. So they lasted less than a minute each, because that's 50 foot was the, the length that the films were made in. At that time, they were all in 50 foot length, and then they would form part of a concert party perhaps. So you may have an evening's entertainment, where there would be a singer, there may be somebody giving a talk about some part of their life, that would be a few 10 minutes of film, these short films, and there would be somebody playing an instrument and a vocalist singing a song it was there at the beginning it was just part of something else because they film so so short.

Mike Dick  39:39  
They you know, they started the silence saying that either when did when did this sort of cinema start to really start to grow in Aberdeen them

Speaker 1  39:51  
Well, that's all a bit before my time so I'm not going to be a to feel that I can tell you too much about it. Of course. The Walker gave exhibitions of films in the musical, which is a big hole in in the main street. The cinemas, the cinemas, it happened rather gradually. So you'd find church halls being used to show films in the Great Cinema building business came from the cinematic rough act of 1909. That indicated that cinemas had to have the projectors and the films being shown in a fireproof area, a box if you like, or a room, a small room, separate from the audience, so that if the film did accidentally catch fire, because it was being shown in front of a very strong light, needed to project it onto a screen, some distance away, and if it stopped, or tore or jammed in front of this light, it would then catch fire, because it was made out of inflammable cellulite. So, the 1909 meant that many of the village halls, not the village hall, sorry, the halls used in the cities, were not adaptable. So this is when cinema building began as such. Also, there were many conversions. Sometimes someone who would want to buy a want to run a cinema would buy an former chapel, and convert it with a proper projecting room, and so on into a cinema. There was quite a number of them in Aberdeen as a few.

Mike Dick  41:52  
Because the interesting thing was that then grew up into one of the major cities in terms of cinema, they

Speaker 1  42:00  
boasted that they had more cinemas per head than then Glasgow does the same. And I don't know if Dundee does, but I'm not sure I don't think it's been verified. But they like to claim that they were the Great Cinema going city. When did the Donald finally come on the scene that that Donald family well, there's a man called Michael Thompson who's regrettably now died. prematurely. He was, he worked in the Aberdeen City Library. And he wrote a book about the cinemas of Aberdeen called Silver Screen in the Silver City. And it's a wonderful book and in there, he gives a lot of detail about the cinemas of Aberdeen. And he says that the Donald's didn't come in to the cinema business, if I'm to remember this rightly, until the teams. Now I have Donald didn't give me much free. But he did give me two postcards, which are dated 1906. And they're from a pioneer man who was again, very important in Aberdeen, and was working in parallel with William Walker and Robert Calder. And his name was Duff, Patterson. Duff Patterson was also going to these concert parties and also screening films. And on one postcard, he Thanks, Jimmy, Donald James, Donald, the originator of the company, for this projector that he's bought. Now, this is 1906. Mike Thompson, who's very good on a tremendous amount of detail, says it was the teams that the Donald's entered. Well, this shows that Jimmy Donald was had to do with films. And he was also talking about Jimmy's operator, he said, I'd been at I'd be pleased if your operator comes down and something else can show you them later. So that's the early so that's 1906. Jimmy Donald was already in some kind of cinema operation.

Mike Dick  44:27  
We'll come back to the Donald family a bit further down the line. But that's that's a really, you know, very important information there. Yes.

Speaker 1  44:33  
It's these postcards were mouthless deck, took them out of his desk drawer, and said you've probably liked it because deck thought that I was selling the things I was buying. And occasionally he would say, Oh, you'll do all right on that, meaning he was selling them cheaply or I was getting them cheaply. And I kept saying no, I said I'm interested in Send them. I want to keep these. And then later on, as after the museum was founded, and I still went to see him to see what if there was anything else lying about? He didn't seem to get it somehow. I said no, these are for a museum at he thought he thought I was because when I was at the filament, I worked at the BFI briefly.

Mike Dick  45:30  
Well, I think we'll just, I think I just want to keep that linear flowing a bit. Well,

Speaker 1  45:34  
I'm dead skin, that either Portobello Road store. So Jimmy Macon, who was the projection supervisor, he was the manager of the Queens. And he was the man that interviewed me for the job when I started. When I used to go to Aberdeen, I'd pop in and see him. And he knew that I had a store in London and was selling stuff on the Portobello Road, and mostly books, but any old junk that I could sell. And I think that he'd said to Derek, that I had a market store. And I think that that deck felt that this was going to be sold. And that the strange thing is that in 74, I think it was when the Playhouse was demolished the place I worked in and dearly loved, and started. I was I moved out of town because I had so much things. I'd had Rolls Royce cars, which you could buy a Rolls Royce limousine, from 1933 34 You could buy one, as I did for 50 pounds when the MOT came out, and you had to have good brakes, good silence and blah, blah. Everybody started ditching the pre war cars because they all needed too much to go through the MOT. Yes. So I moved out of town, I had four Rolls Royce limousines, the dearest of which cost 60 pounds, and the cheapest of which and you won't believe this because it was advertised. I'll tell you about it later. It cost 10 pounds for a rolls and 1934 Rolls Royce was 10 pounds. It was advertised in a box number. And I went to the man's house because I knew it had to be this particular anyway, I went got to get bogged down in that. So I had a lot of stuff. I moved out of London, bought this house in Suffolk for 4600 pounds, and moved all my stuff out of a big place with sheds and barns at the back. And when I was living there, that's when the Sterling changed into Europe into decimals. And I suddenly found all the prices had gone up. And it was no longer easy to make a living. So I had a lot of money problems while I was at that 10 years and suffered. And then 74 Dick Donald rang me up in Suffolk and said the Playhouse is going to be demolished. Are you interested in any of the fittings? Now that had to come from Jimmy Mikan, which when I was at the BFI earlier, seven, eight years earlier, I'd had this stall on Portobello Road, because I've no idea why he would have wanted to tell me about that. And I do believe that was through Jimmy Macon. And so he had this idea from then on that. And so I had really bad money problems were bailiffs and all our assets. And it was the thing he said to me then he said, we've got some antique dealers coming round. And I thought, I can't, I can't compete with antique dealers. And that kind of I didn't have the money anyway. But even if I just wanted to go and see if I could either borrow money or get a fuel the lovely glass, they had swan neck, secondary lighting was gas, they didn't have batteries. It was gas lighting. In case the mains failed, and I used to go with a taper and light them every day. I would have loved to get some of the the items there. But when he said antique dealers, I thought I'm not in that league. I'm not going to be able to afford anything.

Mike Dick  49:51  
I just want to take you back so to how you got into the business in the first place. Yeah, okay. Well, when when, when when you're a kid when you were growing up and you're going to the cinema Did you Oh, what did you think that's what I want to do?

Speaker 1  50:09  
I did. My aunt used to bring film books to me. So I was already interested in films. And there was a little book, little book that came out in the 40s called Movie cavalcade, by F Morris speed. And I used to go over that and look at the pictures again and again and again. And it was already there. But it was watching the man rewinding fondly. That lit the fire. That was what I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to do this.

Mike Dick  50:50  
Okay, Ron, so when, when, when, how old were you when you left school, when went to the school,

Speaker 1  50:55  
I left school at 15. Because fortunately, my brother five years older, he left it was 14. And then the year, just before I left, it was up to 15. And I hated school. So I was stuck with an extra week, an extra year. And, of course, my dad had been to see he was a ship's cook originally, among other things, and he had an old shipmate who used to come out on his bike from Aberdeen to visit him. And he's called Jim Gordon. And he said to my brother, what do you plan to do when you leave school? Oh, my brother said, I'd like to be an electrician. And my father said, Yeah, that's the coming thing as though it was atomic. You know, it was something. I had a space. And he became an electrician and hated it, left it the minute he was he's apprenticeship was finished. And then, on one of his visits, he said to me, what are you going to do when you leave school? I want to be a cinema operator. I said, he said, This lives above me. He said, As an operator. He said, I'll have a word with him. So he had a word with his neighbour. And this man, Arthur Duncan, wrote me a letter to say, if you would, your boy would I've spoken to Mr. Donald, and if your boy would like to go in, and he'll try and fit him up with a job. And I did that. And then I didn't see the manager of the Playhouse that Mr. Mikan, who was the projection supervisor was manager of the Queen's he'd been an operator in Glasgow. And he was filling in for the manager at the Playhouse, and he interviewed me. And I remember he said, The wages, I had to stand at the door of the office, he had the office door jamb back on the carpet, and I stood there. And then he was in the this unfamiliar office, they belong to somebody else, Mr. Perry, and he's only there for the night is filling in, and is he was looking for the wages. You said, there's a list of the wage. And he was in cupboards, and I wanted to say, doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I would have been thrilled to do it. I didn't care what the wages were. So it turned out the wages were one pound 19 and a penny a week and the digs because I said to Mr. Mica, and I said, Oh, I believe the last bus leaves at whenever it was half past nine or something to banchory. I said, Could I get off early? Oh, no, no, no, he said, you'll have to get digs. So I had to live in lodgings which were two pound 50 a week to pan 10 shillings, which was more than my wage my dad had to make up. And he gave me five Bob a week to spend on my film magazines. And for my tram fares, if it was raining, came up on the tram. And so five Bob was 25 Pence now. And that went on until we moved from from banker into the city, because my father's Cafe he was getting older. It wasn't making the money it had made before and he was tired with it. And now that I was getting a job in town, there was no point in staying he wanted to get rid of it. So we moved into Aberdeen and lived in my aunt's house for a while. And then it was I could just come home in the evening. And my dad always had a little supper ready for me always had. I can't remember now bacon and eggs or something

Mike Dick  54:59  
Describe describe, you know, your first day there what, you know what, what was what was the experience like then

Speaker 1  55:06  
it was extraordinary. And they were they were very, Mr. Mikan was very impressed at the at the interview about the job, he said, Would you like to see the box of what I said? Yes. So I followed him upstairs. And to the to the projection box we went in, it's so clear to me and the operator, and I don't remember if it was the chief or not, was standing there with a warehouse caught on. And he said, Oh, this is on young lad us would like to be an apprentice. And I could see the back of the peerless had a tiny little hole, with light coming out of it, I said, Is this carbons, and he said, they were both aghast that this young boy of 15 knew about carbons already, because they used carbons in the village hall. And they were quite impressed by that. So when I went in for my first day 930 To start, and I was shown how to clean the arc lamp. So that peerless door was locked up. And with a paintbrush, I had to wipe the dust from the carbon flame that was on the roof of the UN, I had to clean the mirror with a cloth, there was a large mirror behind where the carbons burned. And then I had to sweep the floor. And then later on, in certain days of the week, you had to clean brass is Polish, all that anything that had brass, there was a curtain, a plate with curtain buttons, open, close, and so on. And you had to polish all that. And then I didn't do that early on. And then later on, I had to take the potholes out every so often and clean the glass in the potholes. So that which is the potholes were the little square windows that the picture went through, and also that you could see through to keep an eye on what was happening on the screen. So there were lots of other things that eventually had to do. And then after, I don't know if it was weeks, I don't think it was months, I think it was weeks, then I had to wind back the last reel of the feature that had been shown the night before, because nobody wanted to stay behind and wind the reel back. Because at that time, every single join was checked every run. So you didn't wind it back like this. You wound it back through your fingers. And each join, you stopped, you went back, you tested the join. Because if it was going to burst open on the machine, that was a big headache. And occasionally if there was a nitrate feature that nitrate being inflammable, they didn't want it the jam on the projector. But even though all the acetate film that had nearly come out, they had to check you had to check every joint every time. And if there was any doubt, you cut the joint out and remade it with film cement. And that was your responsibility. Yeah, that was what you did. Yes, you You did your to rewind this last reel. And then I suppose that the very first time, I wouldn't make the very first few times, I may have had to get somebody else to come and make the joy. But I was shown always how to do it. And eventually you did it yourself. But then there was four of us. Chief second, third, and apprentice.

Mike Dick  59:04  
You will apprentice. And it was a kind of formal apprenticeship done.

Speaker 1  59:09  
Yes, it was yeah, you signed a paper and said that you would work for I remember this five years. But they kept cancelling that making it for years. And so I was very annoyed that when I had my first when I had my first certificate, it said in it that I had worked for however many years it was as an apprentice, and therefore I was capable of being a third projectionist. But the one I got actually said that I didn't know ahead but what had worked for some indeterminate time and was able to be achieved projection And I was annoyed that that first one that had all this detail on it was now I had to hand it in to get a new one and lost it.

Mike Dick  1:00:12  
So describe describe a day in the life, then I mean, I'm interested in, you know, the, you know, you said, you started off at half past nine in the morning, half past

Speaker 1  1:00:19  
nine in the morning, and then there was a lunch break, then you were back in the afternoon, and you worked until late afternoon, then there was a tea break, then you came back in. So you had two afternoons and two evenings off a week. And it was, generally everyone four people that are in the morning, and then two on and two off. So there was never, I'm looking at my timetable. And I look, I found it last night, it doesn't quite work out. And I may have written it down wrongly or something because on one particular shift, somebody's on their own. And that wasn't right, there was always too long. Because you weren't allowed, if you wanted to go to the toilet, you weren't allowed to leave the machine running and nobody there. I mean, if if it jumped into a miss frame, with a line across and half the picture and half the picture, top and bottom, you couldn't leave it like that with nobody there to correct it, you immediately would have to an even because it was Academy. At the beginning, that picture was the four by three, often camera cameras had different frame lines. So occasionally, that frame line would just show along the bottom, and you always immediately had to remove that you had to turn 20 or take it down. So you were watching all the time the picture, and you had to stand by the machine and be at that portal, or through you could didn't it was much later, when you were kind of hard boiled and cynical that you had a stool and you could take a book and sit and read something that came later. But at the at the beginning. And under certain people, it was very strict, you had to stand there, watch the picture, and be on the OLED for focus or all the time.

Mike Dick  1:02:29  
That that was the hard hardship from your point of view.

Speaker 1  1:02:32  
I love I adored it. And in the winter when it was freezing weather, I couldn't believe I was being paid to do this it was so wonderful relay and also the mechanical to open the door of the simplex and watch this film coming down 24 times a second and stopping in the exact position of the previous frame. And of course it comes down ups the picture is upside down because it turned by the lens. So as films coming in, all the pictures are upside down. It was I loved it and but watching the sprocket turning all this stopping and starting. I just thought eventually as I got older I thought this is this has to change. This is a system like the car the motorcar you know the engine with the pistons hammering up and down. And that crankshaft turning. It's it's killing itself. It's kind of wearing itself out in doing what it has to do. But I had no idea that we would ever be in digital or anything but it did look, this clip was a beautiful thing to see that sprocket turning but you thought stopping and starting 24 times a second. It's just It's remarkable. It is remarkable 90 feet a minute. I it was enchanting for me.

Mike Dick  1:04:15  
And again looking back. How did they panned out so when when would the audience come in then the

Speaker 1  1:04:23  
audience came in around lunchtime, this different cinemas a different starting time. Sometimes it was continuous for from two o'clock, continuous from 130 continuous from 145 Whatever they had all different times. But the audience came in because the films were different lengths. It they owe you all was started at the same moment the same time. And as the films were different lengths. It happened that the beginning meaning of the film didn't occur at that time. So at that time, you had to wind through the film to a point that if you started the film, then say in the middle of reel three, it would finish at 1030, or always had to finish at 1030 as the nearest on the dot. And so there was this cut in where you were starting opening the cinema, with the film already started, or you may have been half an hour, more an hour into the film. And people coming in would say to each other, oh, it's just started, there was not knowing that in 15 minutes, it's going to finish. But they didn't care. Because you went into the cinema at any time, when it was convenient to you. It was called a continuous performance. And it was the door was open all day to go out well, well, in some cinemas, somewhere on the opening in the evening, we were open from lunchtime, and you just went in, whenever it suited you bought a ticket went in, sat down, had no earthly idea what was happening on the screen, you didn't know what these people's relationship was with each other. You picked up bits and pieces. And then the next film started, you saw that from the beginning to the end, then the one you came in, in the middle of started again. And then at some point, you said, I've seen this, as you recognised the piece that you'd already seen before. So you could either leave, or you could say, well, I had no idea what was happening last night. And this time, you would sit a little longer and either watch it to the end. Now you knew what their relationships want, and why people were behaving as they were or not. That was the choice. And kids, of course, stayed round, and watched it several times they would stay as long as they wanted to if it was a good film, see it over and over. And sometimes the mothers would come and say, Is my Johnny here. And they would take the attendant would go down and flashed the torch on the faces of the kids to see if the mother could recognise the missing child.

Mike Dick  1:07:36  
Whatever habits did the audiences have that time sort of have them that you remember? Saying that? Just I was just start thinking some of the I mean, the audience behaviour, then no, it's completely different. But I mean, I just started trying to think of, of ways. I mean, I'm thinking of people who's smoking was,

Speaker 1  1:07:55  
that was one of the big things. And when you were talking about the Glenn cinema, during the war, the place was packed. And most of the men was smoking and in the winter, but the place was thick. And of course I love the the light shaft the shaft of light through the smoke. I do miss that was always a tremendous, interesting thing to look at. Especially if the film wasn't much good. How long were you at

Mike Dick  1:08:28  
the Playhouse for them?

Speaker 1  1:08:29  
I served the board I think was five years. And I had gone to classes while I was there. They were they released classes because you were called up for national service. So in order to postpone the national service until your apprenticeship was finished, you had to go to some further education. And my case it was classes run by the Council on on cinema for cinema operators. It

Mike Dick  1:09:02  
was technical college.

Speaker 1  1:09:03  
It was Yeah. I don't remember going to college but it was under the the the umbrella of college I think yes. Or no education department or something. And I remember being somewhere in King Street, where we met and birth you in the chief of the Capitol run them and then when the ABC opened the Regal opened in the ship row. Then Charles Crawford, the chief there, ran it and he was keen on me being so interested and asked if I would like to join the ABC crew as a co second, which I did. I left the Donald's because there were three afternoons off and three evenings off. As against to and to at the Donald's, and there was more wages because see the wages would be but it wasn't a happy time. I didn't like the ABC and he was a strange man. It didn't work out for me. But while I was at the Regal, I then started up the village cinemas and on my evenings off from being an operator, I'd go out and my, my Volvo seven pound 50 Vauxhall, and go two inch and show films in the village or

Mike Dick  1:10:34  
their How did you get hold of films at that point?

Speaker 1  1:10:37  
The man, the man from rank came to the house, the salesman. I booked a game he had a list. And of course, they'd all been to the Donald's. Yeah, I didn't get anything new. They were all they'd all been around the houses. And this was available and I picked some and the rank man. He was a sort of XRS type of one of these voices. And he was very helpful. And it was 25% of the door, went to the film higher was just 25%. And then later on, they started because of course, the business started. Before Grampian open, it started slipping. And they started with putting in what is it? Sorry, it's like a down payment. You have to pay this as a minimum. And if if nobody comes, you still pay it?

Mike Dick  1:11:39  
I mean, interested in so you're working at the ABC Regal, yeah. And Aberdeen and I'm going off on my Eve and how does that so you'd finished work at what time 530

Speaker 1  1:11:49  
That was a nightmare if somebody was late, because I had to go. What it's 35 miles or something in this old car. And one terrible night, it was very foggy. Now, I had tried my test and failed. And the cinema opening was due. So I just threw their plates away, and drove on accompanied with Noel plates. And this night, the guy was late letting me off. It was thick fog, really thick fog, where you couldn't see you had to follow the daylight in front. And then when the daylight went somewhere else, you could hardly see the grass, the edge of that the verge of the road. So I was in a bit of a state, that bad being late. And as I got into inch, the village, there was a car right in front of me, which was dawdling and I'm behind them angry, and oh get on. And being bad being late. And suddenly, this it was the woman doctor, this woman just put her foot on the brake and stopped dead in the middle of the street. And I went crack into the back of the car and knocked it through a hedge into a garden. Because she had, what apparently happened was she had seen a friend on the pavement, she'd put her she'd stopped, had her foot on the brake and leaned over to take the window down with her foot not on the brake. So when I hit the car, it flew into this through this hedge. And she was in that state. And of course, I my car, I'd put the bumper onto the tire, the car wouldn't move now. I ran down to the hole. And Mrs. Duncan who was the home keeper, she hadn't let anyone in because she was worried about the fog. And me being late and having to give everyone their money back if I didn't turn up. So there was a big crowd, and they weren't around. Somebody cheered as they saw the picture man coming down the street. And so she let them in. I said went over to the garage, there was blacksmiths opposite with petrol pumps. And I said, Could you go to the car and bring the film's down to the hall? And then can you fix the car? So he did all that. And I remember it was a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis from paramount in colour. And he got he came, he brought the films down, carried them up the ladder, and they were all on spools ready, and onto the machine and we got going. So I'm running early in the film, and the door opens and there's a Bobby So I said, Oh, could you just hold on a second? I've got to change the reel. And he did. And I switched over. Then I said, Yeah. He said, Jeff had that better an accident. I said, Yes. So he said, Can I see your licence? So I produced the provisional licence, of course, that was it. So I was he read out there, that, you know, anything you say, may be taken down and all the rest of it. And I was disqualified from driving for a year driving without insurance, which is also I had insurance, the fact that I was a provisional driver meant it was invalid. So this was now a headache, because I had two days, two evenings a week to show films at a village that I had no way of getting to, because the bus went out in the middle of the afternoon, going to Inverness, and that was it. So it was an absolute nightmare. However, even when even before this, the chief started changing my evenings off, because he would didn't, I think I talked too much about what I was doing. And he was either fed up with it or jealous or something. But he decided to move my evenings. And I knew that if I changed the picture night, he would move in them again. And I couldn't do operate like that. So I left the radio. And then this had this happened. So I went out on the bus with two sets of transit cases. I had the the film on spools all made up. And then I had the empty cans, the empty cases with the cans, and into a single decker bus. Yeah, I don't know if you remember under the back window, there were two doors opened and luggage went in. So they were in there. So then they dropped me off at inch on the way I think to Inverness, or somewhere further north. And that I ran the show. And I had spoken to Tommy grey, who worked for FTS film transport specialists. And they delivered the films to all the cinemas and he said that they came through inch, the village at three o'clock in the morning. And if I was standing by the telephone box, he would pick me up. But if I wasn't there, the van would go through. So they'd pick me and the film's up and take me to Aberdeen. Now this was okay, while it was pleasant weather. But in the dead of winter, the van was held up, the roads were very bad. The Northeast gets sometimes acute winters. And I had to be there in plenty time. Knowing that the van might be another hour before it arrived, because I didn't want if I miss him, I'm stuck there. So after the show, I would roll the screen up, take the speaker's down and help the whole keeper and her husband sweep up the papers and the cigarette ends and so on. And then move the seats. If there was a say something that needed all the seats that didn't need the seat said there was a dance, then all the seats would be stacked up at the side that would tubular jazz with Canvas seats. They would all be stacked up and I would help them then we'd go for a cup of tea in the whole kitchen. And we would have a noose as the Scots call a chat and you see an Uzi so we then use that and then they went upstairs to their bedroom. They lived above the hole at the back that was a flat for them. Okay. And then so I sat in the warm kitchen on my own till I think it was about three o'clock that and I would always come out at least half an hour early just in case he managed to be quicker than usual. So I would close the Yale behind me and lock the door and carry the boxes over the phone box and stand there in the winter. Absolutely perishing and subzero temperatures. And then I applied to get my licence back. And I was told if I went to a driving one of these classes that I'll tell you how to be a good driver. Then I could then I got my licence back in six months instead of a year. And then I went through my test. And

Mike Dick  1:20:13  
Bob's your uncle. So just take, I mean, how old were you at this point, then? 2121.

Speaker 1  1:20:19  
I couldn't get a cinema licence until I was 21.

Mike Dick  1:20:23  
So you're going to end? I mean, how did things develop from there then?

Speaker 1  1:20:29  
Well, you see, it had been Glenn cinema. And I went to visit I was I was on the bus from or maybe driving. I think I was driving from Bank Street because I kept up with bank three after I left and I had romances and so on in banchory, and had my school friends there and so on. So I kept up with banchory for years after we'd moved to Aberdeen. And I was coming through Kuta which is a village on the halfway between banchory and Aberdeen, and I saw a glen cinema poster outside this community centre. I said, My God, they still running. Are they still operating? So I discovered that in that village, it was a former drill Hall was a glen cinema. And I went and visited one night, it was a long wooden ladder, you had to go up the ladder to get to the projection box. And it was absolutely unbelievable. Again, these old silent projectors with a godly sound. I think when banchory close, they moved the gear down to Kuta. Because it was exactly the same, the sound was terrible. And these boys were they had high intensity carbons, like Bankrate had with a copper coating, but hand-fed not not motor fed. So you had to keep screwing them together all the time as they burned away. And I went out there on my evenings off and just helped them just to be working with his toddler effectively ancient machines, the spool box, the tops, they had a little mica window, where you could see how much film was left on this boat. But it was so what's the word it was such stain, you couldn't see through it. So you had to open the spool box. Now the projector was slightly off the level so that there was no clip on the end of the spindle. And the spindle didn't move into a fixed spindle, which is bad because it wears out the spool and it wears the spindle. So it was a stationary fixed spindle with the spool turning on it. And when you open the door, it threatened to fall out because the projector was slightly off the level. So you had to open the door and quickly shut it before the light. And everything about it was was antediluvian, going to Kota and seeing this ancient machinery was so interesting and thrilling for me. And I could see clearly that if you had two old projectors, you had an amplifier, and you had some kind of something to feed the carbons. And in this case, they will run off Asus AC power. And so it was an inductor, which is over there at the moment. They're sitting at the back of the the lamps. You could run a cinema and I'd always wanted as a growing up child to have my own cinema how marvellous that would be. And I would do drawings with buses, all equipped with projectors so that you could go to a village and show a film in the village square and so on. But having a cinema seemed to be fantasy. And now I could see it wasn't that different, not that far away. So I discovered Mr. Burns was still running Glen cinemas and I wanted to still go and see him. So I went to see him. I had said oh it Kuta the projectors in a terrible state. I said the rollers are all worn they they've stopped turning and that's big flats on the on the film runs on them all across the picture area and it must be scratching them and so on and I can do this and that and make it better and all the rest of it. And then I said no I was keen to see the other village halls. I said would you like me to go out and have a look at the project doesn't make a report choice. He was he was he wasn't cared about and

Mike Dick  1:25:06  
obviously, in Aberdeen pardon?

Speaker 1  1:25:10  
Oh, by in place, yes. Just off Union Street above Union Street going to Queen scrubs. And he said, Yeah, of course it was free. I was going to do this but nothing. So I went out to these places when I went to inch, the whole keeper. There was a man who was the whole keeper, but he was an invalid. So his wife was really the whole keeper. She did all the work. And she was a character. She was a local character, or full of bugs and fears. And she took the money at the Glen. And she said to me, when I visited, she said, Oh, it keeps breaking down. The guys upstairs have no idea what they're doing. Because the one of the operators was a butcher. They're just lads that were brought in, put the film through here, here, here and the switch on this and shown what to do. But if anything else happened, then no idea did. So she said goes wrong all the time. The kids make a lot of noise. And the it's sinking. She said why don't you come here and run the pictures? I said I can't and Mr. Burns has a contract here. He's been showing films twice a week here for years. So then Mr. Burns was announced in the papers he was closing, giving up inch. So that was my moment. So I have to backpedal. One day, we lived in Great Western road. And I went out into onto the pavement and bumped into a man who had run the paper shop up the road where I got my kidney weeklies and trade magazines, and my picture guy and blah, blah. And I hadn't seen him for years because well for a long time for a good while, because he had sold the business and retired or moved away somewhere. So I said hello. We said, Are you still in the pictures? I said yes. He said I was thinking about you the other day. He said I went to see a cinema for sale. I said why? He said, Yeah, you should go is that I thought immediately a few. When I went there. I said where is it? He said Inver burfi. I had never heard of him but burfi which is about nearly 2530 miles south of Aberdeen on the coast. So I see okay, so I went to visit this place. And I have to say that it was exactly in many circumstances, like the smallest Show on Earth. The film of Peter Sellars, Margaret Rutherford, and Bernard Myles about a little old cinema called the Biggio. Well, the burfi cinema was had a many of these, the the electricity was created through a dynamo. So the lights had a little bit of a flicker on them. And they had these bulbs that they had birdcage filaments. And they came to a pip at the bottom that the cinema had opened in 1914. And I do believe these bulbs were contemporaneous with the opening, because everything was so ancient. And of course, they were under run. So they were a sort of yellow light there because they were not running at full, which is why they lasted I suppose, so long. And there was a single operator, just one operator running the films. And the man who told the tickets had started in 1916. And he was said this is on the 50s and he was still there. Jordy Morrison, he was apparently a very nice man. But he had a stammer. So he the kids would be wrought ruckus, make a ruckus in the front. And he would say that that. And of course the kids would, would mock him and make fun of this. And he was pretty hopeless. Really I'll say he was a nice man, and had been there permanently, since two years after it open doping in 1914. And the price of the cinema was 900 pounds. freehold, the building the equipment, the goodwill, everything 900 quid. So this did seem to me to be possibility. Anyway, I was absolutely in love with this place. I was charmed by it. The man who'd originally started it had died. And he'd had a licenced grocery shop with an attractive young woman. So when his wife died, he married the shop assistant. And she now had control of his empire. He had soul mails, and God knows what all around the village. So I was very, very keen on the place. She wanted rid of it. And I was giving vibes of, I'm going to buy it, I would really like I'm very taken with it. So I went home, spoke to my dad. And he said, If I didn't know anything about cinema, he said, I'll speak to my lawyer, the advocate, as it's called in Scotland. So he went to Hunter and Gordon and spoke to his friend there. And his friend got the books from the cinema, their account sent. And when my dad spoke to him, he said, Don't touch it. It's sinking. So he then told me no, go for getting some money from him, to help to buy it. And then I said, Yeah, but I've got 500 pounds in the national savings. And he said, Well, I gave you 10 shillings a week, when you were at school, to put into the national savings. So that's my money, originally, and I'm not going to allow you to waste it. This thing is no good. It's not good. So, no. So I had to go back. They are sorry, in between, I went to him. He said that. And then I went back and told them, I couldn't get the money. So Mrs. Lyon, who was selling it said, Alright, 750 pounds, and not a penny less. And that's when I went and said, Can I take my money out of the savings? And he said, No, I won't let you waste that money. So I couldn't get the 750 pounds to buy it. And so it closed eventually, months later. Then when Mrs. Duncan an inch is saying, you should have run the pictures here. Mr. Burns is now closed. projectors, I need projectors. So I went to Mrs. Lyon. I said can I buy the projectors from the now closed cinema and then for Barbie? How much will you offer 40 pounds, I said she accept. So I got the two projectors, the speaker. I didn't have a rectifier. But Burns had left his rectifier in the hall. So I gave him some money. And got it was a battery, a former battery charger. And so now I had power for the lamps for the arcs. And I think the infobar v one came with the amplifier and everything I needed. So this burns, the screen was still there, a cloth screen that rolled down. And I gave him something for that. And so I was away. So that was how it began. But then when I'm now running, and so it's my full time job pictures two nights a week there. I need a bit more, because I need more income. And I need

Speaker 1  1:33:42  
to fill the rest of the week up. So I then went back to Mrs. Lyon and said, can I rent the clothes cinema? And she said, Yes. And I think they read reasonable value or something was 56 pounds a year. So that was the rent was decided was the rent which was about a pound a week. And so I put the projectors back in there. And I'd found that there was when I went to tarrif I discovered that there were some old projectors in the basement and so I bought these from Bob Kay for 40 pounds and installed them in edge. The problem was it didn't have a burfi that the projection box. It was all it had been a garage originally. And there were two roofs like this out above. And the projection box was in the valley between two roofs that corrugated iron shed really and the projection box was therefore the box came into the roof through this space and was cantilever The floor was Cantor Believe it. So I thought these big projectors, heavy brutes on big cast and pedestals from tarrif would maybe compromise the floor at burfi. And they were an audience sitting underneath. I thought, I put the original projectors back and put the new ones the heavy ones didn't. So I swapped them over. And then I now had two cinemas. Now, the more cinemas you have, the more the film salesman want to offer you and give you more attractive terms and all the rest of it. So now I had two shows running and then burns closed, new pits LIGO up near Peterhead that is stricken Wade also run films at one time. So I then got bought, the Belmont cinema in Belmont Street in Aberdeen, was one of the fleet pits that the Donald's had, their cinemas were maintained to a very high standard. But the Belmont had wooden forms at the front, and in the evenings showed cereals, which no other day only anybody else only showed them for children shows. But at the Belmont, their audience was unsophisticated enough, they could show the cereals and the evenings. So it closed in 1952. Before I started at the Playhouse, so I was never in it, or so it but it had a reputation. It was called the fleshy bellmunt Because it had a reputation that if you went in, you came out with more than you went in with I don't know if that was realistic or not. But it was known as the flippy bellmunt. So the Donald still had the projectors, one of which is downstairs in the entrance now. They had two projectors from the bellmunt, which I bought, and they installed them up at slideshow. And then so I had three cinemas running initially two days a week each. So that gave me six nights a week. But it it started getting a bit of a struggle that one night was good. The other night was less good. So in the end, I landed up doing one night each. I gave up the second night, because when times got a bit difficult, and then when grumping TV open, the whole thing collapsed.

Mike Dick  1:37:38  
That's gonna sit the impact TV would have been coming in at that point. I mean, what you see, when did that come to have it in the mid 50s? I guess it was Yeah.

Speaker 1  1:37:46  
I just found a little press cutting BBC Two coming to

Mike Dick  1:37:53  
ABC I would have been I remember, one family in our street had the one television and I think that was about 54 or 55 or something. Nobody in any way. grumping was 63 You know, that was it? September 30. So that was the end. That was the BBC I could live with. Yeah. But once once ITV started

Speaker 1  1:38:16  
to crack through just what people stayed at home to watch the adverts, there was such a novelty. And of course, they're made to be attractive and interesting and to pull you in. And they all the kids, many of the kids stayed away. And of course, if you had families, if you had several members of a family to sit at home and watch television, close free, you had the annual licence fee. But if you went to the cinema or Dubai ticket for each person, so they both stayed stayed at home once there. Once the coronation came and 53 and people bought televisions, that was the beginning of the long slope. Really, I

Mike Dick  1:38:59  
don't think at that point in Glasgow was probably the nearest I think it would have had the facilities the transmitter stability was, but so you get the decline of cinemas, especially in the rural areas. I mean, that was but that was the interesting thing that you've talked about that a lot of people will understand this that the importance of cinema in these kind of rural communities.

Speaker 1  1:39:24  
I am staggered at the numbers of people who came to see the pictures. It was a shilling one and six and one and nine originally. And then I realised that the money isn't really working out well. That if you have 150 people and they're paying a shilling, it's not it's adding it's landing up at six or seven pounds. And if you take the whole rent and the wages and everything off it To button, I just realised I was in trouble early on. Now I put the seats up to two and six, two shillings, and one, six, or one or nine, I think. And that helped a bit. But the I felt you couldn't charge more, because it was so crude. It was a bath Village Hall with a polished hardwood floor. There was the sound wasn't wonderful in it because the quotes echo and so on an inch they had. They had heaters on the wall with motors that blew the heat out through these coils. And of course, you had to turn the sound up, because the suddenly in the middle of filmer would go whoosh, suddenly, these things would be groaning away. And then when they stopped, of course, the sound was too loud. So you kept having to go out and listen. Oh, it was a nightmare. Anyway, you couldn't charge the money that would keep the thing going, really because they were so primitive. It was all there was of course and people loved them, but you were limited to what you could charge to get his Where did that unit finish for you then? What do they? What did you say? 63. Three was Grampian Yeah, well, that must have been it.

Mike Dick  1:41:34  
You can see the writing on the wall. Yeah, it

Speaker 1  1:41:36  
I didn't have enough money to pay for the films. And I was on a five day the renter's had a five day thing that you had to paint within five days. And my checks were getting later and later. I just didn't have the money to pay for the film. So what did you do next? Then I went back to the McDonald and I said is there any operating jobs? Well, I think I may have I've worked for her but who run the playoffs? I may have gone to him and he said no no no no spoke to these that try Dec so I went to his brother McDonnell and he said I'm sorry there's no projection he said but Alec the engineer at the at the ice rink and spring gardens going in for a heart operation. So if you want to do cover there, so I will add a wide boiler suit and a whistle and I played the Elvis Presley records on some big seven dates on a double turntable and walked around in my quite boiler suit. And if I saw any pushing or carrying on the catering in the on the skaters I would blow the whistle and tell them to come over and give them a telling off say they would either be thrown out or they wouldn't get back or whatever gives them a sort of threatened threatened I had this keyboard really and get a lot of younger people and they horse around and it's dangerous they could fall and crack their heads up and so I did that for I don't know how long three months or something maybe not as long as that anyway I like came back after his big operation and his getting better and so on. And then he said there was still no operating jobs he said but you could go to the kings way as an electrician the Kings way was on bingo at that time because I

Mike Dick  1:43:42  
mean just to again get a sense of that kind of period as well. So you had ITV came, you had the bingo halls were taking over. Donald's must have been in the Coliseum situation then

Speaker 1  1:43:56  
they were and they went into bingo first with a bookie sign keeper with a man who ran gambling. I think he may also have had their scrap dealers as well called Swifty Reynolds and he had a Rolls Royce and he either had connections with gambling or something and the Donald's worked through him. And so he set up originally the Donald's bingo at the casino in Wales St. Write down one of the small cinemas and they open in the evenings. So then that was successful enough. Then they decided to close the Kings wait for films and move the bingo into the because I think it was called the casino bingo, even though it was in other places. And then they ran bingo in the Kings where it was a big, nearly a 2000 seater $1,800 something. And that was very successful, I've got a photo of the place packed with people. And so I was quotes the electrician. So along with the chief operator, that who was there from the films we had, we've had dead shifts. And what I had to do was put all the lights on the stage where the board was with the numbers, that would be called out to make sure that all the bulbs lit up. So when the caller gave the number out, it would come it would be lit up on the board. And then I had to play again play the records in the interval. And that was really all there was to it. The amplification in the box was used was the Western Electric amplifiers were used. And I did actually forget to finish a little story when I was telling you about buying the pictures, the name and the Grand Central, and the third cinema from Dick Donald for 200 pounds. When I said that I bought all the projection equipment. When the I had been in some of the rooms and seen all this paperwork on shelves, I thought, Oh, this is going to be thrown out at some point, including the minute books of the Aberdeen picture Palaces from the founding in 1912. All handwritten, telling you what the directors were thinking and doing. And then there was the Queen's rooms, cinema Syndicate, which was the company that had the Queen's and Aberdeen and Stan pick Justin Hayden. So I've made Dick a very, very generous offer for this, because I really wanted them and I felt it would be destroyed. So they gave me in one of my visits, I got all this paperwork from them, including the Western Electric contracts, which indicated that when Western Electric nearly closed down, just before they closed, they gave Dick all the projectors and amplifiers for one pound. So I'd offered him 200 pounds each for them. And he had been thrilled, but because knowing that they don't let cost him a quid. Also, they'd been leased for years. I mean, they'd paid rent on them for years from Western Electric, because they didn't allow you to buy them. You had to lease them. And so you paid and they then obviously had two engineers in Aberdeen, who were in call that they could come out if there was any problem. But that was sorry, that was the end of the story was I discovered he that he'd bought them for a pound each.

Mike Dick  1:48:02  
So presumably, you've got all that stuff still here it is. Because that's that's such important material.

Speaker 1  1:48:10  
They the picture palaces, things are priceless. One of them that says that one of the directors had been into. It mentions what cinema it was, I can't remember. He'd been into the cinema. And the pianist was intoxicated, this is silent days. And he'd been obliged to put it Throw him out of the building. And they the other directors, he said that we'll advertise for another pianist, and they all nodded and agreed with that name. And then when they got the it's fascinating that unfortunately, the Queen's rooms, cinema syndicate stops in 1929. That doesn't go on beyond that. It starts in 1913 and finishes in 29. The when I said the deck that I wanted to buy these, he said, Oh, he said we might need them for the tax. I said, I said your father bought the picture palaces and 42. Surely this is pre that had nothing to do with your company. Or we said I'll talk to the accountant. And then of course, he said yes, it's alright. I can't remember what figure I offered, but it would, it would have been in the hundreds, because I was desperate to get them. And I knew that I needed to. I needed to offer a price that he would jump back at he wouldn't say Oh, well I don't know. We'll think about it. I wanted him to say yes, because

Mike Dick  1:49:46  
that would have covered the period of the of the same that either the talk is started yet because that was

Speaker 1  1:49:53  
the opening of the Kappa died. It has all lots of stuff in it, including and this is the interesting thing for me. A including the one is British acoustic films. When the talkies came, that didn't work properly, and they tried to get their money back, and the company went bust. Now, it then was reformed and carried on. So it went on through the 30s. But I was fascinated that then they installed Western Electric, because that was obviously a higher price that they tried to get the British system a bit cheaper, and it hadn't worked out. So that was very, but unfortunately, the Queen's rooms that finishes in 29, not a mention of sound. doesn't say anything about the sound coming of sound. They may well have have it in their offices still. I don't know. But it's

Mike Dick  1:50:50  
lucky you're around anyway.

Unknown Speaker  1:50:52  
Yeah, that's

Mike Dick  1:50:53  
that's I mean, about always interested in something we haven't really so touched on, in terms of, you know, the skills he picked up over the years.

Speaker 1  1:51:01  
So that's another that's another whole thing. Yes. Quite a separate business. Yes. And that was all again, through the Donald's. And through Dec. I was going past the city, cinema, the doors were all wide open. And I could see people active in such a close that close down, people, I think they were unscrewing the seats from the floor. And I've wandered in, because I knew that I'd done relief work that I've wandered in and said to somebody elbows out, it's going to be made into a bowling alley. And I knew that on the right hand side of this long longish. Not very long, but the cinema was built at the back. There were houses on George Street. So this cinema foyer a was the corridor that went below the houses into the built the big cinema built on the wasteland at the back. So on the right hand side of the foyer was a room which had pigeon holes. And in that pigeon holes, posters, and stills were put in alphabetical order by film title. And then each cinema had to send Mr. Smith at the city, the stills they needed for their coming programmes and the poster. And they were sent to the cinema. I don't know how they were sent. I wondered if that was a subsidiary business, where they bought four copies of the posters and four copies of the stills, and then the cinemas paid. James F. Donald, I'm not sure if there was an subsidiary business to keep the profits on the cinemas down by having an internal arrangement where one company was charging another in order to deflate the profits. I don't know I never did discover. But they I knew that that room was full of publicity, because I'd been there to collect things. And outside the door, on the floor. There were all these big bundles of lobbies, pre war, American lobby guards, and British 10 by eight stills, and posters all tied up into a string. And I said to the people inside, I said, What's happening to all that stuff on the fly? Or they're waiting for the binmen to come around? I thought all that beautiful posters and things. I couldn't believe it, too. I said, oh, oh, who do I see about it? Oh, they got to see dick, Donald. So When's he coming in? I don't remember how I got in touch with him. But he said Yeah, yeah, well, you must clear it all away. Must make sure nothing's left. So I had my old car. I've simpan 50 car. I came around. It was filled up to the roof with these things you couldn't see out Bob at the Bobby's it seen I would have been in trouble. You couldn't see through his his window. The passenger window was correct. I had to make two runs, I think to get it all home. And that was the beginning of the serious interest in stills. And one of the operators Playhouse came back from the castle gate market, which was on a Friday and he had these glossy photographs that I'd never seen before. We had the stills ad from rather, garishly coloured sometimes and sometimes in black and white, not very good quality, run off a machine. Soft Focus These were beautiful, crisp, lovely 10 by eights, glossy, sharp pictures, and he bought them in the castle gate. I was really interested that they're called press stills, and they're used in newspapers. And I think I must have swapped something for bought them from this guy, the operator. And these were the first stills I had. And we still have all 12 of them. Yeah. There was Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo, there was a whole series of other, I've written them down somewhere, where what they were, and that was got me really interested in photos and I wrote a rank. And I said, Could You supply me with photos with photos of your current films? And I got a very nice reply from Leslie Phillips, who was the publicity man in Glasgow. He said, No, no, no, he said, we can't. I'm sorry, we can't send you a regular stills. But I've enclosed a few. So there was lovely portrait of James Mason, have a nice headshot. He said, and I if you contact Bill Beatty at the Bonner cord, I believe he may have. He's the film reviewer, in the bonnet God, he may have some things he doesn't need. Well, I went around to build me to describe what that barcode. The barcode was a weekly illustrated paper. The front was covered in pictures of weddings. And it was on a kind of glossy, better paper. And then inside you had the standard newsprint with other photos and other news, local news. It was monochord is the Aberdeen motto, I suppose. And it's never remember what the translation is. But it's it's a welcoming, friendly statement. And it came out weekly, it had all these wedding photos, and I used to buy it. And anyway, I went to see Bill Beatty. And he said, Oh, I said, I throw them in the bin. And he said, he gave me a pile like this glossy photos. He said, you can have these. And I've got a lot of synopses from MGM and Paramount, telling you what their new releases are. I never look at them. He said, when I've got enough for my article, he said, I've been all the rest. So I was in heaven. So this carried on I went to see Bill Biddy, he said, Come round about every month, six weeks, he said I'll have a little pile for you. And I did that. And then there was a printer strike. And the bonnet got close. That was the end of it just is what the end the end of the 60s will be talking about roughly. I don't remember the date. I'm sorry.

Mike Dick  1:58:06  
I think I think it would have been with a coin.

Speaker 1  1:58:11  
Strike anyway. Yeah. And that was the end of it. So with a very sad, because I got and then I ran into a man called John Duran, who worked at Grampian. And he started supplying me with television stills from Grampy and ITV stuff. And John Duran, then, later on. I don't know how long he worked for Grampian, but later on, he went to Australia, with Tony Hancock, and I believe he was the man who found Hancock dead.

Mike Dick  1:58:55  
So a job came up, which was providential at the time, I guess.

Speaker 1  1:59:00  
Yeah, the Playhouse needed. Chief. And so I applied for that and got it. And so was back when I'd started as the chief. And

Mike Dick  1:59:12  
what was that? Like? I mean, going back to somewhere you worked at what, 1012 years. It

Speaker 1  1:59:17  
was very nice them a manager, I think was still there. And Mr. Perry, Mr. Perry was a very important figure in Aberdeen film history really, because he'd been the manager at the star cinema. In the East End. The story has it was called Oakley, where he and his wife had been behind the screen. reading out the subtitles, in the on the silent films for people who couldn't read I had trouble reading. And he had a he had at the Playhouse in his drawer, a little Derringer pistol, which he used to have fire off blanks behind the screen in western films to make it more realistic. And I remember when Herbert Donald who owned the cinema and who came in every night to have a look, when Mr. Perry was on holiday, Herbert stood in parsley for him, I don't think he spent the whole week that he would just spend more time than he usually did. And the foreman, I think, would have run the show. And Mr. Donald found this pistol in Mr. Perez draw, and confiscated it as being dangerous, or third fired blank soundly. And Mr. Perry was livid. When he returned, to find that this piece of history from his past had been confiscated. He was very angry, never to be returned. I don't believe so. Well, he was the boss, somehow. And he would have missed that. I heard that Donald was the boss. He'd taken the pistol. And I don't know if Mr. Perry felt that it was too much of a difficult thing to bring up. I don't know.

Mike Dick  2:01:20  
So your role is as Chief Chief

Unknown Speaker  2:01:23  
operator? Yeah.

Mike Dick  2:01:25  
How? What responsibilities that? Did that give you that? What did you have to do in that sort of

Speaker 1  2:01:30  
where you had to make sure when you had responsibility for everything that happened in the box, that the film screening ran smoothly all the time. Now, I don't know if I was the chief, or if this was before the chief, but at one point in the Playhouse, possibly as a late apprentice, but product, possibly even when I was Chief, I started at lunchtime with the wrong film. Now, it meant that in the evening, when people came to see the feature, it had already been. And what was what we ended up with was the second, which was always a less interesting film is something like the as Edgar Wallace Oh, yes. Or that criminal series by Alaska. So Mr. Donald came in, and he was absolutely fuming. But he didn't sack me. He wanted to know what it happened. I told him and I was very, very sorry, that through somehow accidentally, I had started off with the wrong file. And once it was going home, then having been recognised, you couldn't stop it. And say, I'm we're not going to do we're going to show it again. Or you'll have to leave now or you just had to carry on with it. And he was very angry, I could tell. But he allowed me to keep my job. And I was given great credit for that. Because it was a very bad mistake to make. And people coming either missed the film or they didn't only so half of it or something, because it was in the wrong order. So it'd be demanding the money back. Yes, I don't know if people did, but I was always grateful for him to

Mike Dick  2:03:36  
accommodate that. She was getting great loyalty from his from his boy, he

Speaker 1  2:03:40  
was a very nice man. Dick, Donald, the other brother, who ran the East End cinemas, he was a bit of a rough diamond. Mr. Howe, but was a gent he was very, very well mannered. He was very quietly spoken. He was immaculately dressed. He came to the cinema every day, every evening, dressed in a tuxedo with a camel hair coat of the top of it. And when he arrived, the attendant would ring up saying, hey, please just come in to tell you that, have a look and make sure everything's in order. And sometimes he would ring up telling you to put the sound one up or one down, just to let you know that he and then he would come to the box. Sometimes he would say Hello, chief everything all right. And you'd say yes, yes. And then he would go out and downstairs. And then often next in every night they came and about I suppose they went to the manager's office and looked at the returns to see how many people had come in and what the state of things were I'm addicted all the bookings. He in a man called Morrison did the bookings. Morrison had been a film traveller once. And he wasn't a nice man. He was an odious man. And he ran, he had something to do with the ice rink. So film film traveller. What I found traveller is a salesman for the film company. So they travel around visiting cinema owners, and encouraging them and offering them things to titles to book and saying, you know, I didn't know if you banned me. They might say, Well, if you booked a block of 15 films, we might make the terms 25% instead of 27 and a half, or we might make it 25%. Instead of 35%. They might adjust the the terms of the money you paid for showing the film's if you gave them a big order, maybe I don't they never did that to me, because I was small beer. But I think that, that the personal touch was needed to either persuade people that these were great films or whatever.

Mike Dick  2:06:24  
Record pluggers they.

Speaker 1  2:06:27  
And they, they came to my house and United Artists, the man was called George light. He was a heavy belt man who smoked cigars. And he went to the he, when he was in town, he lived at the Caledonian Hotel on Union terrace. And you had to go and see him there. So I used to go and go and have a cup of coffee or whatever with George light, and tell him what films I was interested in from the list he would give me

Mike Dick  2:07:01  
just what has crossed my mind just know is that emitted Donaldson roughly but it was 16. cinemas in Aberdeen.

Speaker 1  2:07:07  
Yeah, I think I read in the teens. Yeah.

Mike Dick  2:07:10  
In terms of when the screening a movie, how much duplication with the be across the

Speaker 1  2:07:19  
day, the best of my knowledge, I never heard of said several cinemas running the same print. It was always and they each had their own print from Glasgow. But the only thing they shared was the newsreel. And that went between the Capitol and the Astoria. Somebody on the tram car used to go with a noose I believe. But I didn't ever I never worked on the capital. I didn't know anything. The detail of it was

Mike Dick  2:07:52  
there was a pecking order within within the company then in terms of you know, the steam in which cinema particular cinema will be held.

Speaker 1  2:08:00  
Well, obviously the ones in the main street, the Queen's the Playhouse, and the capital were above the ones down George Street, for example, DEC ran the Grand Central in the city city was a nice cinema. But of course, it was off the beaten track a little George Street was quite busy until unbelievably, the council allowed Marks and Spencers to build across the street blocking it off. So that busy street died. Really the robber Shop our these, I think was it. Isaac Benzes where that was in that street. All these businesses must have been terrifically affected by that incredible decision. You had to think of buff envelopes with money in them being passed around. Yeah, it was a crazy, it was really very bad. Very, very under Wallace tower being demolished and rebuilt in the middle of nowhere somewhere. This period, early structure was.

Mike Dick  2:09:16  
So there was another question I was gonna ask about the Yeah, I mean, the Playhouse in the Capitol. We're almost cheek by Joe. There were there were some, how did they manage that

Speaker 1  2:09:28  
and in terms of they were quite different. The Capitol opened, possibly first run, certainly before the Regal open, they had the first runs. And then the Playhouse was running films that had been in the time before, often combined with quite a juicy second feature, which may have been a first feature originally, so you might have to a films together Now, only once when I was there had it happened, but it had happened before I started the Capitol, and the Playhouse ran concurrently. So it ran for a week at the Capitol. And it was such a big film like Gone With the Wind. It ran for a week at the Playhouse also. And that only happened once when I was there, which was Ivanhoe, the bigger MGM film with Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Taylor made in Britain in technicolour and we ran it for I think it was run for a week in conjunction with the Capitol. So we took it that was thought maps the Capitol wouldn't accommodate everyone. So we want to kind of overspill

Mike Dick  2:10:47  
tell you, because another thing that interests me as well as the architecture of cinemas the kind of architect you know, really sort of I mean, the Capitol is a classic example of that, if you can describe a wee bit about, you know, the Capitol itself. And also the Playhouse was, was an a, you know, as I said, next almost next door, in terms of the architecture of cinemas,

Speaker 1  2:11:13  
well, they capital was a beautiful, beautiful cinema, but I didn't like it, because it was had a kind of boat shape at the, at the stage end, where it came to a point almost, and it had a very small relative to the size of the building, a very small proceed emerge as so when you were in the back balcony. The screen was quite miniscule, I felt I thought it was the majestic which was shorter. So that you were nearer the screen was much you had a bunch bigger screen. And I thought that was a much more successful and they used to when widescreen came they had a thing on the canopy that said see it on the giant panoramic screen. Now the Capitol had the first cinema scope I ever saw. And the I felt that they they needed to have a wider procedure March, but it came in like like this to form a rather, in my opinion, small stage area for the size of the auditorium, but it was a beautiful place. Other than that, it had holophane lighting, which was motorised dimmers. And they apparently would only repeat themselves every two months or something. It was in some crazy system. But and that was all hidden and Kolb's. So the lighting was all reflected off the ceiling by being in a cove out of sight. And it was a lovely cinema. But I wasn't so thrilled with it. But I did see some films there. I saw the flight of the white heron, which was one of the Royal tours. And that was my first CinemaScope and I was sitting in the front row. I was disappointed I didn't get into see proper entertainment film. Drama of some sort. But that was the first one. And I remember sitting in the front circle, because I had a book lit that had little, like stamps that you tore out little tickets for each week. You're allowed all the Donald's cinemas you were allowed access to free. Were these tickets for the staff. So there was two per week that you could get a free go to the any of the other cinemas. And I went, I took this young woman to the balcony of the Capitol to see the tender trap and tried to kiss her in a romantic bit, but actually landed up kissing her chin and my fumbling in this rather than tentative move. I remember that I missed the lips.

Mike Dick  2:14:37  
similar experience with a constant of Chiara

Unknown Speaker  2:14:42  
Chiara Trenton. Yeah.

Mike Dick  2:14:47  

Speaker 1  2:14:48  
And I saw George for me at the Capitol when he appeared with Harold feelings, music for the millions, I think, or something like that there was the Capitol On this succession of variety and music act, and George Formby came looking a bit punchier than he did in the films earlier, but he was very entertaining. And it went down really well. The place was packed. And there's a big seating seater. I did Yes, it was. It was hugely criminal, that it was destroyed. And there's now a skyscraper on the place where the auditorium and whatnot a skyscraper but that tower terrible. I'm glad I haven't had to see it.

Mike Dick  2:15:36  
So from the from the Playhouse, you moved to move to another, another cinema. And another

Speaker 1  2:15:42  
Yeah, I was at the Playhouse and the chief at the Regal suggested that I might like to. I might like to work at the regal and be a second operator then. And then I moved. And then I didn't like it there and didn't get on with the chief. And when I ran my little cinemas, I then left there. And after the cinemas collapsed, one night, I met an apprentice from the Regal. And he told me that he had seen a job for a new cinema, starting at the former New cinema and diamond Street. And it was going to be called Cosmo two, because the Cosmo in Glasgow was well known as a cinema that showed international films, and had been doing that since pre war. And this was Cosmo two, this was a satellite. And I hadn't heard about this. And Timaya shame really. I applied for the job. And I got it and Johnny didn't, although he'd had told me about it. So I haven't seen him since. And I felt a little sorry that I've done him out of the job. Because there was the the cinema and art cinema, essentially. And then the pally ballroom next door, had been bought by the singletons in Glasgow. So when the cinema closed at 1030, you were into the pally, dealing with drunken trolling, you had to deal with you. That's part of your job. Yes, I was assistant general manager. And that was a headache at the weekends with people coming there all to do with the house the drinking hours. At that time, I think at one point the pubs closed at 930. And then it was 10 o'clock. And I think it was 10 o'clock at this time. And of course what people would do would tank up before they went to get courage in the dancing to approach young women and so on. And you got all these terrible drunks coming and you had to weed them out at the door and it caused a lot of aggravation. I was I had my nose broken and my specs broken. I had my lapel stolen one lapel turn off my dinner jacket. I landed up rolling about in the street with a guy who punched me in the face. And there was a crowd gathered round and the police had to come with dogs to get into separators it was in the head and then the end that was it got for me it was getting on my nerves. And I decided that I need to get out

Mike Dick  2:18:45  
because the contrast I mean, you describe describe the Cosmo to in terms of you know the sort of clientele who would go there a

Speaker 1  2:18:52  
client Yeah, the clientele of Cosmo to Don's and lectures from the university students. They came to see Antonioni genre go down, and films from all over the world, but they were quality films. So there was some Hollywood stuff, but it was usually something thoughtful and would keep your brain going. And they had fun times I remember we had Fantasia. And we once showed Columbia, Columbia cereal that had been made at the beginning of the, I think 1942 called Batman with where Columbia decided as a kind of gimmick to run all the episodes one after the other. So and you could come in and go out whenever you like. So when we showed that Columbia offered an outfit, a Batman outfit If that could be used to publicise the film, so I dressed as Batman to at Aberdeen, but that was just a moment, Jay, usually the films were better quality than that was just a gimmick that they put in

Mike Dick  2:20:20  
the history of that particular cinema, you know, whereby, and we could you describe the psychology of

Speaker 1  2:20:27  
it started as the customer, a customer to originally was a news cinema, which was a, something that happened in the middle of the 30s was that they little small venues in many of the large cities started showing these newsreels telling you what was happening in the world. And then there were cartoons, and comedy films, and interest films, films about landscape and different parts of the world and so on. And the programme usually lasted an hour. So it was very convenient for people out of town, whom are waiting on a bus or a train, they could pop in there to fill in the time, and they could leave without being in the middle of anything exciting. So they weren't very popular. But of course, again, they faded once television came, they were finished, because you didn't want to pay money to go in and see a news film, showing you the world events, a week old when you'd already seen it all on your television. So that was the end of them. And they tried different things. And the one in Aberdeen went for a while showing what were politely called continental films, which were films that had a sexual content usually, which was why they were being shown. And that was or wasn't successful. And then I think that Mr. Bromberg who had started that Aberdeen one and 9036 decided he may want to get out and he sold it to this Glasgow company, singleton cinema, who ran the Cosmo. And who's Mr. St. George singleton had founded it in I think, 1939. And the next door at the adjoining building was the pally ballroom. So it was a huge looking after both these places. And because of the drink problem, there was a bar in the in the ballroom, but I think maybe it was cheaper in the pubs to buy drink, or buys in the supermarket and fill your pocket with a bottle or something, I don't know. But when people came, they were often intoxicated. And you had a lot of trouble at the door if you stop them coming in, or tell them to come back later or something. They were aggravating and angry. And

Mike Dick  2:23:12  
it's almost an impossible job to be running a cinema and dance all weekend with a kind of Sailor as well.

Speaker 1  2:23:22  
And while he had the dance all week, because there were over 20 fives on a Monday. It wasn't every night, but it was it was out of the out of the five nights it was probably four. It was open well as often as they could get money coming in. So is this the point when you decided enough was enough that I'd had it? Yes, I was. I was it was affecting me mentally. I was on a Friday night. You were so tensed up. You never knew what was happening. You see, one guy would go in and kick the push bars on the emergency exits, and his piles would all be there. They would rush into the crowd. And of course, when the bell went off as the doors opened, you ran through and that the place was packed. So you were pushing by the time you got to the doors. They were all assimilated into the crowd you couldn't tell and then there would be trouble. You know, somebody's looking at somebody else's girlfriend punched in the face and all that terrible. aggravation. young male. Nonsense.

Mike Dick  2:24:36  
So when and where was to see, I think I don't know the reason why you left. I mean, but you move down south. Is that right? Right. Right chronology.

Speaker 1  2:24:45  
Yes. It was a curious business really. Not terribly interesting, I think to anyone else but there was a student, young woman at a college in Aberdeen who wanted to run the Film Society. And as the manager in the cosmos, she talked to me about advice, and films, what would be a good film and blah, blah. So I helped to set up this Film Society and became a little enchanted by her because she was very vivacious, and so on. And it was really an ill advised interest in somebody that didn't have the same interest in me. But I was very keen on this vivacious young woman. And she had said to me, because the the job was very, it took up all your time, and all these fights and everything. And she said to me, once she said, a whole day, you're always talking about your job. She said, why don't you go on holiday? I said, I never go on holiday. Sit, oh, you must. All this talking always about your job, she said. And I said, I see there's a film school on at least born run by the BFI this year. I said, I'd like to go to that. And if you come with me, I'll go, I'll take a holiday. And she said, Yes. And then we discovered, I discovered, there's only one ticket left. Mr. Singleton, who own the Cosmo was on the board of the BFI. I said, this is a matter of life and death. Can you get me to suffer school, he got a ticket. She went on a little break. And when she came back, she said, I'm not going wisely, or actually, I think. So. Her name was the name of a printed book, which she didn't have a copy of. It was her 30s fiction book. And it was a fictional character, which just happened to be the same name as hers. And she said, she would like to get a copy of the book. And of course, anything to please, I hunted through the university bookstore shop visits and the upper go get another go get and looked and found a copy for her. And discovered that books were incredibly cheap for what they were. And I found a manuscript. And I can't remember now how much it was, it was about a pound or something. And it was a manuscript and written in copper plate, about a family of a man who was a PacMan. Now, our Pac Man was somebody who had a roll, a blanket, rolled round in in the blanket would be all sorts of things, that is possibly women, but anybody might want, who lived in a remote place and didn't have access to shops. So they would have needles and threads, and all sorts of little bits and pieces that somebody might like to buy. And earlier on, in the beginning of the 19th century, and certainly in the 18th and 17th centuries, they took the news to farms, and places in the middle of nowhere about what was happening in politics and the war and somewhere else, they would bring the news. So they were allowed to sleep in the stables. And then they in the in the farmhouse, they show their wares, and so on. And they people like well, this 100 book was all about a PacMan who had come from inch, and he had the name of a relative of mine. So it was a really interesting, I think it was a pound or less. And it was oh, I don't know what 30 pages handwritten. I thought I can't believe that books. Anyway, that looking for books to please. This young woman got me into book selling, which with the book shelves here, I'm still doing and because she was going to come to this thing and didn't, but I had bought the tickets. And I determined I was wasn't going to put me up. I would go in my seven seater Rolls Royce. I set off for his bone So I went to the place where this fictional character that she shared the name with in the Lake District was set where this family had supposedly live. And this character that had the same name as her supposedly lived. And then I then went carried on Oh, and there was a little problem with the car. There was a, the wheel was scuffing, in that the brake drum was rubbing on the backplate and scuffing on there, and you could hear it, if you were near a wall or a car, you could hear the reflection of the noise. And I went to Rolls Royce at crew and asked them and it was an extraordinary experience where they all had white coats. And they came, and they took the wheel off. And then they had all the plans and blueprints out on the floor. They were all on their knees, looking at these things. They couldn't find out why the brake, the brake drum had suddenly from having a distance away from my back leg was suddenly rubbing on it. He said we'll put a washer in, because we could fix it if you can stay another day. And I said, No, I'm on my way to his barn have to go. And he said, Well, we'll put a washer in temporarily. And that'll keep the Blake drama, but you have to get it fixed, which of course I never did. But they drove me round the factory grounds in the latest Silver Shadow, which had motor driven seats and all the rest of it. And I was in the owners waiting room was very fancy. And at the end, I I thought they'd done it free in the end because of the old car. But I found a invoice. It was nine pounds, they'd spent the whole day trying to fix it. They'd had their special washer made up for the right distance to go onto the axle. Anyway, I said a phrase born. And when I was there, there was a boy from Chicago fairly noisy to a sort of somebody full of themselves. And he said, I like to go up to London, Egon up to London. And I said, Yes, I've got a lot of nitrate in the back of the car. And I'm going to take it to the BFI. So there's let them see it and what is the weather they what they think about it. So on the Friday, the lectures were rather dull. So we went up to London in the old car. And at that time, which was 60 something you seem to be able to park outside at one dean street where the BFI were then situated, because I remember carrying the films in from the car. So I kind of seems crazy now with all the, you know, the lines and the problems restrictions. But however, I carried the films in and I talked to Colin Ford, who was the deputy curator, and Ernest Lindgren, who had started the BFI in the 30s. And he said, You seem to know a lot about films. He said, I'm looking for an assistant. He said, Would you be interested in working? Yeah, oh, no, I said, I've applied for a job at the Aviemore ski centre.

Speaker 1  2:33:47  
Well, Aviemore was about 30 miles from Aberdeen of from where I was, it was the entertainment manager. It was the person in charge at this new, which was not yet open. It was the cinema, the bingo, the bowling alley, and there was something else, all of which I did the experience of except the bowling alley. That was the one I didn't have any experience. So it was the entertainment manager's job. And it was near home. So I was No. Anyway, I said your wages are very bad in films and filming. It used to say would you like to work at the BFI? We're sorry, the wages are not very good. But you do get free tickets to NFT you do get this and you do get that pension and all the rest of it. They used to apologise Oh no, he said it's much better now. He said Jenny Lee, the Minister for culture. She's given us up the grant and No, no, the wages are much better now. Anyway, I wasn't having it. So I went back Back to Aberdeen, and I hadn't heard anything about the job. I'd already been to Edinburgh for an interview and new Scottish and Newcastle breweries well behind it, and I went to their headquarters to have an interview. Now I hadn't heard anything. So now of course, buoyed up by the fact, I've been offered a job in London. I thought, what's going on? So I wrote I'd rather snotty letter to Ivy more saying, I've been offered a job and what's happening. I haven't heard from you and blabber. So, it was, I think it was a sharp letter. Inappropriate, really? Anyway, they said you haven't got the job. So then I got back to now I'm my head's going. And I get back to Colin Ford. Oh, you said the jobs gone. I've got somebody. So So then, I may have written to, but I or it may have been the tea set. But I have a colleague who's looking for someone. So this was a man called Philip strake. who worked there. And who said, If I was passing some time, could I come in for an interview? I said I live 535 miles away. I'm not likely to be passing. Oh, well, oh, well, could you come for an interview? I said, Who's paying for the train or the plane fare? Who's paying for the bed and breakfast? Well, they he agreed they would cover it. So I go down. And it was the old days. When you land it was propeller drops. And you landed in Heathrow. And those a shuttle bus took you to Cromwell road to the bcea headquarters. So I had a bed and breakfast and blah, blah, went to the BFI. Do you have any experience of copyright? No. Do you have any experience of running a Film Library? No. Have you any experience of No. Have you any experience? No. I get a letter, you've got the job. So that was me to London through this young woman who had not the interest in me that I had in her then. So you never know serendipity? God bless her. Yeah, I did ring her up, because she was in The Guardian, saying that she was a wine dealer in Edinburgh. And I rang her up and said, and she said, Why did you ring me? Or what do you want or something? So I said, Well, I just wanted to tell you the effect you had in my life. And so we had a chat and I explained that my sexual interests had included gay sex. She said, Me too. So I was possibly knocking at the door. That wasn't it would never open. So so that was that. But you never know how life's going to turn out. So you're at the BFI. I'm at the BFI. Yeah, in a job with a man who didn't. Eventually, he used. He would talk to me in French. I had just been I've been to battery secondary school, which was later battery Academy. I was at dance at school, I had no interest in learning. I wanted to be like all the other guys who Horst around until they could get out. They began to work on the farms, and work on the roads and the forests and so on. They had no interest in education, and you wanted to be the same. You didn't want to be an outcast from your mate. So I didn't pay any attention at school. My education began when I left school really. And I just horsing around, made silly. says to the exams, you know, describe some woodwinds and I would say Gail, Forrest, you know it just horsing around being ridiculous. And I got five out of 100 When I left I didn't get my highest Oh lowers.

Mike Dick  2:39:48  
The knowledge of film was remarkable. Only

Speaker 1  2:39:52  
once I started operating, watching the same film for three days point

Mike Dick  2:40:00  
of view. I mean, you'd be an important person to have on board. Yes.

Speaker 1  2:40:04  
But I'd be I don't have a lot of experience yet. But the experience I had, they didn't want in the sense that it was running a cinema, and was an archive it was to do with the Film Library, the real reason, apparently, which he said at the interview was that the war game, they were handling the war game, which was a hot potato, that the BFI wouldn't show and blah, blah. So the BFI pa sit down? Yeah, yeah, the BFI picked it up for distribution to Well, I don't know, colleges and so on. And this guy was in charge of that. And he wanted some help. But the minute I arrived, it turned out that the catalogue had run out of print. So I had to revise the catalogue. And that was dumped on me. Then the man running the Film Library. That was under this guy's control. He left I had to move to the Film Library, and be on site there to kind of oversee things, then the transport the man in charge of the vans, he left, then I had to do the van sheduled. And so it was a kind of muddle really. And the film catalogue was interesting, because I had to watch all these films, and do sort of conjure up a little interesting thing about them or do it scissors and paste and look up something else and cut out the bits that would be relevant.

Mike Dick  2:41:44  
So how long did you last? The BFI them?

Speaker 1  2:41:46  
I don't remember now, but it might have been two and a half years or something was too much too long. I hated it. And then I was there with John Huntley was the head. He was my boss's boss. And that was another bag of tricks.

Mike Dick  2:42:06  
So again, thinking, what was what was the next sort of phase in your in your life, then portabello.

Speaker 1  2:42:12  
The next phase was my dad dying in 1968. And he left my brother and I 15,000 age. So I became a drop. I cruise around a nice old Rolls Royces, enjoying life with my stolen portabella which meant that I was getting a bit of income. I was having fun. I was meeting a lot of people up in portabella, and my kilt on, and I was fairly Grabow the tourists and so it was a nice, late 60s then to be yet after sick. He died in 68. So I just dropped down. Left left the BFI, and just and this guy that's 12 that I've worked for. He was get it he didn't like me. He would talk to me in French. And I'd say I don't know what what do you mean? What's that mean? And he would be so supercilious and you don't know. You don't know what I'm saying. You don't know what I'm saying? I said no said in English. He was a nasty piece of work anyway. He didn't like me, I didn't like him. So when I went up to my dad's funeral, I still took an extra day. And when I came back, he said, I want you in my office this afternoon. And I'd written that my resignation on the train coming down. And I thought, I've got this bit of money now I didn't need this nonsense. And they thought I was a nut case. Really. They thought I was mad at the BFI because I went round dustbins, looking for interesting things thrown out in Wardour Street, which was the heart of the film business then and there was an I tell you, I found some incredible things

Mike Dick  2:44:09  
such as such as

Speaker 1  2:44:13  
well, I found correspondence thrown in the bin about a famous film star, who was being given a Rolls Royce in addition to her salary for the film, but it couldn't go to her because it tax purposes. So it was given to be given to a husband. And it was going to be a white Rolls Royce with in the back that would be refrigeration unit with a cocktail, this and this and the steering wheel would be changed to white with the white steering wheel instead of a black steering wheel. And it would have this and that and the other and the whole thing was an It would be taken to the border of this country that her husband lived in, and it would be taken chauffeur driven there and passed over at the border to her husband's representative. And now that Gina Lollobrigida has died, I can reveal that it was Salomon and Chiba. It was an extra on top of her salary. And the bill from Rolls Royce, indicating all the extras was included with the letters.

Mike Dick  2:45:34  
This is the kind of stuff that you could pick up you could find

Speaker 1  2:45:36  
in you could find in, in Water Street. The problem came of course, when bin bags, when there was bins with a lid, you could lift the lid up and look in and see what was in there. It was all coffee cups and beer bottles and so on. And wine bottles it did was no good. But often, you could see correspondence and paperwork and synopses and stills. And that was the I went to Broadwick Street. I had a little baby Austin as well as my big cars. And I drove up in the little baby Austin and parked and went round into Broadwick Street. Now there was a police station and Broadwick Street. And next door was somewhere where British lion were. So they were at this is the headache. There were these bin bags. Once the bin bags were tied up. You either had to Oh, and sometimes they were so tightly tied, you would have to tear them. And then of course it meant if the thing fell over, it was spewing all over the pavement. So I didn't want to be aggravation with the salvage man. But I was looking. And there was a whole bag of stills packed. I thought my god I can hear the bin lorry coming. Oh my god was I did. So when the bin men came, they just arrived at that point. And I said to the man, I said I had a 10 shilling note. And I said, Do you mind if I have these bags? Oh, he says he looked at the 10 Bob. No. You said yeah, you can have the old fucking Laurie. So I said but you must take everything. Don't leave anything because otherwise they'd be they would complain next day. So I loaded up into the little baby offset, which had an open roof, the roof folded down. And it had all the pictures from don't get to remember the name of my memories been slipping recently where it takes me a few minutes to remember the name. Anyway, it said John Cassavetes film, I think it's called Second possibly was all filmed in the street and the states in New York or wherever. And this is all the contact prints. All the negatives have been against the paper. So every every still a photo with Cassavetes in the music studio, doing the music with somebody who was well known. And then Bonnie Prince Charlie, that terrible dead duck with David Niven in it from the 40, late 40s. Lots of lovely glossy still so tremendous interest in this thing. But they all thought I was crackers. And of course I was in a bed sitting either in a bed sitter, or I was staying in little hotels, bed and breakfast. I didn't have a flat at that time. And at one point I slept in the BFI itself. In the office, I had a key. So I would go out and go around, usually Covent Garden to the to the Keck that were the all night. Coffee stall was try and then after midnight, I'd go into the BFI and there was a chair that had a it had a thing underneath that you could pull out, put your feet up, if you'd fainted or something. There was this chair with a couple of blankets. So if somebody collapsed or had felt a bit poorly, they could sit on this chair, so I pulled out the thing under the blankets, and I would sleep there because I couldn't get in anywhere. I tried the and for a while I did used to go to the great Russell Street YMCA. But after a while when you come to London first you're allowed something like a fortnight staying there. And then you have to leave. Because there's new people coming from abroad and everywhere all the time. So you, you can't lock up the bed. But if you go after 11 o'clock, there may be a vacancy. But of course, if it's full, where do you find a bed at 11 o'clock at night, you have to go somewhere. Everybody's ready to retire. So, anyway, I'm in the BFI. And this works out well for me, and I get up early, and I'm out before the cleaners come. The Cleaners came in at five. And so what they thought was a corpse lying in this. And well, in a big, it was all around the building. Everybody knew it was the talk of the moment. John Hadley said, Give me your keys back. So I lost my keys and access. So that was the end of that. So I got in somewhere, I think around Victoria. I had a bed and breakfast place there. And I had a large coat, which I'd bought, you know, the 60s were the age of fancy dress, people were wearing old army uniforms on I had an enormous coat that nearly went to the floor. And I had sunglass, dark glasses that were done for my eyes. What do you call them? Again, not prescription, but I could see with them. They weren't. I needed specs. But these had prescription lenses in them, but they were dark. So I had this big black coat. And I used to leave late in the morning because I it had flexible time of starting at the BFI. So I started at 10. And I would come in late with this enormous coat on. And this woman said to me, she said, I've seen you on television. I said, No, I don't think you said have you been on television? I said yes. Well, I had been I was in television in Aberdeen. Just so I knew it. I said I don't think you've seen me. So she went to the next table with somebody else's breakfast. Do you see that man over there? He's an actor they keyless. Anyway. Yeah. I'm getting off the subject. So

Mike Dick  2:52:38  
the only question I want to ask is Where did you ever stood all the all the materials that you've accumulated? So well,

Speaker 1  2:52:44  
all this stuff from the dustbins went up into the left into the left room on the top of the building. And yes, at one day in trade, and unfortunately, when I left, I didn't get it back. I didn't get access. So it was when that building was re done up. Presumably it all got dumped.

Mike Dick  2:53:12  
You think it's that's that's starting to be something that

Unknown Speaker  2:53:18  
they they're not interested that they've got a different interest than me. I mean, I can't manage to keep some of it, but a lot of it.

Mike Dick  2:53:30  
Are we jumping too far ahead. We are. I mean, I'm just kind of conscious of time. Yeah. But also I think I want to get to the

Unknown Speaker  2:53:41  
museum. Okay,

Mike Dick  2:53:43  
how's that? That you know what the genesis of that Oh, was? The genesis

Speaker 1  2:53:47  
of the museum was meeting McDonald in skin Tara right, which we've talked about needing to needing to clear out the church and rows straight. That was the beginning of adultery. Well, now we had in Brixton. We rented.

Mike Dick  2:54:10  
I live you see, you

Unknown Speaker  2:54:12  
say we asked Martin and I you'll have

Mike Dick  2:54:14  
to set set Martin? Yeah, yeah. So when did when did you first meet Martin?

Unknown Speaker  2:54:18  

Mike Dick  2:54:21  
think it's 1990 7879 I think

Speaker 1  2:54:24  
it could be Yeah, I'm not good. Okay, figures are very good. Ya know? He was when I was in Suffolk. Now, let's go back a little bit before then. I had a girlfriend and Aberdeen who was a very, very nice, young woman. She worked in the bank that I paid in the money from the pally and the Cosmo. And we went out for a couple of years. And then I moved to London. And I used to see her if I went back and so on. And then one day, I got a message from her. She said, I've given up my job in the bank, I'm moving to London. So this was a little bit unexpected to me. And I wasn't sure that it was the best idea. Because since going to London, the business of my sexual interests had kind of become more prominent. And I was interested in this swinging 60s in London. In exploring that a little more. Then she arrived, having given up a job. So it meant that I had a, I felt an onus on me not to say, well, I don't want you here, which was perhaps cowardly, and maybe not the right idea. Anyway, we then I found a flat for her. We shared the flat, she stayed in a flat I had eventually. And so we had continued our relationship from Aberdeen. And then I felt that there were too many headaches with the material that I had. So this is when I thought I need to buy somewhere. My dad's money is is diminishing, of soon, not having enough to buy anywhere, prices were beginning to go upwards. So I tried to buy a place in London and nearly bought a very, very reasonable entire house in Kennington. But it was because by that, then I was sitting one day looking at the paper and I don't get it. I don't by the times, but I'd somehow a feeling it was the times or and it said 615 century Guildhall in Suffolk 5000 pounds. I thought, well, I may need if I'm going out of London, which I may have to do with the price is going up. I don't want to be too far out 60 miles, perimeter of London would be enough. And so I went and looked at it. It was two originally two houses side by side that had been made into one timber timber frame with a jetty that the top floor had a stepped out beyond the ground floor. And I offered 4600 and was exactly where it was this would have been in Claire, south of Newmarket, near Sudbury in Suffolk, not somebody in London. And so I moved out there. And then, of course, Margaret Atwood moved from Aberdeen felt that she was being abandoned. So we married and she moved out there and didn't like it. And I was I was beginning to, to look around. And the marriage, we did we separated. And then I came out completely then and was involved in the campaign from a sexual equality and all that war badges in the little village. I'm homosexual. And that just changed the whole situation. Then I felt quite isolated out there. So I realised that I was still doing Portobello Road. So I was in London at the weekends for Portobello Road. And I also did a phone line called London friend, which was a gay information and any sort of like and Samaritans but not quite so serious. And I did that at the weekends. And there was a thing in the Oval house that for gay people on a Sunday to relax and meet. And I met Martin there who worked at oval house and was very taken with him. And I asked him to come and see my etchings. Now, I said about the photos, the the photo library, which by this time was now in a basement, in Stockwell. So he came over to see the photos. And that was it was a click.

Mike Dick  3:00:21  
We see we see what was his background then he had

Speaker 1  3:00:26  
been, he's been had been to acting. Training, he'd done some acting, school or something. And he was working supporting the oval house, art and community centre. So you have to ask him what his title of his job was. But

Mike Dick  3:00:52  
it did he have a did you have a common interest in cinema and film when

Speaker 1  3:00:58  
he was interested in theatre? Right and interested in film through theatre? Sure. And we've worked I can't tell you how opposite we are in every respect. We have worked completely different people, but yet some get, and I've done. But so so he, so with the photo library, he eventually started working with me in the photo library, which at this time, was in a place in use, sorry, I'll just revise that. When I used to come in for these, the portobello, and the phone lines on a Saturday night. I would also go to the ritzy on a Sunday, because I stayed at somebody's flat nearby in Brixton and Pat Foster, who had been a film editor and who wanted to run his own cinema had started up the Red Sea. It was all very laid back. He's an old hippie, it was all very relaxed and so on. But he said the projection was poor. He said that the staff members were all running, they took turns at running the projector, which was on a big tower. They had a West Rex tower, and West, a one single machine. And he said the projections not what he would like. And when he discovered that I had been a projection. So he said, Would you like to come here and tremble? I said, I live in Suffolk. He said, Oh, well, I can. Would you like to come back to London? Yes. He said, Well, I'll see I can organise that. So he managed to rent a place around the corner, which is now the black cultural archives. It's called rally Hall. And I went I rented the top floor from Lambeth council for 25 pounds a week, which was 1000 square feet. And the photo library was there

Mike Dick  3:03:13  
was sort of what sort of volume of photographs are we talking about any of you

Speaker 1  3:03:19  
then it wasn't so great, but now it's about over 204 drawer filing cabinets.

Mike Dick  3:03:29  
So unique from

Speaker 1  3:03:30  
dating from the beginning of cinema, the Lumia programme so that meant that the revenue from that enterprise supported the museum it supported more purchases it supported so when I went to the see the Donald's and bought these things and saw things and this was all money from the library that was being used to to kind of bulk up this museum which was asleep in unsuitable building

Mike Dick  3:04:19  
but that that meeting was was with Dick Donald was was absolutely crucial.

Speaker 1  3:04:23  
That was the the without that, that though that would have been no big collection that would have just been filing cabinets full of photographs that I ran yeah that was a big that was the big moment

Mike Dick  3:04:40  
that's it yeah, definitely.

So let's let's let's explore that the importance of the you know, the cinema museum collection itself, I mean, the the archive, you've obviously you've created over the years midterm But How important do you think it is? If you're going to describe it to somebody,

Speaker 1  3:05:04  
I think it's one of the problems, whether it is it's big enough that I don't know exactly what that is that we have a lot of material. And this has happened for quite a long time now stored in small rooms, crammed into small rooms. And because I have such a love of material, there's probably things here that I like. And I keep, which on my death will probably be got rid of to make life simpler, because the place is really cluttered by having things that may be marginal to the target, if you like. For example, I clipped the newspapers of articles and information about film. The BFI stopped doing that, because they said, but it's all on the internet now. But if you wanted to find a particular piece, about Jack Nicholson, you might find the one 9 million pieces of information about him Where the hell do you start? What as if you have a file that you go into, and the cuttings are there, you can see them anyway, or that I may be on another planet, I

Mike Dick  3:06:40  
agree with you completely.

Speaker 1  3:06:41  
I just cannot allow this information to be lost when it can be clipped out and put in Jack Nicholson's file.

Mike Dick  3:06:52  
Because I mean, what you've been talking about throughout the whole interviews that you you sort of made from a very early age, you know, you started to realise what was being thrown away to being discarded, which was being discounted. And that's that's the real crux of it all. So

Speaker 1  3:07:09  
there are lots of things that kind of bogged down the museum at the moment, I feel because of me. So when I'm not here, I think there'll be a big clear out of, for example, this repetition. There may be several of the same thing. And it's just through serendipity that these things may have been given because someone else didn't want to put them in a skip. And so I've said, No, we'll look after this. But in fact, what's the point of having too many? So I can I'm, I'm the first to admit that it's needs. Well, it needs not for me to be. Okay,

Mike Dick  3:08:05  
well, so I'll ask you another question. So what are you what do you think is important, and you know, that, you know, for a fact, this is really valuable, this is really important that we don't, you know, this should never be thrown away. I mean, okay, I accept your argument about paper cuttings and things like that. But still, that's a good argument to be had there as well. But in terms of importance of material, well,

Speaker 1  3:08:25  
as I saw the museum, I feel that you either need a lot of resources, if you're going to have a museum have everything to do with cinema, or film. And also we do a bit of that. That's not really practical. So I think our focus is going to the pictures. So that's the thing, I think that we have a strong, a fairly strong I can't think of the word. So we have a lot of photographs of cinemas, we have a lot of technical things to do with projection equipment and sound and seating and carbons and lamps and xenons and all the rest of it. We have fortunately, very good collections of I bought from the publishers son who was a very unpleasant man, the run of the cinema news and property Gazette, which became cinema TV today and he kept changing his title latterly. So this is the publishers copy from 1912 to 1974. I think when it became screen, international, whatever the date was, So we've got that a wall of these bound volumes, fairly, very interesting. I just wish I could live long enough to go jump into them and swim around. And you haven't got the time. We've also got the kinematic graph weekly, from the earlier magazine 1889, the optical and Magic Lantern journal, which became the optical Magic Lantern journal and kinematic graph weekly. And then they dropped the Magic Lantern bit

Mike Dick  3:10:32  
of it. So how unique is this kind of material, then we just say, well, it's all in

Speaker 1  3:10:37  
the British Library, if it was made in if it was produced in Britain, the British Library have copies of all the periodicals and so on. So it's not unique. But the BFI don't have the material on the cinema news and property who said that long run, they've got big gaps, they were offered it, but didn't want it too expensive or something. So muggins here, put his hand in his pocket and bought it from the publisher. So

Mike Dick  3:11:13  
I think you're right. I mean, in terms of what you were talking about, that mean, the holy the interview, again, is about going to the movies, you know, and the love of the movies and the romance of the movies, and, you know, the the important cultural elements of the movies as well, that we we can't lose, you know, but we're in danger of losing a lot of that.

Speaker 1  3:11:33  
That's well over streaming. Now another thing making life changing thing, cinemas, I will well, some of them are struggling a bit. But

Mike Dick  3:11:44  
I think hopefully that that, you know, your generation start to realise it the same way as the discovered seat vinyl. You know, there's some, some, you know that, so you don't throw everything out with the bathwater.

Speaker 1  3:11:57  
And seeing a movie in along with a lot of other people is different from sitting watching it on your own.

Mike Dick  3:12:08  
It's a shared experience. Yeah. I mean, that's what I remember, as a kid, you know, it was going to, you know, the local church ran, you know, sort of all these movies in the 50s that I was, that's how I got into the whole thing. Then I went to the Cosmo, and I used to watch all the foreign films there that educated me. But you can only do that by going to the cinema. Yeah, really. It's a shared experience that you explore. You chat with your friends in school, the next day, eccentric cetera. And I hope we don't lose those sort of elements.

Speaker 1  3:12:39  
The unfortunate thing I find now is that the shared experience of all the rustling paper, and people thinking they're sitting in their living room and talking about the film to their friends. I think that's sad. And that puts me off going. Now, I think if you pay enough for you go if you get the BAFTA or somewhere, you can see the films and silence but or the NFT, probably, possibly, but there's too many, too many distractions and cinema as I get warmed up by it. I

Mike Dick  3:13:15  
think it's also concentration levels as well as Yes. I'm just trying to sort of think, okay, let's let's try and tie all these elements together. I mean, looking back at your life, I mean, what what are the highlights you sort of think that was that was, you know, that really kind of, was what my life was all about.

Speaker 1  3:13:43  
But I think the highlight was seeing Jimmy winding the films in that subterranean rewind room under the village hall floor. And then going into the Playhouse was a big deal. And then, going into the Cosmo was very important, because it opened up to me, a kind of cinema that I hadn't been accustomed to seeing. And once I was there, I could never go back to rank or selling the popcorn and all that I was on a on a trajectory that couldn't go backwards.

Mike Dick  3:14:22  
Yeah, somebody who was who used to go to the cinema, you know, that suddenly came across to me it communicated to me the importance of it World World Cinema.

Speaker 1  3:14:31  
Yes. No, I had never I had never explored that before. I haven't seen much of it. I think I once when I did once go when it was the cousin though, or whatever it was to see wild strawberries. But I hadn't had a big exposure. And that was important. And then of course, going to the BFI and having to do their catalogue and watching some of the films and so on. Also And also, while I was at the BFI, of course, I was at the NFT, practically every night, as well. So I could see a huge range of material. Yes, coming to London was it was it was a big eye opener. Yes, definitely. Final

Mike Dick  3:15:15  
thoughts about the museum itself? I think I think it's an amazing place. Tell me, tell me about

Speaker 1  3:15:24  
a lot of people seem to like it. It's very odd. And eccentric, and I tell people, it's a very eccentric place. And that what they see is what there is, it makes no claim to be this, that or the other. It's just what you see. It's a kind of rather random collection of things that seem to work together. When young people come in through this door up here, and they come into this room. The first thing you say, oh, it's really cool.

Mike Dick  3:16:02  
Because it's also got a wee bit history as well relates has

Speaker 1  3:16:04  
Yes, with Chaplin and the workhouse. And

Mike Dick  3:16:08  
tell me a bit about that. I'd like to get that on.

Speaker 1  3:16:12  
Yes. Well, this room is the former chapel of the Lambeth workhouse. And this building that we're in is the Administration block of the lumbers workhouse. So on the left hand side, there were wards for women, dormitories for women, and on the right there were dormitories for men. Then there were all kinds of other buildings all around the site. There was a big dining room behind this building. And then there was a blacksmith, sawmill mail that was all kinds of estate there were stables, there was a laundry. There were places for grinding corn, to keep people active and other places for breaking stones. There were sections where you unpicked, sizable, unpicked, old ropes into God knows if it was just for keeping people occupied or whether it had some purpose, I don't know. And it's because it was an unhappy place, really, because people were destitute when they came here. And there was a there was a regimentation that they had to suffer from the employees here, that people who ran the the workhouse, you had to do a certain amount of work in order to get the free bed and the free food. The food was rather primitive and basic bread and cheese soup. And the beds were narrow and hard. But it was better than sleeping in the street. And better than starving.

Mike Dick  3:18:17  
It was a good home for the cinema museum as well. Yes,

Speaker 1  3:18:20  
it's booked that having this big space that we can screen films it's not absolutely ideal, but it works after fashion. And

Mike Dick  3:18:32  
they're just thinking this this wee boy coming from banchory. You know when you look back you think what we've heard you've told you but you could ever imagine how your life is

Speaker 1  3:18:43  
and now I'm afraid that's all to do with other people. Other people affect your life accidentally but

Mike Dick  3:18:50  
you've you've affected a lot of people I'm imagine all these audiences came in what's up

Speaker 1  3:18:55  
glad to see people enjoy. We had a full house last night. And it's nice to see people enjoying themselves and I think that's a great comfort for me to think that it's fulfils a purpose.

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