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Recollections  -  Employment

Projectionists

and

Cinema Manager

 

1.

George Field

Melbourne, Australia

Scotland

Australia

2.

George Field

Melbourne, Australia

Monseigneur News Theatre

Study

Jacey News Theatre

ABC Cinema

Caley Cinema

Tudor Cinema  Stockbridge

George Cinema  Portobello

Jacey News Theatre  re-opens

Savoy, La Scala, Cameo

Edinburgh Film Festival

3.

George Field

Melbourne, Australia

Edinburgh Cinemas

Laurel & Hardy

4.

Walter Lyle Hume

Cowes, Isle of Wight, England

Home Movies

The Projector

The Audience

Fire Risk

Wartime

Monseigneur News Theatre

The Projector

The Show

New Job

State Cinema  Leith

State Cinema Layout

State Cinema Staff

The Programme

Air Raids

Military Training Films

Leith Cinemas

Edin burgh Cinemas

Sunday Opening

5.

James Innes Macleod

formerly
James Innes

The Monseigneur

The Jacey

The Hayweights

 

1.

Recollections from

George Field

Melbourne, Australia

George Field grew up at Gilmerton, Edinburgh and now lives near Melbourne, Australia.  Here he recalls his employment in Scotland then Australia.

George wrote:

Scotland

"After leaving school, I went to work as an apprentice projectionist.  My memories of those days can be read on Scottish Cinemas web site, complete with photographs.

I also drove buses for Alexanders of Fife for a few years, after my mother re-married and we moved to Kirkcaldy.  After the stint on the buses, I went back to being a projectionist at the Odeon Kirkcaldy."

Australia

"In 1974, my wife and I emigrated to Australia and I am still driving buses in Healesville (about 60kms east of Melbourne) and running movies part-time in our small local cinema.

Although I have never been back, I still have a great interest in the bus and cinema scene back home."

George Field, Melbourne, Australia:  February 2, 2008

 

2.

More Recollections from

George Field

Melbourne, Australia

George worked in cinemas in Edinburgh, then Fife, then Australia.  Here are some of his memories of Edinburgh cinemas between 1962 and 1976.

George wrote:

Memories of a Projectionist

Monseigneur News Theatre

     Monseigneur News Theatre, 131 Princes Street - 1962 ©

" My life in the ‘box’ began in 1962.  My Mother was an usherette in the Monseigneur News Theatre, Princes Street, Edinburgh and I had just left school and was looking for a job.  The cinema manager was a little sweet on Mum and when she told him about me, I was employed as the spoolboy. So began a sporadic lifetime in films, culminating in present-day, which finds me as a part-time projectionist / front of house at a couple of country cinemas near Melbourne, Australia.

But, back to the Monseigneur. It was the only Scottish site of the small chain of news theatres.  All the others were in London and situated in or near railway stations. Starting at 12 noon, we screened a continuous one-hour programme of cartoons, shorts, comedies and a newsreel.

My job was pure and simple.  Wind the film reels and hand the right one to the duty projectionist.  Also, on a Monday and Wednesday, I would cycle along to Waverley Station and join the other spoolboys from a dozen cinemas in collecting Movietone News, which had been rushed via overnight train from London.

Because the film was fresh from the laboratory, it was ‘green’ and had to be waxed, in order for it to run smoothly through the machine. We had Ross C3 projectors, Peerless arcs and an RCA sound system. The non-sync was a normal record deck. Occasionally, we would get a 78rpm record to play with film. This was almost always a Charlie Chaplin comedy. It is true to say that the sound-on-disc ran ‘more or less’ in sync with the picture. Thank goodness it did not happen very often.

To access the box took nerves of steel, especially when carrying heavy film cases. After climbing the three flights of stairs to the roof.  One then had to descend a steep, narrow steel stairway into the box.  The rewind room was originally a concrete room on the roof, but by the time I arrived there, the rewind area was situated at the rear of the machines. Very cosy, but considering that a lot of film we ran was nitrate, it was a monumental fire risk, bearing in mind that we were running carbon arcs  and most of the nitrate was Disney cartoons!

The curtain was a magnificent scalloped velvet affair coloured gold and looked most impressive when it was lowered at the end of each show. After about one minute, it was raised again and away we went with the next show. We ran nine shows daily and, especially at weekends, the queues stretched quite a way down the street."

Study

"Bill McQueen was the Chief and John Dingwall was the 2nd.

Workers at the Monseigneur Cinema, 131 Princes Street - 1962 ©

Bill passed away in 1973, but John was quite a young chap. I wonder where he is now?

After a short while, it was decided that I should be indentured as an apprentice, do the technical college course and, after three years, gain my 2nd projectionist’s certificate.  So, off I went twice weekly to Brunton College, Edinburgh University to study how to be a competent projectionist.

One had to learn all sorts of things back then:

-   How to build a valve amplifier.

-   Understand the use of ‘push/pull’ tubes.

-  Design a cinema from the ground up, with all the relevant regulations of fire exits per capita.

-   Screen ratio and size, etc, etc.

Can you imagine today’s operators having to do all that just to run a computer-controlled multiplex?

I gained my projectionist’s certificate, which in those days was a lot harder to obtain than it is today.  The sad thing about it was that, later, on arriving in Australia, it was not worth the paper it was printed on."

Jacey Cinema

   Jacey News Theatre, 131 Princes Street ©

"A few months after I started at college, we were given the bad news that the Monseigneur Cinema was closing, to be re-furbished by the new owners, Jacey Cinemas. It was to be closed for quite a while, which meant that everyone was out of work.  Except me!   Because I was indentured as an apprentice, Jacey had to find me another position. So, I was transferred to the ABC Lothian Road. Wow!"

ABC Cinema

"This was the big time, as the ABC was the flagship cinema in Scotland for Associated British. Not only did they screen roadshows for several months, often in 70mm,  but touring rock bands and singers performed on the fair sized stage area in front of the screen.

In fact, back when I was at the Monseigneur, Cliff Richard and the Shadows popped in for the film programme, in between shows at the ABC.  Mum, who was on tickets that day was beside herself with excitement. They all came in with handkerchiefs over their faces, but once inside, bought tickets and nibbles quite happily.  I missed it, but Mum remembers them as being most delightful."

Right, back to the ABC.  There was a large crew in the box, with a Chief, two 2nds and an apprentice on each shift. I worked with Walter Chapman, Ronnie Sinclair and David ????, but I cannot for the life of me remember the chaps on the other crew. From memory, David was in charge of one machine, Ronnie in charge if the other, whilst Walter seemed to wander around, not doing very much.

I, of course, was still in charge of the rewind room.  It was a rigid ABC rule that, when your projector was ‘on’, you sat beside it and did not move until changeover time. It must be stated that all this happened several years before 6000ft reels, so every thing was running off 2000ft reels."

Caley Cinema

"During my time at the ABC, I was also using my spare time in being a holiday relief all over the place. I did many shifts at the Caley Cinema, the only cinema with a lift to ferry the patrons (and projectionists) to the circle and beyond. It was a huge cinema, in excess of 2000 seats, I think, and one of the few to retain the ‘cuddle’ seats, which was simply a twin bench seat with no armrest, designed for smooching. I vaguely recall putting one of them to good use with an usherette."

The Tudor Cinema, Stockbridge

"I spent a lot time at the Tudor, Stockbridge with a dear friend, Willie Temple. The Tudor was the epitome of a ‘fleapit’ and I am reminded of it whenever I watch the film 'The Smallest Show on Earth'. The box was equipped with Simplex 8 projectors, with awful front shutters that clattered very noisily. But it was the screen that was the most amazing thing.  It was simply the rear wall painted white. There was no masking, so Cinemascope and wide screen shared the same size image.

This was quite a problem if the action was at the extremes of a Cinemascope frame. Do you remember ‘Pillow Talk’ with Rock Hudson and Doris Day? There was a long dinner scene wherein they are holding hands and murmuring sweet nothings across a candlelit table. The trouble was that at the Tudor that’s all you got.  No faces at all as they were outside the screen size."

The George Cinema, Portobello

"When the Tudor closed, Willie went down to The George, Portobello and I did quite a few shifts for him there."

The Jacey News Theatre (re-opens)

Jacey News Theatre, 131 Princes Street ©

"Sometime during all this, the Jacey had re-opened as a News Theatre, closed again and re-opened again as a Continental Cinema, but I never went back.

Savoy Cinema

La Scala Cinema

Cameo Cinema

I was quite happy, doing relief work here and there, gaining experience with many different projectors.  I saw time at the Savoy, the La Scala, the Cameo"

Edinburgh Film Festival

"I even did the Edinburgh Film Festival one year. That was hard work, as you were on duty by yourself all day, with a vast array of films to deal with. There were features, documentaries, shorts and anything they could throw at you at the last minute.

There were two 35mm machines and a 16mm projector. It was held in a small cinema, about 75 seats and there was no guarantee that a film would actually get it’s full run. After a while, the phone would go and they would request something else, ‘as soon as you can please’. I wonder if it is still the same today."

George Field, Melbourne, Australia:  February 5, 2008

The paragraphs above are extracts from notes written by George in January 2007.

 

  3.

More Recollections from

George Field

Melbourne, Australia

George Field added:

Edinburgh's Cinemas

"I'm sure you are aware of the two superb docos released on DVD by Panamint Cinema:

- 'Edinburgh Cinemas'', narrated by Neil Connery (Sean's brother), and

 'Curtain Up', the story of the Edinburgh Playhouse.

I found them about two years ago, and talk about the memories flooding back !!!!!"

Laurel & Hardy

"When my Mum (who is 85) saw the Playhouse DVD, she was amazed to see footage of the adoring fans as Laurel and Hardy  left the cinema after visiting it on a whistlestop tour of Scotland to publicise one of their films.

She clearly remembers being part of the crowd, as she was a great fan of theirs. She was about 12 at the time. What a coincidence!"

George Field, Melbourne, Australia:  February 5, 2008

 

  4.

Recollections from

Walter Lyle Hume

Cowes, Isle of Wight

Here are some extracts from Walter's memories of being a projectionist, first for home movies before World War II, then in some of Edinburgh's cinemas during the war.

Walter wrote:

Recollections of a Projectionist

"In the dim and distant past before the 1939 war, I was introduced to the rites and mystique of showing cine films.

We had  a very ancient hand-cranked 35mm Pathé 'home-movie' projector with a large box of film stock which consisted of four-inch spools of old black and white silent films.

Subject matter ranged from Charlie Chaplin to Valentino, heavy drama (nice to boo at), westerns and newsreels (1914-18 battle scenes) and, best of all, the Keystone Kops."

"The metal-clad projector had a small condenser lens which became the recipient of a 'huh' and polish. Illumination was provided by an Ever Ready flat battery, or cycle lamp battery as we used to call them, and a 3.5 volt bulb,

The screen took the shape of a toy theatre stage with decorated proscenium, rather like an oblong orange box with no front. The actual screen was a silvered piece of cloth that did not reflect a very bright or clear picture.

We soon learned to improve that by borrowing a white pillowcase ("Now don't you dare get that dirty!") which was about the approximate size of the picture and gave good definition. It was easily put up with drawing pins, the throw being about eight to ten feet, with the projector placed on a tall plant stand."

"Bearing in mind that the audience were all under twelve years of age, this was an ideal layout in a darkened lobby where they were all seated on the floor. Only the noise of the 'tickety-tickety' hand cranking to mar the otherwise silent show, apart from the cheers and boos, oohs and aahs.

To create a few laughs, it was only required to reverse the direction of the handle. We charged each of our audience (up to fifteen or so) one penny in old steam money to help defray the cost of battery and bulb (and a fish supper for the management)."

Fire Risk

"There were sprocket holes on either edge of the film.  Unbeknown to us at that time they were in fact a potential 'bomb', being nitrate based.  It did not take us long to learn that a little broken piece thrown upon the open coal fire gave an impressive 'whoosh'.

There was an ironmonger's shop locally, Spence & Spence, where these off-cuts could be bought, usually sixpence (2.5 p.) each; no doubt originating from some of the many local cinemas."

Wartime

"Such beginnings, in those pre-television days, ensured that I was 'hooked' on the pictures.

The War came and I had set my sights, with immature misguided patriotism, on joining the Merchant Navy, but (fortunately and happily) I was turned away as being too young: "Come back in a couple of years and we shall find you a ship" (phew!)."

Monseigneur News Theatre

"Eventually was offered and accepted a job as junior projectionist (tea-boy come rewind/splicer) at the Monseigneur News Theatre at the west end of Princes Street, Edinburgh.

In common with all news theatres, it was a relatively small, tall narrow building, not more than 300 seats (quite a lot by some of today's standards) divided between the stalls and small balcony, with a restaurant which served only wartime fare: Welsh rarebit, bangers (sausages) or spam and chips, or beans on toast.  It had and a tiny foyer with even smaller ticket-desk office."

"The projectors in the projection booth ('Box') had front open shutters and Ross carbon lamp houses (a perpetual cause of poor pictures unless constantly adjusted).  The acrid fumes were vented to the atmosphere through flexible steel chimneys which leaked.

 The spool/rewind room was a tiny concrete shed on the roof, just large enough for one person and the film cabinet."

The show

"The continuous shows started at 1pm Monday to Saturday, each complete show of newsreels, cartoons and shorts (Fitzpatrick Travelogues) ran for about an hour, non-stop until lO.3Opm.

Although never classed as a luxury cinema, it was very popular, especially for the travelling public with an hour to spare whilst waiting for a train at the now defunct LMS (ex-Caledonian) Prince’s Street main line station opposite."

"Before long, cinema owners were more than pleased that so many women were being recruited as projectionists.  They, in turn, proved to be just as efficient as their male counterparts.

I was more than delighted to be offered a position of assistant (dogs-body, yet again tea-maker) to the Chief Engineer (BSc and all that!) of a cinema/theatre group.

This turned out to be a fascinating and interesting job.   Eventually I attended every cinema and theatre in and around Edinburgh, either on projection repair missions with my 'Chief', or acting as stand-in relief projectionist.

I worked very long hours, although during the war everyone else did the same. We were also required to attend regular all-night fire-watching duties, but as a payment of two shillings and six pence (12.5p) could be claimed.  I was not slow in opting for extra turns."

 "Due to the travel restrictions, I was based at the cinema nearest my home, which had been opened just prior to the outbreak of war, circa 1938, and therefore just run-in. This was the State Cinema in Junction Street, Leith, built on the site of the defunct Hawthorn's ship yard, alongside the Water of Leith, at the upper reaches of Leith Docks.

The State enjoyed an excellent de luxe status and was very popular with the local patrons; the auditorium arranged with stalls for two-thirds of the seating capacity of about 1400 with the remaining third in a gently-sloped low-slung stepped balcony. The stalls had a centre aisle with two side aisles for the side stalls, the balcony being of a similar layout.

The screen could be easily seen from every seat with no distortion, except for the front row where everything was magnified (very popular with youngsters on Saturdays)."

"In contrast to many earlier cinemas, the State projection room was quite spacious with a high ceiling and ample windows situated near ceiling level. Regrettably these were blacked-out to comply with wartime regulations.

Within the building, here was a two-storied Billiard and Snooker saloon run totally as a separate business, Peter the disabled manager, ran it with total discipline, the least whiff of nonsense and troubled makers were evicted.

Underneath the entire length of the cinema was a large joinery business, normally making wood structures for houses, but during the war they were busy building MFV`s and Carley Float life-rafts for the Admiralty, another potential fire hazard, under the stalls!!!"

State Cinema Staff

The full-time front of house staff were paraded in smart blue and silver uniforms.  There were:

 ten usherettes (not all on duty at the same time)

a foreman and assistant to keep everything non-technical running smoothly

 a doorman (evenings only)

 two ticket office cashiers

one refreshment kiosk attendant (the kiosk did not last very long due to sweets and confectionery being so strictly rationed)

and, mostly unseen by the public, seven cleaners and  the technical staff, chief operator, second, third and fourth assistants.

The manager dressed in a lounge suit during the day and always wore evening dress at night."

The Programme

"Every programme had to be made up on a Monday morning.

The main feature, with anything up to twelve reels of film, had to be carefully spliced and glued together with film cement, plus a second feature or several shorts, cartoon, newsreel and trailers, not forgetting the adverts; a task that sometimes took right up until lunchtime, especially if the film was in need of repair."

Air Raids

"Late into the evening showing of the big picture, the air raid sirens would start warning people to take cover.  Within a short while, the manager is contacted by the police and told to evacuate the building as soon as possible.

A quick call to the duty projectionist to shut down and put the house lights on, by which time the manager would have reached the stage to request everybody to leave as quickly as possible, and for their safety to go to an air raid shelter.

When the audience got outside the place would be in total darkness. Tramcars remained where they had stopped when all electricity was shut off, and so it remained until the 'all clear' was sounded, sometimes hours later.

Often during a performance a policeman, complete with steel helmet and gas mask, would hand an official note to the manager to make an announcement to the effect that all members of the crew of HMS Nonsuch, or the equivalent description for units of other branches of the armed forces, were to report back immediately to their ship or depot."

Military Training Films

"On one occasion,  a lot of high-ranking officers turned up and told the manager he would be required to show a film to a group of servicemen as soon as possible. The army and naval personnel were on their way and were required to be suitably accommodated, officers in the balcony, senior non-commissioned officers in the back stalls, other ranks down front.

The manager asked for the films which were to be shown and how long they would run for, and, as a matter of interest, who was going to pay for the use of our facilities ("Oh, just send the bill to the War Office, old boy!").

All doors were to be secured with military police in attendance. Nobody would be permitted in or out during the entire performance. The film arrived with a prominent label: 'Crown Film Unit, War Office. TOP SECRET'

I found even the Ministry of Food Flashes ('How to Make Banana Jam from a Marrow')  to be more entertaining than some of the  training films."

Leith Cinemas

"As well as the State Cinema, Leith had five other cinemas within a short distance of each other.  None could be termed modern.

-  The Alhambra Cinema (Alibam) started out as a theatre, with a very large deep stage.  Its owner, Alf Beckett, had a record shop attached next door to the pillared cinema entrance.

 -  The Gaiety Cinema was another theatre conversion.  It was in the Kirkgate, boasted the only licensed bar in any of the Edinburgh cinemas.  The cinema was round in shape.  Sitting way up in the `gods` balcony seats the top of the cinema, part of the screen was hidden from view.

-  The Capitol Cinema in Manderston Street, being on the Gaumont circuit, was probably the best.

-  The Palace Cinema at the Foot-of-the-Walk, was typical run-of-the-mill.

 -  The Laurie Street Cinema was somewhat unkindly referred to as the 'flea-pit', but it nevertheless served its purpose."

Edinburgh Cinemas

"During the many visits to Edinburgh cinemas I came across some odd items:

-  The Blue Halls which had the screen placed diagonally within a near square-shaped building with the seating taking a diamond pattern, seemingly to pack a few more in. Towards the bottom end of the market they had to make every inch pay.

-  The Palace in Princes Street, long since gone and replaced by an extension of Woolworth's store, had a projection room below the level of the bottom of the screen, the projectors being set to point upward.

-  The Alhambra in Leith Walk was originally a theatre with a very large deep stage, stalls, circle and gallery (the 'gods') which meant the box was very high. The gallery was closed for safety reasons. With only wooden bench seats and very steep steps it seemed logical."

Sunday Opening

"At this time, there were no cinemas allowed to be open Sundays (also no pubs, Cafés or other places of interest) and with the black-out, life was not over-exciting in the capital city.

There were many thousands of army, navy and RAF men and women with very little to do on a Sunday, causing problems in other directions.

The powers-that-be decided to relax the strict non-opening rule and thereafter six or eight of the thirty-five cinemas then licensed in Edinburgh were given permission to open on a Sunday evening for one show, with everything finished and closed down not later than 10pm.

My employer had been delegated to select the chosen houses, based upon location and seating capacity (if it had been left to the individual cinema managers they would have opened every Sunday, all day).

Organising a programme for each of these venues created quite a lot of problems. Apart from shorts, cartoons and the like, a lot of effort was given to run features more than twice. The queues formed at each cinema due to be opened long before the staff arrived, which must have pleased the owners."

Walter Lyle Hume, Cowes, Isle of Wight, England:  March 27, 2008

 

  5.

More Recollections from

James Innes Macleod

formerly
James Innes

Thank you to James Innes for sending me the recollections below.

James tells me that he'd love to hear from staff who worked at any of the three cinemas below.  You may recognise him by the name 'James Innes'  (he added the 'Macleod' later after marrying Joan Macleod)

Reply to James?

James has also written about the time when he lived at Hay Avenue, Niddrie

If you remember James and would like to contact him, please email me to let me know, then I'll pass on his email address to you.    Thank you.

James wrote:

The Monseigneur

The Manager - 1960s

"I was very happy to read the memories of Edinburgh Cinemas, especially the memories of The Monseigneur/Jacey as I was the Manager there in the 1960s.

I really loved working there, in spite of the long hours.  If ever the staff wanted to find me, I'd be in watching the cartoons etc when ever I could.

The Jacey

"The Cohen family of Birmingham who owned the cinema, decided to upgrade it by making it more comfortable with less seats and more legroom.

They renamed it 'The Jacey'. (Jacey was their group name.)  They then introduced more X-rated films by forming a Cinema Club for members only.

I seem to remember that, just after I left, Edinburgh Council cancelled their license for this, as some non-members had managed to get in.

I look back on my time there as one of the best Jobs I've ever done.

The Hayweights

Musselburgh

"I then became manager of The Hayweights in Musselburgh This was only meant to be for a short time but lasted until it, too, fell for the change over to Bingo".

James Innes Macleod (formerly James Innes, before marrying Joan Macleod):  December 4, 2014

 

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A selection of my photographs, many from Edinburgh throughout the year.   Also photos from Scotland, London, Iceland, Italy, Hong Kong and elsewhere    Many old maps of Edinburgh (Old Town, New Town, while City), Leith and Newhaven.  Includes several old transport maps and a comparison of old maps with recent aerial photos.   Old engravings, mailly of Edinburgh scenes.  Some from the 1820s, some from the 1890s,  some others - includes many hand-coloured examples from the 1820s.   News from Edinburgh today  -  Events, Collections, Buildings and Gardens, Transport   This site includes     1. Post card portraits taken in studios in Edinburgh:    2. Post card views either takeen/published by Ediburgh photographers or views of Edinburgh, or both.y Edinburgh    Views of Edinburgh, grouped into three sections:     1. Street views:    2. Buildings:    3. Around Edinburgh   Views of transport around Edinburgh  -  Horse drawn trams and buses, cable cars, electric trams, buses and a few railway photos.  Also several maps of Edinburgh's bus and tram routes.   Links to pages with Photos of Groups   Frequently Asked Questions

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