John O`Meara

On my 16th birthday in November 1954, after working for two employers. My father mentioned to me that there was a vacancy in the Odeon Cinema, Fisherton Street, Sailisbury (J.A.Rank). I immediately applied for the position of boy (trainee), and was accepted. This was because years previously in Germany as a young boy, I had seen “Annie get your guns” in an Army Kinema Corporation (A.K.C.) cinema, and this experience I had never forgotten. We had a staff of five altogether in the box, the equipment being GB Kalee`s 21, complete with President lamp houses. The first film that I saw was The “Rear Window” with Grace Kelly.The Chief was a middle age man by the name of Mr Horace Adams, who taught me everything from polishing the gas taps in the staff room, cleaning the boat (light fitting) under the auditorium ceiling with its thick coating of nicotine, to filling the coke hoppers in the boiler room at the rear. But at the some time, the principles of projection, heating and ventilation. To him I owe my success in life.

In 1959 I resigned from the Odeon, after accepting a position with The Army Kinema Corporation, London. My position was as a British based Relief Operator in the British Army of the Rhein (B.A.O.R.) Germany. The six years of my tour, was with both the British and Canadian forces throughout central and northern Germany. I visited at least half of the 48 cinemas that we had at the time. The equipment in the main was the 35mm Bauer B8 projector with Telefuncan sound. We also had the odd Ernemann 7b (16mm), but only two as far as I can recall. In general I would work alone, but in a number of places I had the company of either a German or soldier operator. During my stay in Germany, I had WO`s and Sgt`s status.

In March of 1965, I resigned and returned to the UK, to take up a position as Chief in the Odeon cinema, Farnham, in Surrey. It was a bit of a come down from Germany, but my family had been posted back to Aldershot from Bonn. The equipment here was the 35mm Super Simplex, with Peerless Magnarcs, along with Westrex sound. For slides we had a 1948 Premier cabon slide lantern. In 1967 the equipment was changed to GB Kalee 20 projectors. Funny enough I missed the Super Simplex projectors, it was if they were almost human, the noises, the hum of the motor, the gate etc. You could change a mech during one reel if need be, they were just so easy to look after.

In 1968 the writing was on the wall with overtime being cut, and the staff being reduced to three. Both the positions of doorman and the boilerman had been also cut. This left us to look after the boilers as well in the rear of the building, resulting in the boilers over heating on a number of occasions with the gravity tank over flowing into the back circle. There was no longer any security in the cinema business, so I resigned and joined the G.P.O. in Aldershot. That is before leaving for the States and New Zealand in 1974. I am now retired, but often think back to the days of the cinema, happy days! Today they know nothing of presentation, so I always take my ear plugs along when I visit the local cinema.

Today the former Odeon cinema, Fisherton Street, Salisbury, is now the City Hall, and ceased to be a cinema in 1962. The former A.K.C. cinemas in Germany, but for three are no more. The former Odeon cinema Farnham was closed during the early 80`s, and is now demolished to become a carpark for 75 cars.

Further down the road in Aldershot, the cinemas, the Odeon, the Palace, the ABC, and the Alexandra -all gone!

John O`Meara
Wellington New Zealand

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