Here I relate a few memories from three cinemas I worked in. The Palace Warrington was where I first got the taste for film projection. I was sixteen and before going to see the chief for an interview I had never stepped foot in a projection box. The year was 1964. I was bowled over by all the technical equipment. Would I be able to handle it? The chief’s name was Joe, he looked old to me but was probably only in his thirties.I was at the Palace until it closed in November 1964. Joe would mend televisions between reels and the floor staff would bring pies to be heated on a stove that was in the box. Joe once demonstrated his ability to hold his breath by putting his head in a fire bucket filled with water. For some reason we had the wrong mix of carbons and an eye had to be kept on them because they were not burning right, even with the motor fitted on the Peerless arcs. I became attached to the Palace and was quite upset when it closed. For the technically minded the sound was RCA and the projectors were Fedi.
Next I moved to the Classic Chester as a third and was paid around £7 – 10s per week. Here they had Simplex projectors and RCA sound. I worked with a second who was always going off to sleep, allowing the carbons he was supposed to be watching jam together, causing the light to go darker and darker. On one occasion the chief using blooping ink marked up two reels as part three. Instead of checking the leader, which would have the part number printed, he took a chance and the wrong reel was projected.
The final cinema I worked in before moving into television was the Mayfair Liverpool. I started there in 1969. The equipment consisted of Kalee 11 projectors, which had been installed at opening, Western Electric sound, Cinemeccanica xenon lamps, Projectomatic and 5000ft spoolboxes. The top boxes were Kalee, the bottom Westar. Four track magnetic was another feature. The last stereo film was Woodstock. There were only two operators the chief Brian Cubbon and myself as second. I remember one night I was running and I saw a sheet of light on the screen. I panicked and shut the machine down. I transferred the film and ran on one projector. I then sent for the engineer, thinking there was something seriously wrong. While waiting for him to arrive I discovered that a piece of tin that was shielding light from the projector had moved. I put the tin back and everything was ok. The engineer arrived and I told him what had happened. He didn’t say a word and walked out. I discovered later that he’d said to the manager ‘I’ll be called out next to fix (expletive) toilet seats’.
Another incident, which I look back as amusing, but wasn’t at the time was when the organ generator went up in smoke. The cinema was equipped with a Compton organ and every now and then a schoolteacher, who was a keen organist, would come in to play. The chief would maintain the organ generator and make sure everything was ok. For some reason, which we never found out, the manager decided not to let the chief look after it. The chief said he didn’t think the generator would last; it was only a matter of time.
One night our schoolteacher friend was playing his heart out when suddenly he leapt from his seat and ran up to the generator room. Sure enough the generator was smoking. Sadly the organ was never played again.
Hope you enjoyed these memories from my cinema past.