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I wrote up French homework while on Stourbridge cinema break

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 11, 2014

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RE your recent articles about cinemas – I worked at the Odeon at weekends from 1961-1963 while I was doing my A levels at Stourbridge High School for girls.

I worked from 1-10pm on Saturdays and 4 to 9pm on Sundays and full time in the school holidays.

I loved every minute of it. I worked as an usherette – showing people to their seats in the dark.

It wasn't like today – folk would come in throughout the performance and could stay as long as they liked until closing time.

Some people stayed all day. It cost 3 shillings and sixpence in the balcony and 1 shilling and sixpence in the stalls.

I'd sell ice creams during the interval – mainly 'tubs' with a little wooden spoon and choc ices. I think they were 6 pence.

We had to watch the money because the lady in charge would check our trays when we went back and we had to make up for any shortages!

I remember the doorman was called George – he never missed a day and was always good humoured and ready for a laugh. One of the usherettes was called Shirley. I was always a bit in awe of Shirley because she always seemed very glamorous to me.

Another was an older lady who was 72 at the time – I think she was called Mrs Bentley. I remember her telling me that she felt exactly the same in her head as she had done when she was 18 – and of course I didn't believe her then. But now I know what she meant!

The manager was called Philip and I remember he liked a police lady who would pop in now and again.

Eventually I was able to take over the cash desk when the cashier was away and then the hot dog stand which we acquired later.

I remember writing up my French homework in the staff room during my breaks and reading poetry while I waited for customers to come to buy hot dogs.

As far as the films were concerned we usherettes never saw a film all the way through, but often saw the same part 20 odd times!

Of course in those days the cinema was always thick with cigarette smoke but it just seemed normal to us.

There were a few times when one of the seats would start to smoulder.

There was a procedure for this which meant whoever saw it would tell George immediately by saying: "Mr Albert in the stalls or on the balcony" - so as not to panic the customers.

We had fire extinguishers of course but never needed one while I was there.

I did once see a smouldering seat in the stalls and dutifully dashed out into the foyer and whispered: "Mr Albert in the stalls George," to which he replied OK – and quickly extinguished it with a cup of water.

I left in 1963 – having passed all my A levels – and began my nurse training at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

I was upset when mum told me that the Odeon had been turned into a furniture shop.

Janet Walder,

(nee Kettle),

janwalder@blueyonder.co.uk

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