And in a Flash, Saturday morning cinemas were full

PUBLISHED: 21:45 06 April 2017 | UPDATED: 21:45 06 April 2017

Gorleston's Coliseum Cinema, dominant in the town centre in the Fifties, where Saturday children's matinees were always popular. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Gorleston's Coliseum Cinema, dominant in the town centre in the Fifties, where Saturday children's matinees were always popular. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Mercury Library

Picturegoers of the Seventies generation might well have been smitten by John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever, but decades earlier Saturday Morning Fever was rife among youngsters: it was when we flocked to cinemas for children’s matinees.

In my case, it was queuing from the foyer of Gorleston Coliseum in the High Street, past two shops and up Palmer Road. Entry was only a few pence, and the programme usually included cartoons, a serial, and New York shenanigans by the Dead End Kids or the Bowery Boys, remarkably law-abiding teenage gangs.

Expatriate Danny Daniels in Canada chides me for omitting from a recent feature “two of the special features of Yarmouth cinema-going in those days - Saturday morning matinees for the kids! One was at the Regal, the other at the Plaza on the Market Place. Both cost twopence (1p today).”

He continues: “Occasionally the Plaza - presumably to support the hospital - would let you in for a penny ha’penny and a food item - an egg, or a cabbage, or something similar.

“At the Plaza, the serials made you into a Saturday morning regular. One was the cowboy serial, featuring Tom Mix, or Buck Rogers, but the real clincher was Flash Gordon and his journey to Mars, shot with a greenish film and including episodes where the Mud Men came out of the walls to threaten our intrepid hero and, of course, left him in dire peril at the end of each week.

“When my Mum took me to, usually, the Regent for a particular film, it would be one starring Freddie Bartholemew (I remember Captains Courageous with Spencer Tracy), Jackie Cooper or Shirley Temple.”

Danny is probably unaware that Gorleston Coliseum also had a prominent charitable side: at Easter the young cinemagoers were admitted free if they brought a hen’s egg to be passed on to Gorleston Hospital patients to supplement their wartime diet.

Years ago I reported here that 75-year-old reader Jack Dye, of Gonvillde Road, Gorleston, showed me a Mercury cutting from April 1939 headlined: “1112 eggs for Gorleston Hospital”. He was one of the young picturegoers who contributed 1050 eggs to that total, the rest being given by Coliseum passers-by.

The gesture was launched eight years earlier by the Attrees, who operated the Coliseum. By the following Easter, we were at war and eggs were on the ration.

In February I published a 1972 photograph of one-armed Bob Pendle, of Russell Road, Yarmouth, with his 6ft model of the liner Lusitania, torpedoed in 1915 in the Atlantic with the loss of 1198 of her 1906 passengers and crew. Readers Malcolm and Joy Ferrow, of Marine Parade, Gorleston were particularly interested.

Years ago, when they moved their antiques business to Hall Quay in Yarmouth, Bob Pendle helped them to redecorate the premises - and successfully papered the high ceiling while perched on steps, totally unfazed by the disadvantage of having only one arm.

It took the description “single-handed” to a new level...

Over in Lowestoft, retired Yarmouth registrar Trevor Nicholls spotted that on my recent 1930s street map of the old borough, Highfield Road - opposite today’s Gorleston fire station - was missing although it did exist then. Stone Cottage, which once stood thereabouts, belonged to Charles Colwell, described by one historian as “that remarkable man”.

Trevor says Colwell was “a thorn in the side of over-weaning authority” who went to law to ensure that the quaysides at Yarmouth remained a public right-of-way. The court held that the quays were not to be so obstructed and cluttered so as to restrict those who wished to pass there.

According to Trevor: “A century later, the Port and Haven Commissioners promoted a Private Act of Parliament effectively reversing that ruling! Colwell also fought to retain public access to the cliff-top path at Gorleston which authority - forever looking around for rights to extinguish - wanted to eliminate.”

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