The Movies


Now I had a regular income from the paper round of course I was a regular at the Loyalty theatre at Ferntree Gully for the Saturday afternoon matinee. I would leave home straight after lunch and walk. Mostly by myself but on odd occasions with a friend.


I had about an hour and a half up my sleeve but I needed it, there was so much to do on the way. Checking out all the bull antsí nests and jumping jacks nests was one. Birds nests I only looked never touched, lizard holes, wild cherry trees at the right time of the year, if I could beat the birds to the fruit. Lots of things to do for a young feller like me.


When I got to the theatre if very early I would go through the rubbish bin behind the theatre just in case and then play in the creek. I was in the creek one day and there had been a lot of rain during the week and a hessian bag of drowned kittens was lying on top of one of the big rocks, well out of the water. The bag had come undone and the dead kittens were lying in the sun. The kittens looked like they were just sleeping. So I gathered six of them and put them on the footpath outside the theatre entrance. I stood in front of the theatre door and waited to see what would happen. Soon boys and girls arrived. The girls patted the kittens but soon found that the kittens were dead. They looked around and picked out one older boy as the culprit of the prank. The mini brawl that ensued, screaming from the girls and cries of innocence from the boys, soon brought Mr Roberts out of the theatre to break up the fight. I kept my head down and was very quiet.


The trip home was always by bus. In winter, it was nearly dusk by the time the show was over. And anyway, I had to be home in time for dinner, no loitering, strict instructions from mom. To get into the movie - three pence, a small bottle of lemonade - one penny, eight aniseed balls - one penny, a total of five pence. The bus should have been a half penny but I didnít pay very often.


Mr Jones was the regular driver, a really nice man. When he pulled up at the stop and opened the door a stampede of about forty screaming children tried to squeeze through the door simultaneously, kicking and fighting to get to the back seat of the bus. Most of the girls would pay. Funny people girls. Some boys would pay but I suspect many didnít. When all quieted down, well slightly less noise than the entering, Mr Jones would walk down the back of the bus and ask if everyone had a ticket. There was much fumbling in pockets when he asked this and in unison every young voice shouted.

'Yes Mr Jones.'

He shook his head, threw up his hands and with a big smile he walked back to his seat. All the adults were smiling too.


But back to the matinee, there were great movies, with the likes of Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy and lots I canít remember with a heap of shooting. Goodies always dressed in white and could shoot the button off the jacket of a baddie, always dressed in black, from half a mile away over his shoulder, without looking. The baddies Iím afraid couldnít hit a barn wall from three feet.


But the serials are what got me. This episode ended with the hero tied across a rail track with the train bearing down at one hundred miles an hour. Or the hero asleep and a huge hairy spider crawling up his arm poised to strike. So you can see how important it was that I had to be there next week. This wasn't rubbish it was riveting stuff.


I always saved two of my aniseed balls for the really exciting parts of the film. When the whole theatre was tense and quiet at a gripping moment, an aniseed ball dropped on the floor would roll to the front of the theatre. The floor was sloped to the front with slight terracing at each seat, so the aniseed ball dropping to the floor would roll to the front, over each terrace and made great sound effects.


But as good as the matinees were, I think my very favourite movies were every second Friday at the Cameo Theatre at Belgrave. Because I was rich, and could afford to pay my way, I was the only small tacker allowed to go. Our group consisted of my two brothers, Tonyís mate Bill, Billís two sisters and Rose Brown. All were given instructions to look after me. No one did of course. So I just tagged along.


A feller could learn heaps of things. The older group were a very smart lot. We would walk up the Puffing Billy line to the theatre checking everything on the way. All the signal towers had to be climbed and Bill, a very learned signals man, showed us all how to change the signals. I suppose it is just as well that the signals were locked with huge brass padlocks, or maybe poor old Billy would have been running up platforms and along roads, I reckon.


When the movie was finished, all our group would wait for the bus home. This was a wait of about twenty minutes or half an hour sometimes. So when I could slip away from the rest of the group I would walk home alone. The movie finished at about eleven pm. On cloudy nights, it was very dark. The best nights were when the sky was clear, the stars never failed to fascinate me. Reg had shown me the big dipper, the Southern Cross etc; it was a show that never failed to please. My mother never knew I walked home. I wonder sometimes what she would have said if she knew.