My father’s youngest sibling Trevor became a cinema manager at the Picture House and Essoldo cinemas in the centre of Huddersfield, both now gone of course. Even the street where the Picture House was situated has now gone, replaced by a shopping centre. The Essoldo cinema building is still there – due to be transformed into Huddersfield Arts and Heritage centre, but not a cinema I’ll be bound.
I have always been fascinated and entertained by the big screen, ever since my big sis Rhondda took me, first to Slaithwaite and then to Golcar cinemas, when I was too young to go on my own. Then later, I went with friends to the matinee at another Picture House, this time in Milnsbridge to watch Roy Rogers, Flash Gordon, The Lone Ranger, Marx Brothers and many more.
Superman matinee: all too inspiring for one poor lad
At one time during our return home to our council estate after a Saturday afternoon matinee, we passed through a recreation ground with the normal swings, roundabout, see-saw and slide. We noticed a lad – one of the older boys – called David stood on the top of the slide on the outside edge of the safety railings, shouting at the top of his voice to all that would listen, “Look, I’m Superman!”. He was obviously inspired by what we had all watched that afternoon. Unfortunately, David, who was not blessed with much wit at the best of times, must have also been influenced by the flickering lights, for he then launched himself into the air. He landed with a thud and broke his arm.
Trevor: cinema manager and indulgent uncle
After a little while, I started venturing to the Huddersfield cinemas on my own, to Uncle Trevor’s cinemas in particular, because he would let me in for free. I remember watching Dr. No,one of the early James Bond films there. I was on my own at this particular time. I had just settled into the film when Uncle Trevor found me out in the darkness and asked how old I was. I told him but also explained that I had seen the film the previous week, which was true. Uncle Trevor said, “Very well you can stay”. I was 14 years old at the time.
I’m sure Uncle Trevor was very concerned that I may have been corrupted by all the shocking goings on in Dr. No. Mind you, watching Ursula Andress striding from the surf would be enough to corrupt any mere mortal 14-year-old.
In about 2005, Ursula Andress sold the bikini that she wore in the film and admitted that she received more money for it than she was given for her part in the film.
Tonto: just an actor, after all
One of my favourite characters in these afternoon matinees was The Lone Ranger (played by Clayton Moore). His sidekick Tonto knew all the survival skills necessary to keep The Lone Ranger out of trouble; in fact, if it hadn’t been for Tonto, The Lone Ranger wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.
My big Sis Rhondda subscribed to a weekly (I think) magazine called ‘Cinema’ or ‘Illustrated Cinema’. In this magazine, we could send for a photograph of our favourite film actors. I begged, bribed and cajoled her to send for a picture of Tonto for me, which she duly did. I had to give her priority on our favourite chair for a whole week and boy did she take advantage. Even when she was late for her date, she would insist that I vacate the chair just so she could sit in it for thirty seconds. Older sisters are like that sometimes.
A week later, the photo duly arrived, and to my lifelong disappointment, it wasn’t a photo of Tonto wearing his native leathers and feathers – it was a photo of a fella in a suit and tie. This was Jay Silverheels, the actor who played Tonto. This was probably my first realisation that actors were normal people in real life, which of course was very disappointing.
A family falling-out
Sibling rivalry and jealousy has happened forever, and can be quite aggressive at times. Over the generations, I have witnessed many family fallings-out. Thinking of Uncle Trevor reminds me of my first experience of this – Aunty Marlene.
Marlene was Uncle Trevor’s wife. To my young eyes, Aunty Marlene looked exotically foreign, possibly Italian, I thought. She and her family were also Roman Catholic, which was another difference for me.
In 1961, Marlene alienated herself from my family when my parents didn’t ask her daughter Beverley to be a bridesmaid for my sister Rhondda. Uncle Trevor came to Rhondda’s wedding alone. Marlene kept away from us forever after that. I was 14 years old and that was my first experience of how over-reacting can influence our judgment forever.
Don’t let a falling-out last forever – make that phone call
In 2012, over 50 years after the falling-out with my parents who had been gone for over 15 and 20 years respectively, I phoned Marlene for a chat and to get some birth dates for my family tree. She was reluctant to enter into any meaningful conversation and refused to give me any family details. Her excuse was that she had never got on with the Norcliffes, even though she apparently had a loving marriage with one.
I still struggle to understand these attitudes. I cannot imagine what my siblings Rhondda and Nick would have to do for me to fall out with them forever. It’s fairly easy to fall out when we’re kids and know nothing, particularly when one is a boisterous younger brother to a bossy older sister, but forever is a long time. If anyone is in this situation and reading this, please think about how long forever is and make that phone call. I can guarantee that there will be a huge weight lifted off your shoulders.
Lightening up a little
Albert Hargreaves, a rural country farmer from Barnsley in Yorkshire, was mourning the death of his favourite sheepdog. After digging deep under his mattress for some spare cash, he visited the local jeweller, and said:
“Nah then lad, sithi hear, I want thee to do mi a solid gold statue of mi favrit dog Lassie thanose”.
“Certainly” said the jeweller, “would you like it eighteen carrot?”
Albert replied “Nah thi daft bugga, just have it chewin’ a bone”.