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I began as a rewind boy at the Gaumont/Majestic Clapham in 1957. In those days there were 7 projectionists on duty, including the Chief, Co Chief, Senior 2nd, Co 2nd, a 3rd projectionist, a 4th projectionist and me the rewind come tea boy. The co projectionists were there to cover for meal breaks, days off, sickness and holidays. There was no shift work either in those days, and we all started at 10:30am in the morning and stayed until the end of the last reel at around 10:35pm. The last reel was never rewound until the next day, and we always left a bit of the end-leader hanging out of the film bin to remind us. I had 2 days off a week – Wednesday and Sunday, and that was that for £4 a week. I loved it, and when the cinema closed, our then chief projectionist, Derek Palmer, went on to run the new Bowling Alley at Streatham that was almost near its opening ceremony in 1962. I moved on to the Odeon East Dulwich for a while but soon joined Derek at the Bowling Alley not long after.
I stayed for about a year, but I missed the box so much I took a job at the ABC Regal in Streatham which had come up. I also did holiday relief work in the South London area whilst there: at the ABC Brixton, ABC Croydon etc. Later I worked at the Mayfair Tooting as a third projectionist and then as a trainee manager at the same cinema, which I didn’t like that much. I returned again to the box at the recently rebuilt ABC Wimbledon and then got promotion to Junior 2nd at the Regal Streatham a year or two later where I stayed until 1967. I then moved to Canada for a gap year. I returned to South London and back to the Regal at the end of 1968 and married in 1969. I got a transfer to ABP Elstree Studios where I worked as a projectionist until 1974 and then took voluntary redundancy. I left the industry altogether and entered the world of catering as a night manager. Some time after that we moved to the Isle of Wight where we bought a small hotel and fast food unit. I worked at that until retirement in 2001.
I am now 70 years of age and still miss the gentle purr of the projector as the film passed through the gate and under the intermittent sprocket. Not sure if I want to do the job these days though, as it seems to me that all the showmanship has gone out of it. Where we were trained to keep the carbons trimmed, take changeovers, close and open the tabs on cue, and manipulate the house, and stage lights, none of those things seem to exist and the pride in putting on the perfect show has probably gone along with it. Once the programme is spooled up for the week there is little else to do, or so it seems, apart from running a single machine, checking rack is OK and making sure it’s in focus. I’m glad I experienced and worked with nitrate film and its volatile projection, and saw the beginning of the safety film era, both had their quirks and disasters whilst projecting the stuff. If anyone out there remembers me from those special days I would dearly love to hear from you.
I did relief projection work there from my base at the ABC Streatham. A mate of mine, Phil Young, was senior second Projectionist. He went on to Elstree Studios as a projectionist and I followed sometime later, after he joined the sound-camera department. He later went out to live in Jamaica and worked in television there until he retired.
I wasn’t born in Brixton, but lived there from 6 months old (in 1944) until 1969, when I got married and moved to Luton. I remember the old Palladium well, and always bunking in the side door when an ‘A’ film was on. I was about ten and it was so obvious I wasn’t old enough to see an ‘A’ film without an adult being present. The last film I remember seeing there was when I was about ten. It was called ‘Invasion from Mars’, recently shown on digital free view. My mum took me to see it, and was bored out of her mind. I liked it though. Yes, things have changed since those days, and cinemas are certainly not what they used to be.
Sid Deeks was the Chief Projectionist at the ABC Wimbledon during the early 1960’s. I worked there for a year after being promoted to Junior 2nd projectionist from the ABC Streatham. Here is a link to a few projection rooms ‘Boxes’ I worked in. The Elite’s projection room is among them as you scroll down the page. View link
Here’s the photograph: View link
I did my training as a projectionist at the Majestic Clapham. In those days (circa 1958) I was just 16 years old. The Chief projectionist was Derek Palmer. The senior 2nd Projectionist was Geof Moore, and the third Projectionist was Denis Doran, the son of the Chief of Staff. I have a photograph taken of the staff in the Foyer of the 1958/59 Christmas party. I will upload it to my flicr site and post it later.
And here’s the photograph: View link
I worked at the ABC Streatham in 1962 as a 3rd Projectionist and later Junior 2nd until circa 1967. I think I had a short break in between this time, but my memory is a bit foggy these days. Ed Weaver was the Chief Projectionist and Harold Pritchett was Co Chief. Fred Costello was Senior Second. The Manager at that time was Bill Wyatt. I have a photograph taken in the upstairs lobby of staff celebrating Ed Weaver’s retirement. I will put it on my flicr site and post it later.
Derek Palmer was the first Chief Engineer at Streatham Bowl. I worked with him at the Gaumont Clapham as a trainee projectionist, where he was the Chief Projectionist. When The Gaumont closed, I went to the Odeon East Dulwich as a fourth projectionist for a while, but later joined Derek as an assistant engineer prior to the Bowl being opened. I later returned to cinema work as 3rd Projectionist at the ABC Streatham.