‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Trip to the Cinema – The Dominion, The Clock Cinema, The Shaftesbury and Others. 1950s and 1960s Leeds.

David’s Bookshelf Issue 2 Cup of Tea Tales

This episode is also available as a blog post: https://davidmcameronauthormusician.com/2022/10/02/davids-bookshelf-issue-2/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/david-m-cameron/message
  1. David’s Bookshelf Issue 2
  2. David’s Bookshelf – Issue One
  3. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Lifetime of Global Successes, Disasters and Wonders! Space the Final Frontier.
  4. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hetchell Woods (Bardsey) and Crags – A Special Piece of God’s Own Country or County! One of my Favourite Places to Visit.
  5. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Wonderful Yorkshire Dales. Trollers Gill, a Place with a Mysterious Legend and the Hell Hole where I Diced with Death.

As a child, one of the highlights was a trip to the cinema. My earliest memories are of going to the cinema with my grandmother at The Dominion in Chapel Allerton. There were two types of cinema visits, depending on who took me and my brothers. If it was my mum or my grandmother, then it was normally cartoons or musicals, but if it was my father, it was usually cowboys or adventure films.

It wasn’t a long walk from my grandma’s to the Dominion in Chapel Allerton, but at a young age it seemed a long way, particularly after one of grandma’s extremely filling dinners. My grandmother was a short, stout lady and walking always seemed to make her out of breath. The cinema dominated the corner opposite the primary school towards the next parade of shops, and it was quite a majestic building. I am unsure whether the first film I saw was Dumbo, Fantasia or Pinocchio, but certainly they are my first memories of watching films. They were not new films even in those days, but are still firm favourites with children and adults. On later occasions, we went to see new releases before the cinema closed in 1967. Mary Poppins (1964) and the Sound of Music (1965) were two of the films we saw there. It was a real treat and I don’t know how much it cost her, but I know she never had a lot of spare money. No visit to the cinema would have been complete without either a Kia-ora orange drink in a plastic beaker with a foil top, an ice-cream tub with a small wooden spoon, or Butterkist popcorn. I can still taste the creamy flavour, mixed with the wooden taste of the spoon. It was only ever one of the three. The treat was normally bought during the intermission, halfway through the film, or between the B-movie and the main film. A lady with a tray would march down the aisle and stand at the front, whilst a queue  of eager children, or parents, would form. The sizes of the drinks and tubs were tiny compared to what people would expect nowadays.

When we entered the cinema, we entered a world of wonder. There were people in uniforms and tickets were bought at the foyer ticket booth. Clasping the tickets, we went up the stairs, had them torn in half by the man or lady on guard, and headed through double doors with round windows into a strange, vast space with row upon row of seats. This was short trouser time and, in fact, it was shorts until the second year of Roundhay School. We would find a seat, not too far back, not too near the front, shuffle along to get to the middle, and then would sit. This wasn’t easy when you were little, as the seats had to be pushed down before you could climb onto them. When you were sitting, the pile of the seat fabric would push into your legs and they could go a little dead if it was a long film or a double bill. Grandma would normally sit between my older brother and me. I am not sure if this was so she could control us better, and to stop us interacting and misbehaving. Anyway, after a long wait and the influx of patrons, the lights would dim a little and there would be twenty minutes of adverts. I am not sure if Pearl and Dean were advertising when I was very little, but they were when I got older. I’ve just checked this, and they started in 1953, so it would have been them. These were rather boring, but the trailers that followed showed films that would be on soon and they were much more interesting. Finally, the lights would drop down to almost pitch black and the film would start. Sometimes there was a round of applause, if there was a large young audience, and then we were captivated by a world of wonder and colour. Not all films were in colour, but the Disney ones were. I remember well 101 Dalmations and the nightmares I had for years after. Cruella De Vil scared the life out of me, but even worse was the Disney film, Darby O’Gill and the Little People. The Banshee arriving with the ghostly carriage still haunts me to this day. I am not sure that storytellers in the 1940s, 50s and 60s had the same concern for the emotional welfare of children that they do today. Or was it just me being a sensitive soul?

The Clock Cinema 1Regardless of a couple of trauma-inducing parts of the films, my experience was mainly joyous and grandma seemed to enjoy them. Afterwards, we would wearily make our way back to her house in Regent Terrace and even more food. The Dominion closed and our trips then would be to The Clock Cinema. As we were older, my brother and I would sometimes go to the Saturday Matinee. This was a thrill for a number of reasons. The first was because we went on our own and the second was because it was a bit of a wild experience. The matinee would start with the rigid control of the male usher, who would leave us in no doubt that any misbehaving would be very severely dealt with, and this started with the orderly queuing to pay for the tickets. There were hordes of excited children of quite a range of ages and they chatted frenetically and tended to push from behind. Woe betide anyone who was caught! Their afternoon excitement would end before it even started, as they would be turfed out unceremoniously. There was no duty of care in those days. The usher had a memory like an elephant and he would catch those foolish enough to try and enter again. A physical clip on the ear was not totally out of the question. Once we had passed the first test and got our tickets, we entered the cinema proper. The Clock was bigger than The Dominion and grander. It looked much more like a theatre than a cinema and it was resplendent, with layers of curtaining that were raised and pulled apart to reveal the screen. I believe there was even an organ that could rise in front of the screen, but maybe that is just wishful thinking. The noise in the cinema filled with hundreds of children was deafening and the excitement was even greater if you were on the upper level. Attendants patrolled, torches in hand, and there was no hesitation in evicting anyone who upset them in any way. Trips to the toilets were scrutinised to ensure that rogue children weren’t allowed admission through the fire exit. We did try it a few times as we got older, but the attendants would often check the tickets of those returning from the toilets. It must have come as a great relief when the show started. There were no films of any great merit. Silent movies would be mixed with a range of cowboy films, often The Lone Ranger. Laurel and Hardy were still on the go and I am sure that I remember a very early silent movie of Batman. I know there was a 1926 film, The Bat, which was an inspiration for Batman, but I am sure I remember Batman climbing on old cars in chases. Maybe someone can help me here. What I do remember well was that the films always seemed to snap or melt during the most exciting parts. Great cries of anguish would erupt from the audience. The lights would come on with a picture, telling us that the performance would resume as soon as possible. The attendants went into action. An example would be made of a group and an eviction occurred, and this had a calming effect on the remainder.

After what seemed like a lifetime, the film would have been spliced and off we went again. The lights dimmed and applause resounded around the cinema. Eventually, the show ended, and tired, but still excited droves of kids left through the exits and I am sure that some of the attendants would heave a sigh of relief, some needing a stiff drink. In winter, dusk would be setting in and we would trudge up the hill of Upland Road to our house in Gipton Wood Crescent.

We went to the cinema with my mum and my dad, but never together. I believe it was used to give them a bit of time on their own. My father developed a tradition of taking my older brother and me to the cinema on a Saturday evening, as that was when my grandma would visit and he wanted to get out of the house. The pictures we went to were very different from those that my grandma or mum would take us to. My dad loved an adventure film, but he would go far and wide to find something that both he and we would enjoy.

Filmed at Flamborough Head. Original song David Cameron

I think that we had changed cars from the Ford Prefect and I believe we had a blue Ford Anglia. In these days, cars were still very basic and there were no seat belts. Later, when they were introduced, they were only for the front seats. The outward sloping rear window of the Anglia made it unusual. The seats were quite bare and slippy and the dashboard was a hard metal that would have provided no cushioning in the event of an accident. Dad always ensured we sat in the back and we would head off to whatever film he had chosen. We never complained or questioned his choices and we saw some wonderful adventure films at a range of cinemas. Apart from The Clock and The Dominion, we would go to the Shaftsbury, The Lyric in Armley, The Cottage Road in Headingley, The Gaumont on Cookridge Street, The Hyde Park, The Lounge, and even the Lyceum in Bradford. I do remember going to the Harehills once or twice before it was demolished. I have probably missed some, but he was prepared to travel to find the right sort of film. He loved a western, but also had a passion for adventure of any sort. War films became more popular as we got a little older. Knights in armour and historical films were some of my favourite memories, and one that stands out to me was The Vikings, 1958, with Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Ernest Borgnine. I went to see it more than once and every time I left the cinema, I was in a state of elation. I would sweep my imaginary sword, cutting the legs from attacking Vikings, thrusting and parrying the fantasy foes. My brother was similarly lost in his imagination and we must have looked a right pair following my dad back to the car. It had everything I liked: adventure, tension, the hero almost being eaten by crabs and nearly drowned. It was fantastic, brutal and wonderfully exciting. Looking back, it was probably not the best choice for a young boy, but my dad loved it and so did my brother and I. The next big Viking saga I remember was the Long Ships with Sidney Poitier and Richard Widmark, released in 1964. This involved the search for a giant golden bell. I loved it! Jules Verne films such as 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Mysterious Island were also great fun.

Because my father never seemed to plan these outings in advance, we would often arrive after the films had started. This didn’t seem to worry him, and we would just find a seat and somehow pick up what had already happened. We would watch the film to the end, stand for the national anthem, and then sit back down and wait for the film to start again. We then proceeded to watch the section of the film that we had missed. I remember clearly the feeling of embarrassment as we entered during the movie and shuffled along rows, making people stand to let us pass as we found our seats. In these times there were often A and B films and sometimes we had to watch one and then part of the other to catch up with what we missed.

Smoking was allowed in cinemas when I was little and it was before segregation where smokers sat on one side. The air was heavy with smoke, but it was so common and we grew up with it that I never noticed it, apart from when the projected light would catch the smoky air as it made its way to the screen. Smoking was not frowned upon as it is today, but I know the damage that smoking Players Navy Cut did to my father’s health and shortened his life. Certainly, things have got much better in this regard.

 John Wayne was another star that my father loved and The Alamo, 1960, was another film that I remember vividly. It stood out from most of the films that we watched at the time, as the heroes died in the end. Probably my favourite film, as it had no ‘luvvy duvvy’, as I used to call it at the time, was Zulu. I would have been nine when this came out and I had no interest in such things as romance. This film catered for the three of us as it was all action. Heroes were heroes, and despite overwhelming odds, they won out in the end. Michael Caine and Stanley Baker were wonderful, and the film seems to have been shown on television every Christmas ever since.

I loved these times, and my dad seemed to love being with us. We would usually be allowed one treat: a drink, ice cream or bag of popcorn, and were returned home exhausted but excited, and my dad would then drop us off and take grandma back to her house in Chapel Allerton. We always behaved in the cinema and no one would have dared to have their feet on the seats in front and we took all our rubbish out with us. Time has not improved behaviour in cinemas and now everything is just dropped on the floor.

My mother would less frequently take me to the cinema. The films she took me to were not really my thing, but I remember The Pajama Game at The Clock Cinema. It was released in 1957, so it wasn’t a new film when I saw it. I don’t think I would have been three, but maybe I was. I also think we saw South Pacific, which was released in 1958, so I guess I was taken along to get her out of the house. My older brother would have been in school as it was during the day. I am not surprised that I didn’t really like the films, but I am surprised that I can even remember them. I also think I went with mum to see My Fair Lady in 1964, so I would then have been nine, Half a Sixpence in 1967 and Thoroughly Modern Millie the same year. Mum loved the songs from the shows and would always sing them around the house, but she never knew all the words and would run out of steam after the first verse and chorus.

As I got older, I used to love looking at the photographs on display of upcoming films. I remember clearly the pictures from Hitchcock’s The Birds, outside the Cottage Road, and Dr No and Gypsy displayed in a case outside the Clock Cinema. It was the scantily dressed ladies that caught my attention as I got a little older. The posters for the films were also works of art and they were often more interesting than the films. A visit to the cinema was always a memorable occasion and I can’t remember ever being disappointed.

Many of the cinemas started closing after the arrival of television, before the advent of the multiplex cinemas saw a new era for film and cinemas. The pictures were the place to take your girlfriend as you became a teenager, as I am sure they still are.

Two collections of my Cup of Tea Tales are available in paperback from Amazon and in eBook format from Kindle. If you click on the images it will take you to the site for either book.

8 Replies to “‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Trip to the Cinema – The Dominion, The Clock Cinema, The Shaftesbury and Others. 1950s and 1960s Leeds.”

  1. David, you’ve done it again….thanks for re-kindling fond memories of trips to the Dominion (my first film Bambi, and long lived trauma triggered after his mother was shot) and Saturday matinees at the Clock. We may well have been there at the same time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We may well have been there the same time. Glad you enjoyed it and I hope it didn’t bring back too many scary childhood memories, Andy. Good times to be young.


  2. Great memories . I lived on Gledhow park Ave and remember the Dominion and The Clock very well. I remember the foyer inside The Clock was really swanky, you walked up a staircase and was there a fountain ? Or has my imagination made it it? Cottage Rd Cinema is still open and showing up to date films and i havent been but i believe so is Hyde Park.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am delighetd you shared the same memories of the cinemas, Laraine. I am glad that some are still doing well. They hold a special place in the memories of so many of us. David


  3. Oh why have I just come across this..Its bloody amazing..my memories are from late 60s n early 70s..especially the Clock..loved the smell of it and the little water feature with pennies in it.Thankyou for this..I look forward to listening to them all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “…I am sure that I remember a very early silent movie of Batman. I know there was a 1926 film, The Bat, which was an inspiration for Batman, but I am sure I remember Batman climbing on old cars in chases. Maybe someone can help me here…” I was a regular at the Saturday afternoon kid’s matinee at The Regent, located at the bottom of Torre Road. I too remember a silent version of Batman. I think it was shown as a weekly serial and featured American cars of the ’20s and chaps decked out like typical gangsters of the era. My strongest memory is of Batman catching the crook and leaving him tied to a lampost at the corner of a street for collection by the police. So that there was no doubt who had caught them, he stamped the Bat sign on the crook’s forehead. Where he kept the stamp and the ink pad I have no idea.

    Liked by 1 person

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