Take me back to the Forties and Fifties

Usherettes and projectionist staff outside the Pavilion Cinema, Dalkeith (Photo: Scran)
Usherettes and projectionist staff outside the Pavilion Cinema, Dalkeith (Photo: Scran)

Those of us who grew up in Dalkeith during the 1940s and ’50s without the help of television could hardly claim fast-lane living, but we did have our moments, writes Murray Lawrie.

The Pavilion and the Playhouse provided the Saturday nightlife and as life progressed so did I progress from the Saturday afternoon matinee to the first house and then the second house.

The manager in his tuxedo periodically would raise the house lights and proceed up on to the stage amid the whistles and cat calls to make some announcement and 
always got a rousing cheer as he left the stage.

The same manager during the festive season matinee had a bag of buns and a new penny waiting for every one of us who had attended the matinee. A typical Saturday night at the Pavilion would be a serial followed by usually a western starring the Durango Kid or the Rough Riders with Buck Jones and Tim McCoy. Maybe even Johnny Mack Brown or Gene Autry with his wonder horse Champion then the big picture the Spiral Staircase or Lugosi in Dracula.

It was not only the actual movie or serial showing that made the night out complete but the live characters present like Geordie Bates who patrolled the aisles shining his torch and keeping us all in line. Often a cat call would sound from the body of the hall, “Hey Geordie, bend down I cannot see the screen!”

Then there was Killer Kane, a big military type, who never smiled, was very strict and did his best to keep us in order. It was around this time that the first traces of vandalism appeared. Someone had actually started slashing the seats and arms of the seats.

It was isolated at first but very soon became widespread. The manager appealed from the stage many times about the stupidity but the trend continued and we began to see a police presence in the cinema.

The interval was the time Kate Smith or May Davidson would come around with little tubs of ice cream and small cold drinks. Needless to say, once emptied the containers were used as ammunition which would rain down upon us from the balcony.

Talking of the balcony we always checked to see who occupied the cuddly seats. These seats were made to accommodate two people without a dividing arm. It makes you wonder how many Dalkeith couples started out on the cuddly seats at the Pavilion on a Saturday night?

Before you even entered the cinema, life was interesting outside in the long queue. This queue would stretch from the front door of the Pavilion, back to the traffic lights at the High Street then around the corner to Adams the Butchers.

I have previously told you of the police queue-control methods and an old Dalkeith pal of mine, Tom Martin, could imitate the policeman so well I could not tell them apart.

After the pictures, we would head for Joe Smith’s chip shop for a pie supper and eat it on the way home. The Saturday Pink and the Green Dispatch were the papers we all started off with to see how the Hearts or the Hibernian were doing. Since most of us worked until 6pm on a Saturday we seldom saw a football match and depended on the papers for a report. On a Sunday Roy Miller delivered our Sunday Post and Sunday Express for all the years I care to remember.

Since we never got the Sunday Mail I never did become a member of the Junior Sports Club although I did manage to scrounge some of his football star photographs mainly through my brothers. And I cut the action pictures out of the newspapers and stuck them in a home-made scrap book, some of which I still treasure.

Oor Willie and The Broons books were a big part of our life and my sister never fails to send me the annuals. After a long lie on a Sunday we would get up to black pudding, bacon and eggs. No one could make a breakfast like my mother. After church, Dalkeith had so much to offer in long country walks. I have walked many miles around Dalkeith and thought nothing of it. I’d love to go wandering along the Grassy Riggs. Up where Woodburn Avenue is now was a field at one point and a dairy farm grazed some cows there. The field was bordered at the North End by the Grassy Riggs where we had many an adventure. At the end of the Riggs, about where the new inn is now, was an old curling rink and later Frank Munro had a piggery. I can still hear some of the lads singing to the tune of The Happy Wanderer.

All this before the onset of girlfriends.

The Dalkeith High Street on a Sunday night was more of a parade when you and your pals would walk up and down meeting up with team-mates or having a look at the girls and wondering how to break the ice without looking like an idiot. Robert Burns was correct when he wrote:

“Oh would some power the gift give us.

“To see ourselves as others see us.”

We all make mistakes and I was the champion.