Romance in the back row left me very red faced

I was very impressed in the summer by Sukran Sahin s article on the forgotten cinemas (June 11th) – those wonderfully splendid emporiums of escapism. Drawn to them by the derring-do of Errol Flynn and the road-worthy antics of Hope and Crosby they had

I was very impressed in the summer by Sukran Sahin's article on the forgotten cinemas (June 11th) - those wonderfully splendid emporiums of escapism. Drawn to them by the derring-do of Errol Flynn and the road-worthy antics of Hope and Crosby they had other, back row, attractions for hot-blooded teenagers.

In the darkness we groped and grappled with more interest on what was inside a bra than the opening credits of the main feature. She was also right in that we often scratched our way home after a session in the old Electric in Barking, the Astoria in Seven Kings and another bug hutch in Manor Park whose name escapes me.

But most of them were wonderful buildings - with soft carpeting, padded seats and internal decorations - the result of thirties art nouveau architecture. In them, between gropings, as well as the big picture we'd watch a cheap 'B' film, a newsreel with 'up-to-the-month' news items, the odd Tom and Jerry cartoon and the old Pearl and Dean advertising film.

All that, along with the trailer for the following week's action-packed thriller, passionate love story or 'music and dance' spectacular, for less than a quid.


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Today's young men have different choices when dating a girl for the first time - restaurants or night clubs (which were posh places for rich people wearing dinner jackets in our day). For us it was just 'the flicks' or the Saturday Night Hop, though both had their advantages in seduction opportunities.

Sukran mentioned several that I had intimate (a word I use advisedly here) knowledge of, but the one that triggered the best memory was the old Mayfair in Beacontree Heath. The Glenn Miller Story had come out many years before, in the early fifties, but films were often brought back for a second run, years later.

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In the early sixties, shortly after I started courting 'Dearly Beloved', after finding her in a glue factory in Manor Park, the Mayfair started a week's showing of that great James Stewart picture. I offered her the opportunity of coming with me to see it and of course she jumped at the chance.

Thus it was that on that Saturday night I bought a couple of tickets at the box office, acquired the obligatory box of Black Magic, and we were ushered into the darkness. The programme had already started but had only got as far as the B film so we hadn't missed Glenn, but we had arrived late. That meant that all the back row seats had filled up, so we had to be content with being a couple of seats just in front of that row.

That wasn't too bad because we knew the back row seats would be full of courting couples like us anyway. So we sat down, made ourselves comfortable and I settled down to an evening of seduction, to Miller music like 'In the mood' and 'Moonlight serenade'.

There we were, happily snogging between mouthfuls of Black Magic and lungfuls of Senior Service, totally oblivious to all that was going on around us and most of the time with my hands well and truly inside her blouse. I have always enjoyed that film and the surroundings and swish decor of the old Mayfair along with the seduction really made it a night to remember.

When we finally surfaced, preparing to join the mad rush to get out before the national anthem and with her doing some buttons up, I happened to glance back at the seats behind us. There was my mum and dad - him smirking, her with disapproval written over her face.

They'd been sitting there when we'd been shown into the seats directly in front of them, but hadn't felt it necessary to warn me.

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