Abernethy, Aberargie and Dron News

Last date for submissions

31st October 2017

Date of publication

1st December 2017

MEMORIES OF STAGE AND SCREEN

Back in the days before television took over our lives the cinema was the main source of entertainment. In my younger days Perth had four cinemas the Alham- bra (later the Odeon), Cinerama, Kings and the Playhouse. My favourite was the Playhouse with its Art Deco frontage and the popular tearoom upstairs. A regular routine was to meet the current girlfriend after work, have tea in the café and then take in a film, preferably from the back row! The commissionaire was wee Willie McGillivray resplendent in his green uniform with yellow piping topped by his peaked hat. Ironically he was a keen Rangers fan and was reputed to have shares in the club, which could have been true because if any of the lads had been to a match at Ibrox he always asked if there had been a good attendance. He also had a job backstage at Perth Theatre and was a familiar sight with his little pug dog on a lead. Queuing up to gain admission was common, particularly on a Saturday evening and it was not unusual to get in halfway through the feature film and have to sit through the entire programme of trailers for forthcoming attractions, newsreels and perhaps the occasional Donald Duck cartoon until "this is where we came in" was the signal to rise and make room for others waiting to get in. Waiting on the pavement to get in to the Alhambra one could hear the soundtrack from the projection room which was fine if it was a musical. Commissionaire at the Alhambra was Ronnie Moyes. His outfit was blue and he was keen St Johnstone fan and also followed the fortunes of Perth Panthers Ice Hockey team. Although cinemas were closed on Sunday the Alhambra was the original venue for the Perth Film Society which met monthly on a Sunday evening enabling us to see foreign films not on gen- eral release such as " Monsieur Hulot's Holiday" starring Jacques Tati. During the war years the Alhambra also had occasional Sunday evening shows billed as "Garrison Theatre" where I saw my first big band in action namely Lew Stone and his Orchestra. The Cinerama in South William Street was commonly known as the "BBs" (Bright and Beautiful).A less complimentary name was the "Bughouse". It specialised in horror films starring the likes of Bela Lugosi. I can recall as a youngster hurrying up the street in the blackout half expecting a monster to emerge from a dark close to attack me. Popular films often returned to the Kings for a second showing and I recall that my hopes of seeing "The Glenn Miller Story" for the fourth time were dashed when my date developed a severe attack of toothache and we had to leave the cinema.

Live entertainment was provided by Perth Theatre and the Pavilion. My first visit to the Pavilion which was located on the corner that is now the South Inch Car Park was when I was about eleven or twelve and my sister Betty took me to see Sir Harry Lauder. I recall being fascinated by the high-kicking chorus girls in their fishnet tights. The Pavilion always hosted a summer show. It served as a transport café for some years prior to demolition.

First visit to Perth Theatre was with the school to see Henry V. Despite the presence on the stage of theatrical luminaries such as Sir Lewis Casson and Dame Sybil Thorndike we were more interested in the girls from another school sitting in the row in front of us. My appetite for the Theatre dates back to a Saturday evening as a teenager when, at a loose end, I paid a modest sum for a seat in the gods (upstairs balcony for the uninitiated) to see a summer show starring the wellknown Aberdonian comedian Harry Gordon known as the Laird of Inversnecky. Subsequent Summer Shows starred most of the big names in Scottish variety such as Dave Willis, Alec Findlay, Johnny Victory, Johnny Beattie, Clark and Murray and The Alexander Brothers. During the Winter months the Perth Rep put on some wonderful productions featuring young hopefuls such as Edward Woodward and Russell Hunter later to become big names on TV. The voice of Jane Cain was the one you heard when you dialled to get the latest time on the 'phone. Gordon Jackson spent a season gaining stage experience and I will never forget his portrayal of Lachie in "The Hasty Heart". Others were Duncan Macrae, best remembered for the "Wee Cock Sparra", and Andy Stewart in his early days s a budding actor.

I did tread the boards on one occasion at Perth Theatre, Not, I hasten to add, in an acting capacity. One Satur- day night I attended a party on the stage at the conclusion of the Summer Show. Refreshment was supplied by a large bowl containing a potent mixture of who knows what. That was when I discovered the alternative meaning of "punch drunk". I emerged into the cool night air and have vague memories of splashing out on a taxi to take me home. Fortunately I got there before splashing out in the taxi.

Bob Macdonald