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Whilst at school in the last year, a school mate asked me if I wanted an after school job. I already had a paper round from the paper shop near Tilbury Town station. And to do another job suited me fine. It was at the Bug Hutch. I was introduced to the Manager, Ron Castle, and was shown the ropes. One of my first tasks was to operate the curtains, known as the tabs in the trade. My mate John who was also there, showed me what to do.
Well it was my turn to do the tabs. So I went into the auditorium walked across the front of the stage, let myself into the side door (near the mens toilets, that you could smell a mile away). I stood there holding the rope, staring along the 40 foot screen. It dawned on me all I could see was a flickering light. I froze not knowing when to shut the tabs at the end of the film. It all went quiet so I thought i`d better shut the tabs. After they were closed I heard music and thought i`d better open the tabs. That done, I went back up to the projection room and was greeted by a barrage of abuse from the chief projectionist. He went on for ten minutes or more. I wondered what on earth was wrong. My mate then told me what had happened. The film had ended and I had not shut the tabs. (it was sacrilege to have a blank screen in them days.) So the chief started the next film. The film was getting going when I decided to shut the tabs. Hence the rollicking I received. I complained and said why can`t we put a red light behind there, turn it on from the box when you want tabs closed, and off to open them. All was fine after that.
Back in those days everything was clean cut and pure. You never heard a swear word in the films or saw any sex back then. I remember we showed a film that was filmed entirely in a nudist camp. It was called “The Garden Of Eden” All you saw were backs of people. I`m sure people left the cinema feeling cheated by not seeing anything.
I loved doing the Saturday morning film shows for the kids. They always ended with a serial, like Superman or Batman. Leaving each episode in limbo, making them come back next week to see what happened. The main film we used with the kids shows had to be cut shorter to fit in the time allowed. On one occasion I cut too much out and we were going to finish early. When the serial finished the kids used to rush out trying to avoid the crush. On this occasion I put on an extra cartoon to fill the time and saw them all rushing back to their seats. (I couldn`t stop laughing)
One evening Ray said put your old clothes on and come in early next morning as we were going to paint the outside of the Bug. So I turned up suitably dressed and was handed a paint brush. We used yellow paint and me being the smallest and lightest was sent up the ladder and on to the canopy (which the buggers have today removed) and began painting. It took weeks in all, to paint all over. I got the bits where Ron & Ray wouldn`t do.
One evening there was a terrific storm and water was running down the walls inside the cinema and down the aisles. Next morning all us men came in wearing our old clothes and started spreading synthaprufe all over the roof. I think that cured the leaks.
The three films I remember the most were “High Noon” / The Searchers / Moby Dick. When we had packed houses, and manager Ron running about like a cat on hot bricks in case the film broke down (snapped) we would have had riots on our hands.
One evening I turned up for work and Ray was late in. I laced the projectors up ready. When it was 5.00 o`clock I started the film. This caused the staff to run around like headless chickens, moaning that they had not opened up yet. When let in, the punters were moaning about missing the start of the film.