Volume 9 Issue 49
(From the Editor) Don writes in his covering letter tome: “You probably never had the doubtful pleasure of attending a Saturday matinee at the Avondale Town Hall as the pictures were advertised, long before the place had a name. Mrs. Hayward was a force to bereckoned with. It deserves to be recorded. Movie showsare no longer like I remember them. Whether that’s for better or worse I’m not sure.
Picture theatres were commonly called bug houses.They often smelled of Lysol or strong disinfectant. Mum sort of disapproved of such places. Her aunt had been bitten by some nastyinsect at one. Later, the story goes, shewas silly enough to go back to the same place, only because there was no other place she could see a certain film. Of course, she was nipped again and theinfection went wild. We were forbiddento ever go to that theatre — ever.
I suppose all families have their petnames for things. One of ours is TheLocal Bugs. Short for local bug house,another name for the flea pit or picturetheatre. The local bugs isn’t really atheatre anyway and it hasn’t got a fancyname either. The building was made asthe Avondale Town Hall way back in1915 and reflects the style of the times, heavy classicalfaçade, columns and all, fronting a large almost win-dowless, barn like, concrete structure. But it is the pic-tures now and that makes it important in our 1940s sub-urbia.Saturday mornings are always much the same thesedays, gloriously sunny and not much to do. I wander upthe road to George’s and we sit lethargic in the sun andyarn. George is sure to ask, “Goinflicksarvo?” Goin-flicksarvo would have made a good title for this littleessay. It means “Are you going to the Local Bugs thisSaturday afternoon?” It's always a difficult question.George knows he is allowed to go, but my fate alwaysseems to be in the balance till the last minute. I alwayswant to go to the bugs though so I say, “Yes, I’m goingand what’s on anyway?”Dad works till midday. Most fathers do on Saturdays.By the time we have got through the big roast dinner,George has arrived and is fretting because it’s almosttwo o’clock. Finally the deliberations are made, the lawis laid down, my ninepence is doled out and George and
The Avondale Historical Journal
I race off to the bug house. Mrs. Hayward is in theticket box. She surveys us with a superior air and takesour sixpence in exchange for two admit ones. The lamedoorman is there as usual. He takes the tickets andallows us to enter bedlam. Somewhere Victor Sylvesteris playing. It’s always the same record — well, the bitsthat rise above the other noise in the hall always soundthat way. Mum calls all Victor Sylvester stuff bughouse music. We’ve found seats with a good view of the screen, but safe from the richer kids upstairs whothrow things or spit on the poor beneath.As usual we are only just in time. VictorSylvester isn’t on anymore and Mrs.Hayward has decided her theatre patronsneed a dose of discipline and is nowstanding on the stage. She sucks herteeth, stands erect — and waits. Andwaits. Now it is quiet enough to beheard. Mrs. Hayward issues her weeklyplea, “Please children, don’t stand on theseats. They may collapse and trap yourlegs.” The kids aren’t impressed and aregetting noisy again. Gradually theyrealise Mrs. Hayward is going tocontinue. She waits. Quiet again. Nowshe gives us a choice of the film to beshown.
“I have two films here. There is a lovestory,
The Blue Gardenia
, a beautiful picture, lovelystory, very romantic and it has singing and dancing …”She can no longer be heard. The lady stops. Quietnessis returning. “The other film is
” Shesays it with obvious distaste. “Gene Autry is in it —”Her words are lost, this time in clapping and cheering.Resigned that she can’t guide us in the right culturaldirection, Mrs. Hayward stalks off the stage. The drumsare rolling. We stand and it’s
God Save The King
, onlythe first few bars to a blank screen. The lights go outand the shorts are on.
Soon it’s the serial, the climax of the shorts, alwayswith an untouchable hero, Tom Mix or Kit Carson orsome other bloke that always scrapes through anunbelievable catastrophe at the end of every episode.There it is again. The hero has survived. There he goes, jumping clear just as the train plunges off the blown upbridge. Last week he got out of an exploding barn, thetime before he escaped sure death under the wheels of the stage coach by hanging onto the frame. George isasking me, “Do you remember
The Iron Claw
The Local Bugs
By Don Gwilliam