A Night At The “Flicks”

Chatty's picture

Amongst the multitude of activities available on the Rock one brings back some excellent memories. A night at the Flicks. An evening at “The Blue Lagoon Cinema” ( see photo ) Not your actual Odeon or Gaumont, but in retrospect, you couldn’t get away with our antics in either of those two establishments. To start with a brief description of this Palace of Visual Pleasure. It was open air. In other words they were too bloody tight to supply a roof. A roof would have been a real bonus, because if it was going to rain on Christmas Island, it rained mainly at night and when it rained it didn’t take any prisoners. There was a fence around its perimeter, more to keep people in than out. Some of the films made even the strongest person want to apply to join the escape committee. At the lower end there was a huge screen. There must have been metal involved because some of the missiles that hit it during a bad film never seemed to penetrate the surface. Left a few traces of missile content, but never a hole. The seating consisted of two large blocks of seats going from ground zero at the front to about 20 feet above ground at the back, at an angle of about 45 degrees. In the middle of these two blocks of seats there was an aisle, more of a no man’s land really. The odd dog or cat would sit there waiting for “The master” to point out which Blue Job to savage. Behind the seats was the Projection Room, posh name for a basic corrugated sheeting hut, but it was dry and did give off a nice ringing sound when bombarded with whatever ammunition came to hand in the event of a breakdown. At the entrance there was another little hut. At a normal cinema this would have been called a kiosk, but that would have been stretching the imagination to its limits. Here sat the Cashier, “She” would collect the shillings for the privilege of entering the hallowed arena. It was also this person’s task to ensure that no contraband, ammunition or alcohol was smuggled in. No chance. Basically that was a watered down description of the “Blue Lagoon” One didn’t just go to the “Flicks”. A visit to the cinema was a case of special preparation and tactics. Firstly there was the list of special requirements that was the pride and joy of each individual. The main rule being “No duplicates”. The basic kit requirements were: A “Cinema Hat”, a cushion/cushions according to the tenderness of one’s “maximus glutimus”, backside to the uninitiated. Squaddies and Matelots = hard men, 1 Cushion, RAF (Blue Jobs) minimum of two cushions. Say no more. Smuggling equipment. This normally consisting of a large plastic bottle boldly labelled “Lemonade”. In some cases there were even hollowed out cushions but these were accepted as “specials” when carried by Army/Navy personnel, and not as comfort aids for the bum. Last but not least was the poncho/groundsheet. This served two purposes. Firstly to keep the wearer dry and secondly an essential item with regards to the Blue Lagoon Wave. Cinema Hats had to be seen to be believed. Some were absolute masterpieces of art. Others were just designed and worn to aggravate and annoy. Who really needs a hat 2-3 feet wide? My hat was in my considered opinion one of the masterpieces. Hours of work and scrounging had gone into its production. Chat up a chap called Les Schroeder from the Holmes & Narver site at Main Camp. This produced one of those wide rimmed, yellow American construction workers’ safety helmets. Go round the billets chatting up the model makers for any unused pilots, navigators or other small human type odds and ends. Glue said items to brim of hat, stencil some anti RAF slogan to back of hat, and ensure that chinstrap can cope with large flying missiles. End product, 1 custom designed Cinema Hat. The Lemonade bottle was just a “Front”, as alcohol was forbidden in the cinema. Not to protect the personnel, more to protect the structure. Drunken squaddies and matelots can really cause grief if the film’s not up to the standard expected. Fortunately the plonkers who took their turns as cashiers at the entrance were easily convinced that the two or more plastic bottles being carried were really lemonade. I suppose 50% Vodka + 50% lemonade did look convincing. They must still wonder to this day how so many people got absolutely legless on something as innocuous as lemonade. The show normally started off with the National Anthem. Good move really because if it was played at the end it would never have been audible over the sound of drunks clambering to get to the NAAFI before closing. After the Anthem came the best part of the evening. The cartoons. These were usually accompanied by the cheers and shouts of appreciation from the entire audience. “Come on Donald, sort her out”, “ Olive’s a skinny git”, “ Mickie’s a poofter” were just a few of the many lovable comments directed at the screen. As for the main feature. We’re talking 1963 now. None of your wide screen epics. No Ben Hur stuff. Just basic films that the Island’s censors considered suitable for the female-starved hoards of humanity. Maybe it was a wise move, because on the odd occasion when there may have been a bikini or subtle snog on the screen the screams of joy, pleasure and lust would have been heard on mainland America. It was also at this time that the screen was bombarded with whatever came to hand. Cans, bottles and in extreme cases Cinema Hats. I will always remember the day that “Jock” the NAAFI “Manageress” (must have been the way he walked) discovered dozens of cans of frozen solid Whiteways Cider at the bottom of his freezer. Because it was frozen he decided to drop the price to pennies to get shot of it to make room for more stock. More by accident than design, it was discovered that if you held the can carefully to a warm part of your body for 10-15 minutes it became a lethal weapon. Upon opening, it would make a few threatening noises and eject its contents at high speed in whatever direction the can was being pointed. Freezing cold cider laced with particles of ice shrapnel. This was too good an opportunity to miss. Soon the word was passed around to those who should know, Blue Jobs not included, that a new form of torment had been discovered. It wasn’t long before the entire stock had departed the NAAFI to be stored in the Army/Navy magazine. To cut a long story short, just after the cartoons the word was passed round that the cans had been warmed sufficiently to render them lethal enough to use. It wasn’t long before dozens of cans were removed from their various hiding places, aimed and fired. It’s really surprising what a glorious sight airborne cider can be, especially when its direction of travel is towards unexpecting Blueys. Looking from the back of the cinema to the front the aisle went down the centre of the two blocks of seats. The left hand block was reserved for RAF and those out of favour at the period in time. Being relegated to the Blue Job area was the most humiliating punishment that could be bestowed upon an individual. If there was a good film on and the only seat left free was in that section you would rather miss the film than be seen going into that area voluntarily. The right hand side was reserved solely for Army/Navy customers. Although it was sometimes the “custom” to let an unwitting “Bluey” sit there. There was always an ulterior motive to this. You were always guaranteed a direct hit with your empty can/bottle when they sat that close. Now to the poncho/groundsheet situation. The main reason this was carried was to protect against the rain. However, it had soon become obvious to a few evil people that the poncho and rain combined could become a useful device to annoy others. This soon became an Island national sport. It was the liquid version of the Mexican Wave. Wave being the operative word. Before I go into the technical details of the wave it should be pointed out that in the cinema, tradition and time served prevailed. The tradition being which side you sat, the time served dictated how far up the block you sat. Moonies and those with less time sat nearer the front, hence lower down, with time, you slowly progressed “up the ladder”. It was everyone’s final ambition to get to the top of the block, and the reason for this was the Wave. As soon as the rain clouds started appearing on the horizon everyone donned their Ponchos. Soon this wall of water would hit the cinema. As this happened a well rehearsed series of events would take place. Each person would grasp the back of the seat directly in front. This would cause the Poncho to belly out in front of you. The more rain that fell, the more water this belly would trap. You now had a cinema full of drunken yobbos waiting for the command “UP”. On this command the uppermost row would stand smartly to attention, this would in turn empty their reservoir over the heads of the next row down. They would then stand to attention. Get the picture? At the top the water could be calculated in pints, by the time everyone had gone through the motions the Moonies and sprogs at the bottom would receive a deluge worthy of a sizeable tidal wave. With perfect timing this whole event could be carried out in about 30-40 seconds. I was eventually lucky enough to graduate to the Upper Row. Makes life worth living don’t you think?

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Brian
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Joined: 18/05/2009
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Also, to add to this lot, back in 1957 you had to add lip-reading to your list of talents. Shakletons returning from met. flights would 'change gear' right over the top. This was to put their props into the correct setting for landing.
You could thus guarentee a couple of minutes wherein all the soundtrack was blotted out. Didn't get any refund for lost dialogue either!

Bri