The Gaumont, St. John Ambulance and "Hitler"

"We come along to Saturday morning. Greeting everybody with a smile"

By Keith Harris

“We come along to Saturday morning. Greeting everybody with a smile” This was the opening song to another Saturday morning pictures at the Gaumont, Rosehill. It was 1957 and I was ten years old. I was given each week the princely sum of 1/- pocket money - 6d for the pictures, 1d worth of black-jacks and 5d which I saved towards my 2/6d Post Office Prince Charles saving stamps.

Every morning, rain or sunshine, we stood in the queue waiting for the “OFF”. One Saturday I noticed that some of my schools chums were going straight in without queueing. On Monday at Malmesbury Junior I caught up with them. “How come you didn't have to queue?” “St John Ambulance” was the answer…..”Join and you get in for FREE, because you are ON DUTY” Two weeks later, I was a member with a white canvas carry-bag containing one bandage, a clutch of Woolworth’s plasters held together by an elastic band, a pen-knife and most important an arm band.

Two weeks after that, I was 3rd into the semi-dark musty gloom of the Gaumont. I waited and then proceeded with my “PLAN”, walking slowly down to the front of the screen and opening the door on the right, getting a bigger chum to push down the emergency bar (I was too small) opening to the bright morning sunshine.

Waiting outside was Michael and Johnny (members of the St. Benet's gang). They handed me 3d, I handed them a used ticket picked up from the floor. There were only two rules:- (1) they had to chew the ticket slightly there and then and (2) sit in different parts of the Gaumont. During the films, “Hitler” used to come round with a torch, checking that everybody had a ticket. If he asked one of the gang, they were under instructions to stare at the screen, take the ticket out of their mouth, hold it up so “Hitler” could see it.“Dirty little sods” he would shout, moving on to the next victim.

This caper lasted for three months, with a final six from the gang operating it at 3d entrance and I gained  four more 2/6d saving stamps………HAPPY DAYS.

This page was added by Keith Harris on 01/12/2010.
Comments about this page

Hi.Keith, yes I remember that dodge, it worked well most of the time. We used to use the same scheme at the Granada in Sutton on Sunday afternoons. We were a bit more blase`about it there because the ushers were terrified by the pressure of numbers working the dodge. At the Odeon at Morden they had got wise to this, so we had to send one lad in with a ticket and he would open the transom window to let the rest of us in. It was only a small window and we had to master the technique of getting through it. We didn't think of it as breaking the law, it was all good fun and all part of growing up.

By Peter S J Leonard
On 20/03/2011

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