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FRONT OF HOUSE AT THE                                       would go. We would also try to even
                                                                               out the seating pattern across the
                                                                               auditorium. There was never any
                                                                               trouble with drunks or any need to call
                                                                               the police in my time. There was
                                                                               usually one girl in charge of each shift
                                                                               if there was an emergency. Cool heads
                                                                               were needed the day one poor woman
                                                                               had a miscarriage.
                                                                                  The sound from the screen was
                                                                               controlled by an usherette on duty in
                                    By  Loraine Wood                           the dress circle. She sat in the front row
                                                                               where there was a knob set on a rail
            The letter from Hoyts told me that  We liked the St James for some reason.    just like the volume control on a radio.
          my interview had been successful. It  Work was sometimes a broken shift  It was her call as to how much volume,
          was the most exciting news of my life -  - on in the morning, then back for the  adjusted according to the size of the
          accepted to work at the Capitol   intermediate, or start with the matinee  audience.
          Swanston Street, the theatre that always  and come back for the evening show.  At the end of the show the same
          left me goggle-eyed as a child. The  The chief of staff would allocate the  usherette would ask a selection of
          letter explained when to come in for a  sessions roster and the area where we  lounge patrons for their comments
          fitting for my uniform. It was a proud  would be on duty. Front Stalls on  about the film, the service and their
          girl who took her place with the ten  Saturday night was NOT the best  seats - or record anything else they
          other usherettes in the staff line. Here I  assignment, but it was shared around, at  might like to say. We would write it all
          was, dressed for the first time in the  least to some extent. The ‘pets’ got the  down on a report sheet then take it to
          standard uniform                                                                      the office for
          of white blouse,                                                                      inspection. Of
          burgundy top and                                                                      course at times we
          long skirt.                                                                           would doctor it -
            I don’t think an                                                                    ‘lovely girls, good
          usherette’s job was                                                                   attention to
          ever advertised. It                                                                   patrons, etc’.
          was one of those                                                                        For some
          things - you                                                                          sessions a doorman
          fronted up dressed                                                                    was on hand. He
          as best you could,                                                                    would open the
          no references                                                                         door and direct
          needed. They                                                                          patrons to the right
          either liked the                                                                      or to the left where
          look of you or they                                                                   an usherette was
          didn’t. I don’t                                                                       waiting for them in
          think brains had                                                                      the aisle. Once the
          anything to do with                                                                   show started and
          it, height and bust                                                                   the latecomers
          measurement were                                                                      were seated, we
          more important.                                                                       could also sit
            Our work hours                                                                      down.
          matched the four                                                                        At night after
          sessions a day of every city theatre. The  Lounge or A row. The more glamorous  the peak, some shifts finished early,
          work routine was to be on duty for two  the girl, the more likely she would be  leaving just two usherettes upstairs and
          sessions a day, based around a morning  rostered to the higher priced seating, or  two down. There was a bench seat in
          session 10.15am - 1.15pm, matinee  so we thought.                    the back stalls or a lounge seat in the
          1.15pm - 4.15, intermediate 4.15pm -  The night session was ‘on block’  lounge for those still on duty. I liked
          7.30 and the night session 7.15pm -  (allocated seating) and some Saturdays  the king-size chair in the upstairs foyer
          11.00. There was one day off a week.  were too. For these sessions we had to  from where I could direct patrons
          Theatres did not open on a Sunday, so I  make sure that patrons went to the right  around to the left to the lounge, or up
          had a two-day break like most working  seat. This sometimes meant moving  the stairs to the upper dress circle.
          people, except that the days were rarely  people who had misheard my instructions
                                                                                  The Capitol was a single balcony
          consecutive.                      (“Leave four and take the next two”) and
                                                                               theatre with two levels of entrances.
            On the day off some of us might go  those who had deliberately moved after I  The front balcony (the Lounge) was
          to a movie together. We would front up  had seen them seated.        entered from the Lounge foyer and the
          to the doorman, tell him we were from  Without ‘block’ we would just lead  Upper Dress Circle (the seats closer to
          the Capitol and always get in. This  them down the aisle, shine the torch  the projection room) had its own foyer,
          worked at all theatres, not just Hoyts.  into any row we chose and in they

          14  2007 CINEMARECORD
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