P. 6

In 1927, a spate of events hit us and the world
        outside  Port  Phillip  Bay.  Charles  Lindbergh
        flew from New York to Paris; the Duke and
        Duchess  of  York  came  to  our  city;  in  New
        York, baseball freak Babe Ruth signed on for
        US$ 100,000 a year.

        The Pies beat the Tigers in pouring rain on the
        hallowed turf, then, on 26 October at 50 Barkly
        Street,  Carlton,  occurred  the  shooting  of
        gangsters  "Squizzy"  Taylor  and  "Snowy"
        Cutmore, two very vicious villains who, in the
        early 20s, had more publicity than Gary Ablett,
        Tony Lockett and "Big Ronny" put together.
        That  shooting  in  John  Elliott's  favourite
        arrondissement,  and  the  myriad  conjecture  it
        opened up, was Melbourne's big talking point
        for weeks. And, as schoolboys at Cambridge
        Street  School  in  "Carringbush",  four  of  us
        walked over to Carlton to "suss" out the murder
        scene.  All  we  found  were  four  Marchants
        lemonade bottles and an old frying pan with a
        hole in it.                                         Above: Hoyts usherettes lined up for pre-show inspection.
                                             (Frankie kicked that off in 1942) but when the  midnight). But, I was after those two flash suits,
        When  the  Palais  burst  upon  Melbourne,  tabbies and the flappers hit the Palais or the  and work has never been a bother to me or my
        suddenly, all other news was "old hat".  Capitol in the 20s, 30s and 40s, their escorts  generation.
                                             had  to  say  "down  Rover"  or  words  to  that
        The  owner  of  the  Palais,  Messrs  H.  &  L.  effect!  In  brief,  these  lads  were  the  On our staff of eight ushers at the cinema were
        Phillips,  insisted  on  harmony  of  design  Chippendales  of  their  time.  The  only  thing,  two "heavies", both ex-pugilists who paid their
        throughout their luxurious edifice and, to make  these boys kept their daks on (well, they did  dues at Jack Wren's West Melbourne "House
        sure there was harmony in their theatre, had a  while on duty; however ....)  of Stoush" and Jimmy Sharman's tent at Royal
        small mobile brigade of ushers. Brother, these                           Show time, so they had a lot of whimsical olde
        young  chaps  were  the  original  "Gladiators",  Usherettes, too, were the pride of their cinemas  world  charm  and  cheerful  joviality  in  their
        1927 version.                        and in the 30s and 40s there was an unofficial  make-up. Actually, when I was introduced to
                                             competition in Melbourne to see who had the  them I reckoned you'd have a better chance of
        Like  their  Capital  Theatre  brethren  in  most  gorgeous  usherettes.  All  the  theatres  surviving  in  a  tank  full  of  piranhas  and
        Swanston Street, Melbourne, the Palais ushers  around town produced some individual honeys,  ravenous  crocodiles  then  meeting  these  two
        were hand-selected. First requisite was they had  but it was nearly always a drawn game among  charmers in the back lane in Richmond. But
        to be 6'1" tall - not 5' 11" or 6'4", but 6'1" -  the lasses at the Capitol, the Regent and the  first impressions can be erroneous, and the three
        perfectly  fit,  and  if  a  young  rooster  did  not  Plaza, for their lovely young ladies were the  of us became good cobbers in no time at all; so
        possess these attributes, it was a sheer waste of  epitome of perfection. They also gave a lot of  how wrong can you be?
        time applying for the job. The females of the  young chaps heart palpitations as they collected
        90s would smartly nominate them as hunks or  the entrance tickets.
        some word that sounds like that (after all this
        is a family magazine, not that sexy old Becket's  In the tough suburbs of Collingwood, Fitzroy,
        Budget).                             Port Melbourne, Richmond, Brunswick etc, etc,
                                             were lots of lads with a boisterous nature and
                                             Raging Bull outlooks.
                                             They  were  not  applicants  for  Murder
                                             Incorporated - well, not all of them - but most
                                             of these coves could obtain bit parts in Casino,
                                             Goodfellows  or  Romper  Stomper.  As  I  said,
                                             lovable  young  chaps  who  could  erupt  like  The usherette directs patrons to their seat with the
                                             Mount Vesuvius, and quite a few of these lads  correct use of the torch.
                                             attended  The  Cinema  in  Richmond  where  I  But, back to biz. As soon as trouble threatened,
                                             applied for a position as an usher.  they'd immediately rip the ringleaders out on
                                                                                 to the vacant allotment, belt the daylights out
             The  tool of  trade for an usherette  Wanting  the  money  to  purchase  a  couple  of  of  them,  then  call  their  cobbers  out.  "Here's
                                             classy tailor-made "juicy fruits" from Maurie  your mates; stack on an act here again and that's
        Their uniforms - the uniforms at the Capitol  Lieber  of  the  Manchester  Unity,  I  presented  what you'll cop!" No patty-cake methods with
        were  identical  -  were  at  snappy  grey  jacket,  myself to the manager of The Cinema. The  these pair of centurions; they had any would-be
        gold buttons, red tabs on the lapels and a red  manager looked me up and down and was not  troublemakers as nice as pie. It made life more
        epaulette on each shoulder.          terribly impressed with my rather scrawny and  tolerant for us weakies skulking up in the dress
                                             weedy  physique  but,  after  listening  to  my  circle.
        Down each side seam of their tailor-made grey  pathetic pleading relented. "Okay, we'll keep
        trousers ran a burgundy stripe and, to complete  you for the lounge and dress circle; up there  Hoyts management put its ushers into a smart
        the sartorial splendour, swish grey gloves. No  you'll be reasonably safe and out of harm's way.  burgundy jacket (which was modelled on the
        wonder the flappers of the times thought they  That cheerful interview took the sickly smile  uniforms of the ushers of New York's famous
        were "the ants' pants". When these chaps were  off my dial but the thought of the big money I'd  Roxy Theatre on West 45th Street) and natty
        on their "station" of an evening, they were a  earn  for  a  night's  ushering  cheered  me  up  black  trousers,  which  made  even  an
        sight for sore eyes (as well as health ones!).  somewhat,  for  it  was  a  whole  14  shillings  unimpressive  crackerjack  like  me  look
        "Swooning" had not entered the lingo in 1927  ($1.40)  for  five  hours'  work  (7.00  pm  to  12  reasonably presentable.

        6   CINEMARECORD  # 99
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