Usher Nazis and Choo Choo Bars

Nana and Grandad Smith lived at 25 Davison Street, Brunswick when I was growing up.  It was a single fronted brick terrace house with blue stone cobbled gutters on the street and in the lane that ran down the back of the house.

As with Dad’s family many of Mum’s relatives lived in the same general vicinity and so when we visited their were always other members of the family present.  When I was a toddler my great-Grandmother Janet Woolley lived there and I still have memories of playing hide and seek where she would let me hide my head under her apron. It was out of sight out of mind, if I couldn’t see anyone then obviously they couldn’t see me either.

Nana’s brother, Uncle Alf, who won the Military Medal in World War 1, had lung cancer and Nana nursed him until his death which seemed a long time coming at the time.  I don’t remember too much about him but I did inherit his 3/4 size bed [a bit smaller than a double] and thought I was a king when I got into it.  It was the bed I slept in until I got married in 1982.  It never occured to me at the time that it was the bed an old uncle had died in.   Incidentally the citation for his medal states that it was awarded when he entered the trenches and captured thirty Turks alone.  Must have been a pretty gutsy effort.

That bed had one other unfortunate accident.  At my 21st Birthday, Dad had invited a young bloke he worked with.  He was always bringing home people he’d met for meals and the obligatory sharing of the beer.  Unfortunately this bloke got absolutely paralytic and was put to sleep in my bed which he promptly wet.   Took days for the mattress to dry.

But as I sometimes do, I’ll move from the digression back to the topic at hand, which I should have said early on is about what we did in Brunswick on Saturday afternoons.  Often if we weren’t at the footy watching our beloved blues play at Princes Park, we would be sent off to the pictures at the Padua Theatre in Sydney Road, Brunswick.    It was a big deal for little kids to walk to those places by themselves in those days and generally there were at least four of us, Karen and I and our cousins Gavin, Kerry and Phillip at various times.

This was a typical art deco theatre of the time, the stalls down below and the expensive seats where the more well off could sit up top in the dress circle.

The Padua had been built by Hoyts in 1937 and was closed in 1968 much to our sorrow.   It was then leased to a couple of Itialian blokes Tony and Franco Zeccola who re-opened it in August 1969 as the Metropolitan playing Italian language films which wasn’t much help to us.    This continued until December 1981 when the doors closed for the last time before it was demolished in January and February of 1982.

A full page article in The Argus Newspaper in Melbourne was published on 23rd July 1937 announcing the opening.   It seated 2000 people, had such luxuries as foot warmers, air conditioning and a crying room for children.  The first weeks entertainment included Charles Rainsford and his Swing Orchestra on stage with screening of the Errol Flynn and Olivia De Haviland movie The Charge of the Light Brigade.   The paper also announced that there would be short screening of the Walt Disney Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey’s Circus in full colour.

In 1954 a cinemascope camera system was installed which allowed the display of wide screen movies and I can remember one in particular that stuck in my mind.  How the West was Won was a mind blowing movie on the big screen at the time.

But I had other favourites that still stick in my mind to this day.   Such classics as Snow White and the Three Stooges.


The Black Knight

And what was a trip to the pictures without lollies. Favourites were White Knights and Choo Choo Bars which turned your entire mouth black and which would last almost the entire movie they were so chewy. And of course there were the boxes of jaffas. I wasn’t one for rolling them down the aisle, much better to eat them but maybe the reason for rolling them was in the hope that an usher Nazi might step on some and fall over.

When the theatre opened in 1937 The Argus reported that the entire work force was male.  Certainly by the time we were going in the mid sixties many of the usherettes were women.  I am pretty sure that they were women, but some of them had mustaches that would have made Groucho Marx proud, and voices that reminded me of the bad guys in the World War 2 movies.  “Feet off Seat” and “Quiet Down” were growled at the kids whilst London Blitz Spotlights were shone into our faces.  I truly thought they may have been Nazis in disguise and I feared for the lives of the kids who were occasionally grabbed by the ear and escorted out never to be seen again.  Woe betide anyone who was actually found to be in the wrong seat.  I was pretty certain that such a heinous offence must have meant the gas chamber or hanging for them.

What movies stick in your mind from your childhood?



  1. JTS said,

    January 16, 2011 at 5:15 am

    The little movie theater in the small rural town where I grew up held none of the glamour of yours, but it was still a magical place for us to spend Sunday afternoons as kids while our parents rested and enjoyed a briefly quiet house. Your post reminded me of those carefree days of childhood… and of the old grumpy couple who owned and operated the theater. I can still visualize their scowling faces as they doled out tickets and popcorn and monitored noise levels and feet on the backs of seats during the movie. Of course I now realize that dealing primarily with bunches of noisy, unruly children and young adults could not have been much fun!

  2. Anonymous said,

    January 16, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I remember Snow White and the Three Stooges. That was fab.We weren't taken or allowed to go to the movies much… Probably once a year if that. So I do remember the very few we did see.Mary Poppins… Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Love Bug.Not sure why later on I became a bit of a movie buff and to this day enjoy the movies very much.Interesting too that I find my mother (even now) complains how much money I waste and the kids waste going to the movies. I will quite often see a movie on my own. Love them on the big screen.Jen

  3. Andrew said,

    January 16, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Great colour as usual Loz, even it was in black and white times. I doubt the Padua would have had air-con back then, more likely good ventilation. I forgot about foot warmers. I remember them at the now demolished Yallourn Cinema. Well, all of Yallourn had been demolished. But I don't recall that they worked. The first movie I can remember was at a drive in, Blue Pacific I think it was called, with Julie Andrews.

  4. River said,

    January 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I remember going to the pictures with my Dad every Thursday night after Mum left us. Dad loved westerns, and Thursday night was "ranch" night with two westerns, a newsreel and a cartoon. We always had Maltesers and before the movies we had dinner at the fish'n'chip cafe. Dad would have a "mixed grill" plate and I would have baked beans on toast. Very occasionally I'd have fish'n'chips.

  5. Marja said,

    January 17, 2011 at 7:53 am

    What an interesting history I had to think for a minute because a blogging friend of mine lives in Brunswick — Canada so there is one in australia as well. We never went to the movies as kids. We got our first black and white TV when I was about 5 I think and I loved the wild west movies. The first time I went to the movies I must have been 14 and I went with my mum to Gone with the wind I only remember bits of it

  6. Loz said,

    January 17, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Probably right Josie – some of us were fair little buggers 🙂

  7. Loz said,

    January 17, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Jen – most of the Disney stuff we saw with Mum and Dad at the Burwood Drive in. Going to the pictures with my older cousins was much more grown up.

  8. Loz said,

    January 17, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I can remember South Pacific but not Blue Pacific Andrew.

  9. Loz said,

    January 17, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I still love westerns River. Really looking forward to the remake of True Grit

  10. Loz said,

    January 17, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Hi Marja – Brunswick, Coburg and Heidelberg are all near enough adjacent suburbs here in Melbourne. My Mum used to rave about Gone with the Wind and for many years I scoffed but when I finally watched it really enjoyed it.

  11. ClaireyH said,

    January 17, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I saw ET at the drive in with my parents and remember we all fell asleep in the back of the two tone orange and cream ford falcon.I also remember hating those choo bars!

  12. Loz said,

    January 17, 2011 at 10:27 am

    How could you possibly fall asleep during ET 🙂

  13. JTS said,

    January 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Loz, I am starting a new Memories on Mondays meme on my blog. I think you should post a link to this one there, or choose any of the wonderful memories you've shared with us!

  14. Snowbrush said,

    January 18, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Usherettes? Such class! I well remember 25-cent double features with a newsreel, a cartoon, and a serial cliffhanger. I also remember walking out on "Gone with the Wind" when the movie stopped and the word "Intermission" appeared. I didn't know what the word meant, and assumed that it was a fancy word for "The End." Twenty years later, I saw the rest of the movie, and didn't like the real ending any better than the one that preceded the intermission.The movie that hit me hardest back then was "House on Haunted Hill," especially that pit of acid under the floor.

  15. Loz said,

    January 18, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I'm in Josie

  16. Loz said,

    January 18, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Hi Snowbrush – Yep we got the newsreels and serials as well – I remember Batman. Gone with the Wind – you either love it or hate it.

  17. Linda May said,

    January 19, 2011 at 3:23 am

    G'Day Loz, pleased to meet ya. Cool post, appropriate for memory mondays, and all the more so that it prompts our own picture theater memories. You forgot about throwing things up in the air so you could see them in the light from the projectors. Haha. Hey you can still get choo choo bars in some specialty lolly shops . Grin. My funniest piccie memory (early 1970's)was of the town my Dad came from Merriwa. They only had movies on once a month and we went with a cousin. The projector kept breaking down and each time it did all the kids would stomp their feet which caused the chairs to bounce along the floor and down towards the screen. It was hilarious. the movie? Long lost to memory.

  18. January 19, 2011 at 3:46 am

    I just loved the narration. So nice of you to share your wonderful memories….

  19. January 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    ah yes, Snow White and the Three Stooges will also stay with me forever too!

  20. Andrew said,

    January 21, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I have checked now. It was called Hawaii.

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