In Conversation: Elena Wornham 1960’s

Interviewee: Elena Wornham

Interviewer: Christina reading

Date : Friday 30 April 2010

Elena Audio

Elena is 78 years old. In the mid 1960’s she worked, as an usherette for about 2-3 years. To begin with she worked five nights a week, but this dropped to 3 nights when Bingo was introduced.

Elena describes how she combined looking after her family with her new job at the Dukes.

Well I had two very young children then and I never worked at all and this was an opportunity to work 3 hours in the evening and my husband would look after them at home .I thoroughly enjoyed it.. I used to take them to with me to the Dukes and they used to wait in the lobby outside in the entrance. I used to be with them until my husband collected them from work .He used to come in the car, stop outside, put the children in and they used to go home with their dad. The kids loved it there too because they used to get spoilt with sweets and ice cream. I started work at either 5 or 6 o clock. I used to have dinner with the children early and leave my husbands dinner ready to warm up and we were fine

Elena’s interest in film developed as a young girl growing up in Spain.

when I was single I used to be a cinema maniac. I am Spanish and in Spain we used to go to the cinema quite a lot, because there wasn’t really anything else to do. I used to love films so I thoroughly enjoyed working them. I used to watch Rita Hayward, Clark Gable, American films. They were translated into Spanish. : I used to love the elegance, the romance, the glamour and the clothes’.

Elena worked as a part time evening usherette for the manager Peter Drew Bear. She describes a warm family atmosphere.

They were both lovely, Jean and Peter. Also David, (Peters son )he used to come with Carole a lot his future wife, they were courting then ,it was just lovely, lovely people to work for : Jean and peter were friendly with all of the staff  because they used to have a cashier  a very old lady Mabel. I was only there a few weeks and she died ,she was very serious .She wasn’t rude or anything but she was very serious . I used to say to Jean of Mabel frightens me a bit. And she used to say she’s alright. Jean was very fond of Mabel, very fond they were just friendly people , nice people.  I always respected Peter . I always remembered   to call him Mr Drew-Bear, but as we became friends I used to call him Peter But I used to call him Mr Drew-Bear in front of customers, always .As an usherette what did you do ?’

Elena was the downstairs usherette. She remembers how the violence in the film Bonnie and Clyde made one customer feel unwell.

‘. I always remembered that they showed Bonny and Clyde and I remember a girl come out of the cinema and throw up in the hall because it was so bloody and so violent- the shooting the body’s gone now. It just made her feel sick. I never for get it and I remember telling Peter.

Sometimes she used to stay after the end of her shift to watch the end of the film.

I used to get very annoyed because I used to see so far of the film and then I had to go how – every week the same and I used to say to Jean is it alright I ma going to watch it to the end if  it kills me . I’m going home late tonight. I used to say what’s happens Jean but if it was a film I really liked I used to stay and watch it’

The Audience

I used to show people where to sit and the young couples they used to like to sit at the back. You used to come across so many regulars that you used to know where they used to sit. And they used to smoke in those days in the cinema and I remember a man a funny looking man and he used to sit at the back and as an usherette I used to sit on a seat in the wall that I used to lift up and down. This man, every time he lit up a cigarette he used to come and ask me if I would like a cigarette- always. Loads of regulars.

Selling ice cream .

‘If I am walking backwards the customer can see the lights and my box and my ice creams You started at the back of the cinema which is the entrance and you walked backwards so the people sitting there and there. Nowadays they stay in one spot. We had to walk all around the cinema walking backwards eventually one side walking backwards – this side straight upwards.  I said to Jean I can’t do it I am frightened of losing my balance. But if Peter see’s you he’s going to tell you. I said that’s alright.

If you would like to listen to the interview contact Christina Reading

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