The Old Building

 

I walked past the old building yesterday. It’s been boarded up for years now, the boards thick with layer upon layer of bygone Circus and Fairground events; stuck on by people who don’t see the point in removing the one below. The grimy steps are usually home to the local friendly guy (previously wrote Junkie but I’ve no proof), who has marked this as his daytime territory. He doesn’t beg, nor terrorise – what he gives is a smile and an “Awright” as you pass by.   I’m sure he has a home, but I wonder why he sits there?  Perhaps the fresh air and company are good for his mind.

 

The building was built in 1931 and housed the largest cinema in town.  As a seaside town, it was buzzing in the summertime with the folks from the big smoke (Glasgow).  People flooded the seaside towns to go “doon the watter” and most of the locals took in lodgers for a fortnight every year.  My dad recalls making money during the Glasgow Fortnight by collecting the passengers bags from the train station and delivering them on his newspaper delivery bike. No doubt most of his money went on a night out to the pictures (cinema).  It is this cinema where my parents had their first date at the tender age of 17. Back then it was common for people to go to the pictures most nights, so it was always busy.  I loved this place when I was wee, with its huge screen and upstairs balconies it seemed there was no place grander. Tourism had died off with people now preferring to holiday in Spain, but locals still liked a night out at the pictures. I remember the intermissions and getting a Lyons Maid Ice-cream tub from the tray.  One time I was there with my granny and brother and we had to leave early because I was terrified of the film. It was The Empire Strikes Back and my brother still hasn’t forgiven me.  The curtains closed for the final time on the old cinema in 1985 when I was 10  years old, with the one across the road following suit shortly afterwards. People were staying at home and playing their new video recorders.

Four years later there was a buzz about the town again. A big fancy new nightclub was moving in to the building and it was going to rival clubs in Glasgow. I was fourteen at the time but luckily they had an under 18’s night. This came at the right time for us – we were interested in dressing up, experimenting with make-up, music, dancing and boys. This ticked all the boxes. That first night most of the girls in my class were going and excitement was sky high. We tried to look older, with our heels and Culottes and perms with fringes sprayed high at the front. I remember trembling when going in. What if the door steward said I was too young? I got in, but a 13-year-old friend wasn’t so lucky. Nobody wanted to miss this and although the girl cried, none of us left with her (poor soul). It was more than we had expected inside with three floors, three bars and a restaurant. We danced to “Blame it on the Boogie” and ended the night with “Walking on Sunshine.” I left with a new date arranged with a boy from a local school. If this what it was like to be a grown up, I wanted more!

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At 15 my mother allowed me to go to the Over 18’s night with a friend as long as my older brother supervised and I didn’t drink alcohol. What was she thinking?!  I may have looked a little older but I reckon 17 at a push. Waiting in the queue to get in probably rates in my top five most nerve wracking life experiences – but alas, the door steward smiled and directed us inside! It was Christmas eve and I drank Long Vodkas all night, kissed a much older boy (man?) on the dancefloor and didn’t see my brother once. I remember the second last song was James “Sit Down” and I think of that night every time I hear it. The lights went up to “Walking on Sunshine” as it would every time I was there in the future.

Fridays was the night for the locals, where chart music of the day was played and I would arrive with seven friends and lose every one as soon as we were through the door.  It didn’t matter; in fact it added to the excitement. Everyone was local and we had new friends to meet.  At 18 I was working full time but decided I needed a part time job. Full of confidence, I asked the owner for a job as a glass collector. He took me into his office and interviewed me, insisting I would “look good behind the bar.”  I declined the offer of Bar Maid, but collected glasses for a few months.  How strange to be offered a job after several pints of cider.

Saturdays was ‘Ravers Night’ and the buses would arrive from all over Scotland and for a few hours our little towns population doubled.  Most of my friends didn’t go to ravers night. Friday was the night for alcohol; Saturday was the night for drugs. Ecstasy, LSD and (less frequently) Cocaine were the drugs of choice. I did go a few times. I tried the LSD and Ecstasy and danced to the likes of TTF’s ‘Real Love’ and  Rhythm Quests ‘Closer to all your Dreams’ but drug taking and raving weren’t my scene. I preferred indie music and studious boyfriends who played guitar and frequented the pubs where you could get a seat. Collecting glasses on a Saturday was a joy though because everyone drank from bottles of water and were full of love; obviously because they were high on drugs!  Fridays were a different story where aggression and leeriness often accompanied the drunken haze.

My parents courted there; I feasted on ice-cream whilst watching the latest block buster; danced; sang; laughed and kissed many boys there.  I’ve broken hearts; listened to the words of a song wrote for me (and was ungrateful); cried on a friends shoulder over too many boys; held friends hairs when they were throwing up down the toilet and discussed the meaning of life with friends and strangers alike.  I did many things I’m not proud of – drinking in excess and experimenting with drugs. Nine years after my first visit, I danced to “Walking on Sunshine” and walked out of those old doors without realising it would be the final time. I moved to the city and met my husband a year later.  The old building closed it’s doors in December 2011, after 54 years as a cinema and 22 years as a nightclub.  It has been derelict ever since.

As we walked past yesterday my son said “that’s where you used to go dancing, isn’t it?” and I replied “yes son” remembering so much more.

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18 thoughts on “The Old Building

  1. Wow what a story, it happened in every town the once loved picture hoses shut down. My sister and I went to every Saturday afternoon matinee and saw woody woodpecker, one time after visiting the dentist I was convinced that I could smell gas in the cinema and had to go home. I never did the dance halls or drink and drugs 😇 too scared lol. Fantastic post Beth, really loved it, brought back so many memories. 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely stories of youth in the ’80s and ’90s with some wonderful and evocative descriptions — it took me back to my school / college days. Funny how things seemed so complicated then but were so simple in comparison to now!

    I enjoyed your focus on the building too. Buildings are so rich in history, and walls of buildings like that must have witnessed so much over the years. It’s a shame it’s gone to ruin. If they could speak, they would have so many interesting stories to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks David. It was nice to reminisce but also sad that it’s an empty shell. There was talk of it opening again as people had bought it but I’m not sure it would take off. Locals like to go into Glasgow now and the pubs are now a little (to put it mild) rough around the edges. I had the best of both worlds when younger and could do city or local. I’m glad it got you thinking back too. I remember you previously suggested I write about my music history and maybe I’ll do that one day. It’s connected to boys because I generally copied whoever I was going out with haha!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is a shame but at least you’ve made it live a bit longer by writing about it. And yes, please do write about your music history. 🙂 Music was very important to me growing up and I’m always fascinated reading other people’s relationship with it, how they’ve grown up with it, and how they’ve changed as their tastes change etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully nostalgic piece. (I would have taken the bar maid job! 😀 I’ve always wanted to own a combined Italian restaurant with an Irish bar in it! It’s in my blood. My aunt owned a series of very successful bars.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was a lovely post. The nostalgia of the home town theater connects with so many. I recall a local theater too that no longer shows movies, but is an open stage for local and a few national performers. A very nice trip down memory lane!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely. This created memories of my early visits in the ’60s to the local ‘flea pit’, as we used to call it, cinema that sat next to a railway line. The building shook every time a train passed it. More terrifying than any Hitchcock! Fab post, thank you.

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