Sepia Saturday #110: Picture This!
The Clonard in Belfast.
It’s very likely, that my father, William Henry, known to his friends and family as “Hoick”, would at one time or other have entered these Colosseum-like doorways, fished a few pence out of his pocket and slid them through the hole in the glass window where, an older hand was waiting to drag them across the counter and slip them into a till.
Both my father and my mother had an abiding love of movies. My mother still does. All his life, “Harry” (who became “Bill” once he crossed the Atlantic) craved the thrill of a good western, war picture or gangster-film. I remember, when I was nine years old, he took me to see, “The Battle of Britain”. He loved every single minute of it, and so did I!
He had his favourites: actors and actresses like, Jimmy Cagney and Edward “G” (Robinson), the “Singing Cowboy”, Gene Autry, and Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Hedy LaMarr, Joan Fontaine, and Grace Kelly – he loved them all!
There were a few movies in particular that I associate with my father and I have seen most of them, all but one that he thought was great.
This was 1939’s “Gunga Din”. My father would have been 12 at the time he saw this action/adventure/war flick. It starred Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine and Victor McLaglen (who had done a brilliant turn in John Ford’s, “The Informer”) and Sam Jaffe as an Indian (he was actually Jewish – born, “Shalom Jaffe”).
Loosely based on the poem of the same name, by Rudyard Kipling, it appealed to my father for his entire life. Whenever discussion of great movies was on the table, “Gunga Din” was always mentioned. Every time.
Reproduced interior of The Savoy, in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile, in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, my mom, Alice (“Betty”) Harris and her sister, Joan were pleading with their father (my grandfather, Guy Wheelock Harris). “Have you got any money, for us to go to the pictures, Daddy?” They’d ask. “Well now. Let me see.” He’d say, and he’d fish around in his big pants’ pockets and is if by magic, produce a few coins for his two daughters.
Off they’d go to see the latest show and thanks to their father, they’d have a bit extra for some toffee. It was the Victorian-style, Savoy Theatre where they saw all sorts of wonderful things!
They were not allowed to see anything risque. Their father had been raised a Baptist, but converted to Catholicism and between the two philosophies, they were prevented from seeing hot Jane Russell in 1943’s, “The Outlaw”. One of mom’ and Joan’s favourites is the 1945 biopic of Robert Schumann entitled, “A Song to Remember” and they were still quite young, so they must have seen that in secret. (She will correct me when she reads this, if I’m mistaken.)
Among their long list of favourite actors were Tyrone Power, Glen Ford Paul Henreid and Cornell Wilde. (Not my idea of heart-throbs, but they certainly set the Harris Girls’ hearts fluttering!)
Mom is quite a movie afficionada. At 82, she still enjoys all the old shows, but is not averse to watching something new – even if it has subtitles!
Asked to choose her very favourite, she will tell you, “Gone With the Wind” and “Waterloo Bridge”.
I have very catholic tastes when it comes to films, myself. From my father, I inherited that love of a good war movie like, “Bridge on the River Kwai”, and I adore westerns. One of my top 25 films of all time is, “Once Upon a Time in the West”. I love Cagney in “White Heat”, and like my mom, I really enjoy the song-and-dance musicals of the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
My movie-theatre home as a child was a large picture-house that was attached to the local mall. I spent hours there both with my parents and my friends.
I think the legacy has been passed down, thanks to the great cinemas of old such as the Clonard and the Savoy.
My dream would be to own an old movie theatre in a small town somewhere and have enough money to just run all the old movies I love. Wouldn’t that be great?
This is a Sepia Saturday post. Please visit to read other great memories inspired by old photos.