Sydenham in the Twenties - Part Two

The History of Sydenham from Cippenham to present day. Links to photos especially welcome!

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regoneil
Posts: 73
Joined: 27 Nov 2007 12:35
Location: walton on the naze

Sydenham in the Twenties - Part Two

Post by regoneil »

Sydenham in the Twenties
Continued from http://sydenham.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3100

Cinemas

There were two cinemas at first, one, the “Queens Hall”, a purpose built small cinema located on the site of the present “Neighbourhood Centre” and the other was the “Rink” in Silverdale. This was originally a roller skating rink housed in a large hall with a corrugated iron roof. The date of its origin I am unable to say, but there is evidence that it was occupied by the military during WW1, .I am unable to give a date as to when it was redesigned to house a cinema but I have recollections of looking in through the doors, when very young, (early twenties) to see rows of wicker chairs for the seating of the audience and I can remember seeing trays with pots of tea etc being taken around..

During the late twenties, it was transformed into a “Picture Palace” with a magnificent “Art Deco” Vestibule furnished with luxurious settees etc., two very modern cash cubicles and suitably decorated with illustrations of film stars and scenes from the popular films of the day. I remember it re-opening with the latest Charlie Chaplin film in a blaze of glory. Within a short while it was refitted to accommodate the latest “Talkie” equipment. It also housed one of the first “Wurlitzer Organs”, the console being situated mid way across the front of the stage. It did not rise up out of the ground as in some cinemas but was highlighted by a flood light from the projection box at the rear of the cinema when the organist appeared to give a recital. Many famous organists gave a performance in the Rink including Reginald Dixon, Reginald Newell, Reginald Porter Brown and Reginald Foot among many others.

Admission charges were “One shilling and three pence” for the back seats, “one shilling”, “nine pence” for the mid area and “sixpence“for the front seats. (If you were to sit in the front row, you would risk going home with a stiff neck!). It must be admitted that although one was impressed by the décor of the reception area, with its ornate ceiling and surrounds, one could not fail to notice the difference once inside the auditorium. The seating looked comfortable and one would be directed to a seat by a smartly dressed usherette armed with a torch, if a film was being shown. (In those days, one could enter at any time during the continuous three hour programme). The stage was extensive and filled the far end of the building with the fretted areas on either side for the reproduction of the organ music, when being played. BUT, above one’s head the bare girders and the corrugated iron roof was exposed to view, and here was a problem! When it was raining outside, the noise was deafening and made hearing the sound of the film (once talkies had been introduced) very difficult, AND, the roof leaked in places!

For your “one and three” there would be a full length feature film followed by a short information film, a newsreel (Gaumont British News) a second feature film and either an organist rendition of popular music of the day or a stage show featuring a popular Dance Band.. And then, “Forthcoming attractions”
(There were very little “commercials” in those days)... If any of the films were other than a “U” certificate, then children were not allowed in without an adult, which led to the habit of youngsters congregating outside asking adults if they could come in with them! Of course, no cinema in those days was without its commissionaire patrolling outside in his military type uniform bedecked with a row of medals. Touting to passers by “Seats in all parts” or “Queuing for one and threes”

This cinema was one of the most popular sources of entertainment in Sydenham until the outbreak of WW2, when it was closed and became factory making mine detectors for the army. The dressing rooms part became the headquarters for the Sydenham A.R.P. Wardens. The organ was dismantled and many parts of it, including the keyboard, were later to be found rotting in the yard at the back of the building. In 1946, Bush Radio acquired the premises and produced the popular radio “DAC 90”.

The Queens Hall, however was a small theatre which put on a special children’s programme every Saturday afternoon, seats being 2 pence in the front and 4pence at the rear, The front seats were forms only the back seats were of the tip up type, These sessions were known as the “Four-penny Rush” to adults who attended. In the twenties it was not yet equipped for sound and as one can imagine, the noise on a Saturday afternoon was, let us say, a little boisterous. If the film was a cowboy film, there would be shouts coming from the audience such as “Look behind you”, cheers for the hero and boos for the villain. One afternoon, we were all kicked out mid film when some bright lad armed with an airgun shot the villain and left a dent in the screen! Another dodge was that some children would hide under the seats at the end of the show in the hopes of not being discovered so that they could stay and watch the evening show. Hence an inspection before the evening shows.
.
The cinema later changed its name to the “Classic”, a part of a chain of cinemas bearing the same name around London showing classic old films. Eventually it became the “Neighbourhood Cinema”.
Like all other cinemas in the London Area, it closed at the outbreak of the war, never to return to showing films. In the following decade the “State” was built on the corner of Girton and Sydenham roads, later to be renamed “Granada” but that is a different story.

Back in the twenties, one could see films in Penge at the Kings Hall and at Catford, in the Queens Hall. at Rushey Green.

cliveG
Posts: 4
Joined: 24 Apr 2008 10:38
Location: Forest Hill

Sydenham in the Twenties

Post by cliveG »

Hi Reg,

Clive here (DWG's) Grandson. Really enjoying all your posts fascinating stuff. With regards transport, i note that you mention Mr Griffiths and a model T ford. Wasn't there a rumor that he had the first car in Sydenham? We have a picture ( you may have provided it) taken perhaps in Burghill Road Pre WW1. I'll try and up load it when i get a chance. In the meantime, keep up the good work. Regards Clive

regoneil
Posts: 73
Joined: 27 Nov 2007 12:35
Location: walton on the naze

Sydenham in the Twenties

Post by regoneil »

Hi Clive,
Nice to meet you on the forum, and thanks for your kind remarks
Yes, as I understand it, your Great Grandfather was one of the first owners of a motor vehicle in Sydenham, It was a "Didean" (forgive the spelling, but that was how it sounded to me). It was way befor my time but I remember seeing a framed photograph of him sitting in the driving seat of his pride and joy. I followed his sucsession of motor cars over the years with great interest, they were usually second hand but he always gave them a trial run up Anerly Hill. He went through a series of model T Fords and later he took a liking for Armstrong Siddely's and he drove them all over the South and west of England and Wales. One of his favourite stories was negotiating "Porlock Hill" in Somerset, If I remember, he had to climb it in reverse!
Best wishes,
Reg,

Rebelmc
Posts: 172
Joined: 8 Feb 2006 14:38
Location: Sydenham

Post by Rebelmc »

Hello Reg

Fascinating stories, keep 'em coming!

The car you mentioned would be a De Dion-Bouton, a French company, once the largest motor manufacturer in the World. Prior to WWI, they had a reputation for quality and reliability and turned up in all sorts of places.

Quite a while ago, somebody posted a picture of a car on Sydenham Hill, which I think at the time I tentatively identified as being early 20th Century and looking French, maybe this was the very car?

I'll have a look around and see if I can post a link to the thread, if you're interested.

Edit: and here it is http://sydenham.org.uk/forum/viewtopic. ... db6e4be0e9 whether you're interested or not :wink:

I seem to have identified it as a Renault, but they looked pretty similar to De Dions, so it could be that very early car.........

cliveG
Posts: 4
Joined: 24 Apr 2008 10:38
Location: Forest Hill

Post by cliveG »

[img][img]http://i694.photobucket.com/albums/vv30 ... C00235.jpg[/img]

As promised, here is the photograph of perhaps one of the earliest cars in Sydenham. My Great Grandfather is behind the wheel. The picture was taken on maybe Burghill Road or Champion Park somtime before WW1

regoneil
Posts: 73
Joined: 27 Nov 2007 12:35
Location: walton on the naze

Sydenham in the twenties cont'd

Post by regoneil »

Sydenham in the twenties cont’d.

School Days.

There were three “elementary” schools in Lower Sydenham, St. Michaels, Hasletine and Adamsrill.
In Upper Sydenham there were St. Bart’s, Kelvin Grove and Holy Trinity. All of them kept a similar time-table, 8.50 for a 9 o’clock start, lunch break (Dinner-time) at mid-day until 1.50, for a 2 o’clock start until 4.30. (4.00 for the infants). There was a fifteen minute break during the morning and afternoon sessions for “Playtime”, There were no meals provided on the premises and the children would go home for their midday meal, un-escorted, it was unheard for a parent to come to the school to meet a child unless they were going out somewhere after school. If a family should be the proud owners of a car, it would certainly not have been used to transport children to school.

Classes.

In St. Michael’s there were eight classrooms (The infants being housed in a separate building in Champion Crescent) all but the Top Class were made up of 4 rows of 5 double seated desks. There were two Top Classes, (in smaller rooms) one for boys and the other for girls. There were two subjects that were not taught in the school, these being Cookery for the girls and Woodwork for the boys, The girls would have to travel to Kilmorie school in Forest Hill and the boys would go down to Hasletine for a weekly visit.

At school the children were taught the usual ”Three R’s”, with an emphasis on discipline and good manners. We were taught to respect our elders and touch our caps whenever we passed the time of day with friends and neighbours. Address our teachers as “Sir” or “Miss” and to be proud of our school uniform which was kept smart and tidy. The old saying of “Children should be seen and not heard” had long gone during WW1.

The playground of the schools played an important role in the lives of the children, that is where friendships were made and a wealth of knowledge was discovered of ”how the other half lived” as the kids mixed with each other. There were seasons of games to be played such as “Conkers” in the autumn, (no Health & Safety” then), slides on the frost covered playground in the winter, (until the Caretaker came out and applied salt to dissolve this potential danger). Soft ball cricket in the warmer weather along with “Peg tops” and many games requiring chalked out markings for “Hop-Scotch”. One would discover what appeared to be a market place along a wall on one side of the area, where clean (perfect) cigarette cards would be leaning against the wall with the owner crying out “Knock it down you get it”. Anyone interested in obtaining this card for his collection, would be required to skate an old worn card from a prescribed distance in an effort to win his prize, There were other games of a similar nature where the winner would take all if he covered another card in the ring.

“Fag cards” as they were known were a source of currency and many an unwanted toy would be exchanged for fag cards. A common trading ploy would be to be approached by some one offering you to see what was concealed in a matchbox for two fag cards a look! It could be anything from an extracted tooth to an earwig but curiosity would prevail... Another would be a piece of wood with three arched holes in the base and one would be required to roll a marble through a hole and if successful a prize of the equivalent number of fag cards would be given. I well remember being invited to look through a miniature set of binoculars to see “Brighton”; yes, one could see the word Brighton!

Many games were played in the streets in those days as the only danger would be a passing horse and cart, chalked race tracks would be drawn in the road and we would race racing cars made from “Meccano” on the end of a string. For a few experts we would race boxcars (A wooden box attached to a board mounted on two sets of pram wheels) down hills. There were few toys as such in those days apart from what we would make ourselves, shop toys were mainly Meccano, Hornby o gauge trains and a few Hobby’s models, most were beyond the reach of our “pocket money”, which, by the way was acquired by running errands for neighbours or by exchanging jam jars for cash from local grocers, 1d for 2lb jars and 1/2d for 1 lb jars. A popular way to spend sixpence (from jars) would be to ride our bikes over to Peter Pan’s Pool at Southend Village, pay four pence for an hour on the paddle boats and spend two pence on sweets or gamble it on the machines in the fun house.
There were other games played in the streets including one called “Tip it” which required a base square to be drawn in chalk on the kerb edge, about a foot square, on which was balanced a short wooden peg, tapered at each end. The idea was to hit this peg, as it protruded over the kerb edge with a wooden stick about a foot long and to hit the peg again as it was in flight, the idea being to measure the distance, in stick lengths from where it ultimately ended up, after three more hits on the pointed end. The side with the highest score being the winner, another ball game, named “Buzz”, was to measure out a playing area between two lamp posts. One player would opt to start by throwing the ball to hit someone, who would then join him, and so on until the last player to be hit would be declared the winner. This game would usually continue until a resident would complain at the noise created by the ball hitting the wooden fences.

There were, of course, the “vandals” of the era who created a nuisance of themselves by “Scrumping” (a scrumped apple always tasted better than the ones left outside for passers by) and those who amused themselves “Knocking down gingers”. Usually the penalty for being caught would be a clip round the ear by the local Bobby. There was the odd character who would amuse himself by climbing lamp posts, after the Lamplighter would finish his rounds, and putting the gaslight out. Most of Sydenham at that time was illuminated by gas lighting, homes and streets.

Holidays.

Were four weeks in August, ten days at Christmas, and a long weekend at Easter and Whitsun, with no half-term breaks. On the brighter side, we had little or no homework.
It should be remembered that there was not the selection of activities that are provided for youngsters of today and it was a case of making one’s own amusements unless one joined a local Scouts and Guides Associations or The Boys Brigade. Mayow Road Park provided facilities for games and cricket, Home Park had soccer facilities and, of course, Hornimans Museum was quite an attraction with it’s gardens and model boat pond. It became quite a popular meeting place for teenagers especially on a Sunday evening with a band concert in the Gardens, in the summer and the warm surroundings within the Museum in the winter.

To be continued:

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