The place was Manly, Sydney, sometime in the late ‘50s, and we were off to see “The Wizard of Oz”. I remember my disappointment when it started. It was in black and white! Soon I became engrossed in the story and then, wonder of wonders, the screen filled with Technicolor.
I can recall dozens of “pictures” as we called them, from the first ten years of my life, which is remarkable as we mostly lived in the country and never attended the local Bowral Picture Theatre. However it was a family tradition to see as many as we could whenever staying in Sydney.
Before we left for the bush we visited the new Bass Hill Drive-In. This was very exciting, especially as we ate at the cafeteria before the show began. When we arrived a speaker attached by a wire to a post was passed through the slightly open window. As we only had a truck at the time we must have watched from an elevated position.
I can remember going to the picture theatre with both parents to see “The Man Who Knew Too Much” with Doris Day singing “Que Sera Sera”. “Davy Crocket, King of the Wild Frontier”, inspired an unrequited desire for a Davy Crocket hat but all too soon the bright lights of Sydney were left behind.
My father and I would catch the steam train from Yerrinbool Station, arriving two hours later at Central Railway, Sydney. Carrying our bags down George Street we would check in at the Morris Hotel.
Disney movies like “Old Yella” and the Hayley Mills films, “Tiger Bay”, Pollyanna” and “The Parent Trap” were great favourites. Of course I loved the cartoons and we even popped in to see the newsreel when the Hunter Valley was inundated with flood waters.
There were the greats, such as “Gone With the Wind”. How I cried when Bonnie fell off her horse. “The Incredible Shrinking Man” had me mesmerized, especially the fight with the spider. As for “A Night to Remember”, it instilled in me the knowledge that a captain should always go down with his ship. “The Admirable Crichton” made me suspicious of all people who say, “the fact is”. You know then that they are not telling the truth.
Musicals such as “The Al Jolson Story” and “The Student Prince” were full of wonderful songs to sing on our road trips. “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” provided source material for endless discussions . My atheist father even took me to see “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments”.
One of my most vivid memories was of a science fiction film about an invasion from outer space by flying saucers. I don’t even know what it was called but at the end the invaders shrivelled up inside their space crafts. That night my father made sure I was in bed in our room at The Morris before heading out to Thommo’s to try his luck. I lay in bed looking out the wide open window at the stars. I was sure the aliens were coming to get me so climbed out of bed, opened the door and sat in the brightly lit hallway until my father came back. He was surprised and a little bit shocked by the event. I don’t think he ever told my mother.