When Fatty ran the local flicks

rouser 2013
rouser 2013

There used to be three cinemas in Lewes - the inaptly named Cinema de Luxe on School Hill (now the Express offices), th Odeon in the Cliffe and the little-known County Theatre in Watergate Lane.

Rouser’s picture is of the Cinema de Luxe. The right-hand poster advertises the Lewes jubilee celebrations of 1931, presumably when the Press photograph was taken.

The late, great Fatty Briggs was manager of the Cinema de Luxe. He can be seen looming large at the far left of the picture. Fatty, to save pennies, often shot his own film documentaries in the town itself,

rather than pay the Pathe News fee. Some of them still exist.

Fast forward a decade and here are some reminiscences about the de Luxe from the pen of Bryan Hart, wartime evacuee to Lewes: Each Saturday morning we waited at the comer of the road for the postman to deliver our pocket money from Mum and Dad in the form of 6d postal orders. Some of this was spent on food and some on the ‘pictures’.

On the way to school, hot rolls from the small baker’s shop near the top of Keere Street were always a delight. The man who served us had a foreign accent, so in our childish imaginations he was a German spy.

One day we bought a freshly baked loaf from the baker’s shop just around the comer of St Peter’s Place and took it into the cinema with us. There, we three brothers, sitting in a row, proceeded to hollow out the soft doughy interior of the loaf and stuff it into our mouths as we watched the film.

That was at the Cinema de Luxe, which was managed by Mr B., a stout man with a commanding voice, who was irreverently known to children as Fatty B.

We loved the adventure films we saw there, such as They Died with Their Boots On, Sanders of the River, ‘he Mark of Zorro and Gunga Din.

The cinema was a refuge for us but it was not always easy to get in.

If an air-raid warning had been sounded we were only allowed in if accompanied by a grown-up, so this meant hanging about outside until an accommodating adult yielded to the plaintive plea: ‘Would you take us in, please Mister?’

On Saturday afternoons there would be screams of excitement from the children in the 4d seats at the front of the cinema as the lights went down at the start of the programme. Then, some of those sitting in the end seats of a row would pad up the aisles on all fours to the more expensive 7d seats at the back.

However, the management became aware of this manoeuvre and usherettes’ torchlights would seek out the errant children, like searchlight beams directed at the enemy aircraft, and we would be escorted back to our seats ....

Great days at the flicks.