Happy days at the flicks

Rouser 2012
Rouser 2012

ROUSER aficionado Don Cormack was interested in the recent article about the opening of the Hailsham Pavilion cinema in 1921.

He says: ‘My great aunt, Sarah Castle, was a well-known pianist in East Sussex in the Edwardian period and someone I remember very well from my boyhood in the 40s and 50s, growing up on the Pevensey Levels.

‘She told me how she used to select suitable music and play the piano at the Pavilion to accompany the early silent films as well as help cover the sound of the whirring projector. She was a formidable and unsinkable character who loved her pinch of snuff. She died in 1958 aged 80.

‘A few months back, as part of my family history research, I thought I’d look up the history section on the Pavilion website; and there was her name, one of the first pianists to accompany the films.

‘I am wondering if one of the ladies in your photograph is Sarah Castle. Her married name was Baker from 1926 when she married George Baker. They are buried at the Hailsham cemetery in Ersham Rd.

‘Is it possible to identify any of the people in the picture with names?

‘As a boy, I often went to ‘the pictures’ there and we never failed to jump up on the step outside to gaze at the photos from the films and the ‘Coming Shortly’ notices as we walked home from town down George Street.

‘I guess the first film I saw there was when the whole of Grovelands junior school was marched down to see the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Other notable films were Dirk Bogarde classics like The Spanish Gardener; also Ben Hur, and, of course, the Disney films like Bambi and Snow White.

‘I believe we paid 1/6d in those days for the front row cheap seats. I envied the smartly uniformed hostesses with their red torches flashing up and down the rows. They got to see all the films for free and sell choc-ices and Kiaora orange juice on trays held with a strap around their necks. It was all so orderly, and, somehow, very special, a real occasion, complete with newsreels and God Save the Queen.

‘Many thanks for your column Mr Rouser, as you continue to unearth other newsworthy hi-lights and photos from days gone by.’

Pictured, the cinema opening in 1921.