Something for the weekend?

FLASH GORDON: The hero of Saturday morning pictures.

I WAS reminded this week of a huge presence in the lives of many kids in the 50’s – Saturday Morning Pictures. The cinema that served the south of Reading where I was brought up, was the grandly named Savoy and hundreds of kids would converge on the place every Saturday morning clutching their sixpence ticket money and another tanner to spend on sweets. Our harassed mums were glad to get shot of us for a few hours while they got on with their housework or shopping.

The noise inside the cinema was unbelievable. Kids hollered at each other across the aisles and sweet wrappers, paper planes, and articles of clothing flew across the auditorium. The beleaguered stewards had an impossible task to keep things in order before the programme started. It must have been like dealing with a prison riot.

Finally at the appointed time, the lights dimmed, the curtains opened and the words of our ABC Minors club song appeared on the screen which we noisily dispatched well ahead of the music, anxious to get on with the films. Our heroes were Flash Gordon – who got around in a spaceship powered by a sparkler Tom Mix; Superman; Dick Tracey; Tom; Laurel and Hardy, Marvel Man and many others.

Opposite the Savoy was Lester’s the barbers and it was often a good idea to kill two birds with one stone on a Saturday when there would always be a lengthy queue of small boys waiting for haircuts, all with the same strict instruction from their mums – short back and sides!

Mr Cooper, one of the three resident barbers, always had a cigarette dangling from his lips as he terrorised his way through a multitude of youthful locks. He might as well have been using a strimmer for all the finesse he possessed, and after each session he would ask me the same question to the amusement of his colleagues.

‘Something for the weekend sir?’ It was a year or two more before I understood what that meant.

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