In this part of his True Tales of Woe, Inchcock remembers from 1950’s, as a young lad, when his Dad would take him to the Empire Theatre in Nottingham, and used to made him sit and watch what bit he could see over the front of the stalls up in the 9d (3¼p) seats in the Gods, with many wonderful acts performing things he was not the slightest bit interested in, couldn’t hear, or understand.
However this particular trip had a profound effect on him.
The Trip to the Nottingham Empire Theatre
(Not to be missed these weren’t… I tried, oh how I tried…)
After Dad had taken his usual hour and a half (minimum) to get himself ready, we would set off on the long walk to the Empire (he had to take care, cut-throat razor and all that), avoiding the horse droppings that had not been collected for peoples allotments (no gardens where I was dragged up), and onto the next street, under the railway bridge past the gasometers, then the Duke of Norfolk pub where the murder of Muriel Harbuckle took place on 1949, and around the corner past the best chip shop in the area, The Friary. Where Dad would refuse me chips on a regular basis. (Well, they were 2 ½ d [about 1p now, I think?] a bag!)
Time permitting, this is where I would lose him as he would disappear into the Castle Inn, reappear with a bag of Smiths Crisps, and sometimes a bottle of lemonade for me as I loitered in on various doorsteps nearby waiting, he’d disappear back into the Castle Inn, and reappear yet again, always with the words (or similar to); “Sodding ‘ell, we can’t stay here any longer we’ve got to get tut Empire afore it starts, you’re always holding me up, cummon!”
With which I would be dragged by the arm, scruff of the neck, or kicked into activity as we progressed towards the Empire Theatre.
Sometimes we would stop at Watmough’s toffee shop, to get 2 oz of Nuthall mintoes (Oh how I hated them!), and once inside he would produce his penknife and slowly cut one in half, granting me the pleasure of a half of one! But not on this occasion.
So back to the walk, up passed the Hong Kong Restaurant, where they were repeatedly prosecuted for selling ‘Choosy’ or ‘Kit-E-Kat’ cat food on the menu as something else, when prosecuted for this, and barred from running a restaurant, they would sell the business to the next brother and carry on as usual, I know this for certain, as when dear Mother was at home, she worked there for a bit. She told me.
Onward up towards the Midland Railway station, passing the even more gorgeous smelling ‘Friary chip shop that I would not be frequenting, and down towards the canal with its working barges, and smelly water. (The down and outs had not yet taken up residence under the bridge behind what was then called the ‘Dole Offices, as they do nowadays.)
*And of course memories of my Canal Calamity were refreshed too.
Then up King Street passing the pawn broker’s, the Post Office, then over the road passing the Theatre Royal and Watmoughs to the Empire.
Joined the queue (not calling into the sweet shop), and went upstairs to take our seats in 9d (4.9p) gods seats. Where without fail, I was always put in a seat behind a dirty great pillar – blocking me view.
One of the acts, I think it was a fire-eater, set fire to the curtains, and we all had to evacuate the theatre.
Now Dad was mainly concerned with getting his entrance money back, and as we were all rushing down the stair, I fell, but he dragged me up and we got out alright, and joined the other audience members milling about.
We were told later that the theatre would not be re-opening that night, and we had to go back home, and I was limping and had a tiny spot of blood above my eyebrow from the fall down the stairs.
Dad notice this by the time we were half way home (walking again of course, Dad wasn’t one to waste money on trolleybuses yer know) and some compassion arose in him, and for the first and only time ever, I was treated to a bag of chips on the way home, and from the Friary chippie too – it was heaven!
Shame I had toothache.
Coming soon A Nottingham Lad’s True Tale of Woe – Part Eight
The Trips to the Public Baths
* See: A Nottingham Lad’s True Tale of Woe – Part Six: The Catastrophic Canal Calamity