Ray King: The Coquet Cinema
Prior to the last Great War, Amble was a thriving little town. There were no televisions or computers in those days. What we did have however, was a cinema that was located behind what was then the Co-op (now Tesco). It was an imposing red brick building with a large foyer, thick, plush, red carpets, and large photographic portraits adorned the walls. Portraits of film stars like Dirk Bogarde and Margaret Lockwood.
There was a grand balcony where it cost one shilling to sit. Downstairs at the back of the stalls cost sixpence and seats in the front of the stalls, popularly known as the ‘dog end’ cost fourpence. These cheaper seats were usually filled up with kids, many of whom purchased monkey nuts from the nearby fruit shop. All hell would break loose when during an exciting part of a film the kids would stamp their feet on the empty nut shells that they had thrown on the floor.
Friday was the most popular night. This was the night when a half hour episode from a film would be shown right up until the point where the hero or heroine was just about to meet their demise. Needless to say the kids, young and old, could hardly wait until the following Friday to find out what happened next. I was one of those kids!
I will never forget Boris Karloff in films like Frankenstein or The Ghoul. After watching one of those scary films I would run all the way home, increasing my pace as I passed by Ballantyne’s where the coffins were made. I didn’t stop running until I reached the safety of 16, Lindisfarne Road. The manager, Mr. Baston, was at all times dressed elegantly in an immaculate evening suit, with matching bow-tie. His shiny bald head enhanced his dapper demeanour and as patrons entered the foyer he would welcome them with his ready smile.
One early morning, as I was getting ready for my day job, I heard a loud knock at the front door. A neighbour blurted out, “Raymond, the picture house is on fire and the roof has fallen in!” I grabbed my coat and jumped on to my father’s bicycle. I saw a scene of utter destruction in front of me. I don’t think the cause of the fire was ever established. It could have been vandalism or a carelessly discarded cigarette butt. What I did know was that the town had lost its most popular attraction. Another cinema was built many years later on the same spot but it was more like a barn. Little old Amble has never been quite the same!