Off to town to get a job. The Green cinema on St. Stephen’s Green, an old Irish institution had a sign ‘Staff Wanted’. It was a lovely old theatre, the only cinema in town boasting ‘love seats’ – two seater seats for couples. A family run affair, two sisters despite being octogenarians were still holding the fort. Mrs. Daly and Miss Noone, both favoured pleated tweed skirts, twinsets and pearls. When it opened its doors it boasted state of the art technology, some seats equipped with a Fortephone apparatus which enabled patrons suffering from deafness to hear the soundtrack. By the 1980’s it looked a bit tired but that made it all the more appealing.
On a day off school school with my friend Mary, we called one afternoon looking for a job. Yes, they could take us both on that Saturday evening, but a training day on Friday was necessary to acquaint ourselves with the mysteries of usheretting. I was apprehensive but Mary fancied the guy in the projector room.. offer duly accepted.
Miss Daly, one of the sibling propieters, handed out torches. Tooled up, training commenced. As the complexities of torch holding were explained, it became obvious that there was more to this showing people to their seats business than meets the eye. ‘Keep the torch low’ Miss Noone commanded, flicking the torch discretely along the aisle’s edge as she walked. Only after a couple of hours training had we adequately mastered the level of torch holding skills required to be fully fledged usherettes.
Despite having to wear a kimono type overall, the sense of empowerment my torch brought made up for it. ‘This way please’, ‘No smoking in rows 10 to 14’. I was beginning to enjoy bossing adults about (well I was only 15). There was a real problem with people buying standard seats trying to get into the premium love seats. Observation skills and a sharp eye were required to patrol the aisles. The power could go to your head, ejecting punters attempting to commandeer a love seat without the proper ticket.
Overly amorous couples in the love seats fell into Mrs Daly’s area of expertise. ‘Stop that carry on now’ she’d prod some unfortunate spotty teenager in the shoulder with her torch. This work required a bigger torch than mine.
A horror film called “When a Stranger Calls” was showing. I got to see the first 40 minutes of it each night, but never got to see the happy ending as my shift finished at 10pm. So I’d watch until I reached a level of terror that turned me to a quivering wreck, but miss the bit at the end where calm is restored and your heart rate returns to normal. I invariably left the cinema looking over my shoulder. Once home, too scared to go to sleep with the light off.
We worked there for the Summer and left when school started back in September. Mary went off the projector guy anyway.