Cinema in Slamannan

Whilst Slamannan had been able to create a roller skinning rink in 1911 it was not large enough to have a cinema.  Like the other Braes villages it relied on travelling showmen to provide such entertainment, or a trip to one of the towns.  The venue in the village used most often was the Parish Church Hall.

Slamannan Church Hall

The highlight of the week was undoubtedly Paulos travelling cinema in the parish hall.  An hour before arrival scores of excited children besieged the doors jostling for places when they opened.  Boys sat on long wooden forms on one side, girls on the other and adults at the rear – with even the boys now frozen to silence under the commanding gaze of Old Paulo’s one good eye.  But, as Richard Talmadge fought the baddies along the swaying roofs of railway coaches hurtling towards us, we screamed, whistled and fell back over the forms.  In the interval there might be a Charleston competition where the shameless young, and not so young, women got up on the stage waggling their buttocks and baring their knees.  To round off came the thriller – “The Clutchin’ Hand”, which at a climax stuttered to a halt with “To be continued next week”.  To subdue the shouts of protest and frustration the gramophone struck up and we split our lungs in an orchestrated rendering of “Home in Pasadena, Where the grass grows greena”.  From the warmth of Pasadena we were dismissed into the cold night air, to console ourselves on the way home with a penny bag of chips – well vinegared.”

[From “Slamannan in the Twenties” by John Murphy, Scottish Memories c2001.]

Thomas Paulo, showman, Maybank, Caldercruix, took his picture shows to all parts of the Braes.  In April 1930, for example, we find him showing a film at a fundraising event in Blackbraes Miners’ Welfare Hall in aid of William Russell who had been injured in Crosscroes Colliery.

A travelling cinema, which was visiting many parts of the country, went to the Slamannan Masonic Hall in November 1937.  The entertainment was free, which explained why the hall was crowded, with many people being unable to gain admittance.  The programme consisted of “Britain’s Heritage,” “The Man Next Door,” “News and Sport,” “Heritage of Defence,” comedy and a cartoon.

G.B. Bailey, 2021