Being the first students at Leiston Modern School to be offered the chance of GCE qualifications meant that we were visited on several occasions by specialist Education Careers Advisors. However, they seemed to know little about my chosen career in Television and so I totally failed to convince them that I would rather be a BBC-TV news cameraman than a policeman. Through my own efforts, I was eventually offered a job as a night news film editor with ITN, but, in the end various reasons prevented me from taking up this offer (ah, what might have been…..).
So it was that my quest to work ‘in entertainment’ meant that I started my working life in July 1965 as third projectionist at the original Odeon cinema in Lloyds Avenue, Ipswich. At the time the cinema, along with the Gaumont, belonged to the Rank Organisation and its General Manager was David Lowe. The Odeon’s Chief Projectionist was Sidney Durnford and the second projectionist was Norman Buxton. Although I lost contact with Sid after he retired working together on the Saturday morning ‘Kids Club’ shows with Norman meant that we became great friends. I believe he became the Chief at the new Odeon before its sudden closure in 2005, but I haven’t seen him since then.
Whilst working at the Odeon, amongst other things, I had the ‘pleasure’ of showing Mary Poppins around 84 times. It was an immensely popular film. We showed it three times a day and for most of the day we had queues of people waiting to get in, both down Lloyds Avenue and around to the rear of Footmans – it wasn’t Debenhams then. The film itself was quite long so it had an ‘intermission’ within it which was announced as part of the sound track. Originally it said ‘There will now be an intermission of fifteen minutes’, but, the numbers of children to be served meant that it was not unusual for this to go on for twenty minutes or more so Sid ‘edited’ the optical sound track. The intention was to make it say ‘there will now be an intermission’. Unfortunately he was a little heavy-handed with the blooping ink and it ended up saying ‘there will now be an intermish..’.
I often wonder though what would have happened had I been in a position to take the ITN job because, for a boy who had not left home for more than a day before, just living in Ipswich all week did not work out. Although Bill and Betty Hender, the couple I lodged with in St. Johns Road, were very nice and did their best to make me feel part of their family I became very homesick. It was no fun being free all day with nowhere to go and then having to work at night when the few friends I had were free and going out. How much worse would it have been in London?
I became very homesick and so by the end of 1965 I had returned home to Leiston. Over the next nine years I worked variously for Brett Brothers at Friston as a spray painter, for W. Wells and Son in Saxmundham and W. D. Titlow and Son in Leiston as an Ironmongery shop assistant and plumbers mate, and as a TV and Audio service technician for Mattinsons TV and Radio at Saxmundham. Throughout this time my interest in electronics grew steadily, especially whilst working for Mattinsons, and slowly it became combined with my love of entertainment as you will see in the following chapters.