My first love is writing and literature, my second is history. I’m fascinated by yesteryear and the stories the older generation have to tell and as that generation start to shuffle off their mortal coil, their stories are all the more important to capture and keep. So it is always a thrill to chat to people who drop into the theatre to share their memories and stories involving the Marine.
But since we moved the office further into the auditorium, it has put me out of sight of any visitors who wander into the foyer to pick up flyers and see what’s on so I don’t chat with people quite as often as I used to; this is sometimes no bad thing because I would lose a big chunk of the working day talking to people. Which is a pity because being a naturally inquisitive person it’s always interesting listening to their stories.
In our new location there are now fewer interruptions unless, as happened on Friday, someone comes inside the theatre to have a look at the auditorium.
His name was Jack and I would guess he was around 70 years old and he had brought his friend along to have a look at his old stomping ground. Jack was a regular theatre goer in the 1960s and he reeled off the names of some big names from the 60s pop world, but he was also a regular disco goer with stories of the dance nights at the theatre that were held every week.
The auditorium hadn’t changed a great deal except for the stage that “looks a bit more fancy” and there was no café bar in his day. He couldn’t recall what was upstairs where the Marine Bar is now and he’s certain there was nowhere in the theatre to buy drinks. But then people didn’t come there to drink, they came there to dance…and according to Jack, have a punch-up!
He remembers starting his evening out with his friends at the Pilot Boat then at 10pm when it was chucking-out time, everyone would head to the theatre, many of them the worse for wear. Then as the evening wore on the punches would fly and without fail there would be at least two fights every week and each time the local police force turned up with dogs and it wasn’t unusual for there to be “at least five police dogs” inside the theatre.
What happened to the people who were fighting? I asked.
“They’d be hauled out and dealt with, but then the police knew most of them and things were different back then” which doesn’t just include the greater number of local bobbies but I’m guessing there was more of a hands-on approach to policing, quite literally, that would have soon put a stop to most rowdy behaviour.
I tried to imagine a packed auditorium with the loud music playing, the air hazy with cigarette smoke, punches being thrown and five Alsatians barking loudly and snarling.
So there’s no doubt Jack was there…just glad I wasn’t!