The Dookit

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, ScotlandGlasgow Road North

The Dookit

The DookitNext we had Brown’s Building, Cathy Pott’s Fruiterer, Norris grocers, where I worked as a delivery boy for a couple of years. The Picture House (affectionately called The Dookit), later to become the Bowling Alley, Paterson’s Chemist & Optician, Hogg’s Newsagent (later Pate’s), Little’s the Baker, Paterson (Painter & Decorator), Peter Craig Butchers and then Greenside Street.

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The Picture House was opened in 1913 by a well-known circus family, Bostock & Sons and was able to show talkies by 1929. It later became owned by Jack Brown, who lived and breathed the world of cinema and show-business, was one of a disappearing breed of characters who toiled with all their heart in the ebullient, sometimes romantic but always precarious world of entertainment. Unlike many in today’s profit-chasing and sometimes soul-less era, he was a dedicated show-person, working all hours to give value to his customers through the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and enjoying his job both front-of-house and backstage.

The Picture House (The Dookit), you will see that there are two-door openings into the picture hoose. The one at the right was the entrance to the cheap seats, and the one at the left was for the more expensive seats. The cheap seats were about half the cost of the more expensive seats, but there were about ten times as many cheap seats as there were of the expensive ones.

The Bus stop on the right where you could only get off the bus, but not on, presumably because of the Picture House, get off to go to the pictures and too many to get on when film finished.

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Thomas Dunsmuir Hartman remembers, “The ‘Dookit’ Oh! what memories it brings back to me as a child and even into my youthful years. There was an enchantment about this wee picture hoose, which played a great part in our everyday existence. Saturday morning could not come around fast enough for us kids, so that we may go there and be thrilled and be educated with all the different ways of life, which was new and shown to us through this medium.

You have to remember we did not have any TV, or Entertainment was mostly during the week limited to the B.B.C. Radio. We didn’t even have a Scottish radio station in those days. One Station and that was it. So you can see why we so looked forward to our Saturday Morning Pictures.

We sure did get a lot for our money. They would start out by showing the Movietone News which was a synopsis of all the latest news from around the world. This showing was, although we did not know it at the time probably our first exposure to the world outside of Scotland, hence the education, I mentioned.

Lone Ranger and TontoWe would sit back and enjoy one of our series “FLASH GORDON’ a then future space odyssey, or the ‘LONE RANGER’ with his sidekick ‘TONTO’ and that beautiful white horse ‘SILVER’ a great cowboy threesome. They would then show a short Disney Cartoon, Bugs Bunny, or one of that type. Next, we would go into a full feature film which in those days would last just nearly an hour. At the end of this the lights would go up and the Ice Cream girls would stand up at the front of the cinema with their trays of Ice Cream for about 15 minutes, in which time the place was in an uproar. Most kids had held back from going to the toilets, so there was always a queue formed to get into a space which was inadequate for the amount of kids in the cinema. A good few wee Jimmy’s and Jessie’s were getting up off their seats and looking for their pals to discuss the way that man got his face punched in, and he sure deserved it, didn’t he!

There were ushers employed in those days whose job was to keep some sense of order in the Picture hoose. You also had to show them your wee stub of a ticket you had received from the pay kiosk in the foyer. They then in turn showed you to a seat or seats flashing their torches here and there, if the lights had been dimmed and the show already had started trying to find you a seat could go on all through the whole show and could be very interruptive. The chief usher for a long time was Brick McCallum. After the stop for refreshments and time for the projectionist to change his reels of film, the lights would go down, and the main feature would be shown.

There was many a time when something would happen in the showing of the film. The splicing of the various parts of the film would break apart. The speed would slow down or speed up because of some mechanical failure. Or the projectionist would fall asleep and not change the reels, or he would not change them fast enough for the crowd, so when this happened there was always the mumbling of angry voices and then the feet would begin to stamp the floor, getting louder and louder and then the cry would be taken up, BURN THE DOOKIT, BURN THE DOOKIT. I would not have that guy’s job for all the coal in the Blantyre pits, can you imagine this noise and this poor guy trying to feed or mend some old piece of film. A couple of break downs and the poor guy’s nerves had to have been shattered. This was one of the ways we showed our displeasure at the interruption of our films, and it was manifested tenfold if it happened at a particular exciting part of the film, it was pandemonium and then an instant silence at the first flicker from the screen at the return of the film.

Movie was not a word to our Blantyre vocabulary. It was, either we are going to the pictures or were going to see that new film with John Wayne. Another way we showed our discontent was to throw orange peel or wrappers up into the rays of light that was being projected on to the screen. For some reason, they always left the projection light on while they were trying to fix the fault of the interruption, this must have been for a quick re-entry of the film or could it have been just a safety measure of sorts, just try and imagine what would have happened if they had brought the main lights up.

If you were far enough back at the position of the rays entry, you could always make with your fingers those rude gestures, and they would be projected on to the screen which would raise a good laugh throughout the Picture House.

Margaret I am giggling away with this memory as I type, we kids sure knew how to live it up when we got the chance. If you ever meet up with a Blantyrorian, look him or her straight in the eye and say, ‘BURN THE DOOKIT’, if this does not bring on a reaction of hysterical laughter, then they are not from Blantyre.

If you take another look at the Gallery Picture of the ‘Dookit’ starting at the left-hand side of the picture (In Blantyre, everything was a picture to us the word photo was rarely ever used) you can see parts of the picture which would be showing sometime time in the following week WHEN Irish EYES ARE SMILING. This picture would receive more than the normal turnout, just because of the name and the life and whereabouts it was depicting, the reason being, that about 50% of the folks who lived in Blantyre at this time were of Irish descent. On the larger displayed billboard at the top it tells that the picture will be shown at 6-15 and 8-30 nightly. It also tells us that the picture now being shown is a picture featuring LAUREL and HARDY. You have a small type window in between and then another frame with about six small pictures displayed. These were taken from the main reel of the picture and displayed here as a synopsis of the picture which was now being shown. This was how the coming attractions of the 1930-1960 were shown. Compare this to today’s elaborate coming attractions now being shown in the Theatres. Today’s coming attraction shows are a show within themselves with all of the elaborate sound systems and advertisements usually lasting as long as a small feature film.

Again take another look and you will see that there are two-door openings into the picture hoose. The one to the right was the entrance to the cheap seats, and the one to the left was for the more expensive seats. The cheap seats were about half the cost of the more expensive seats, but there were about ten times as many cheap seats as there were of the expensive ones. Above these two doorways, there is a long billboard or poster being shown, what the words read I have been unable to decipher and would appreciate any input of their intention. On the right-hand side of the doors, here again are six wee pictures showing the coming attractions for maybe the next picture to be shown, which would start about Monday of that week and run until Wednesday of the same week, Thursday would then start another program. The Local picture halls in Scotland were never open on a Sunday.”

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The Blantyre Bowl

Blantyre BowlWhen the Dookit closed in 1958, two local carpenters, Ian Liddell and William Paul, converted the property into a 10 pin bowling alley, naming it ‘The Blantyre Bowl” and opened in 1959, much to the joy of local youths. My best friend at the time, Morris (Moses) Buchanan put me out in the Scottish Junior Championship final and went on to Olympia in London, where he won the British Junior Championship.

Unfortunately, the building was destroyed by fire and demolished in 1966. A porta cabin, housing the Clydesdale Bank, took its vacant place.

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Hi Bill

Bill you might remember me, I wrote to you a couple of years back. My name is Chick Frame from the old Buggie building. Now of Perth Western Australia. First, I want to congratulate you on the splendid job you are doing with Bla’an’tir’s Ain Website.

I have just now, once again read James Cornfield’s poem: Childhood Memories of Blantyre, and once again got that lump in my throat that it always gives me. The reason I am writing is because I know he doesn’t use a computer, so I would like you to offer him my heart-felt felt praise for the job he did. I swear he stole the memories right out of my head, because that’s just exactly what I remember myself.

I remember seeing a Tarzan picture in the old Dookit and there was Cheeta munching into a bunch of bananas, and for the life of me, I couldn’y remember even what they tasted like. I remember going across the road to Bowie’s fruit shop where right there in the window was a stooky bunch of Fife’s bananas. I also remember one of the boys suggesting going into the chemist shop next door to buy a packet of chocolate laxative, because you didn’y need any coupons. Probably lucky we had no money left.

Best of luck

Chick Frame

P.S.  I send you these couple of pictures as memories from the old Dookit.

Dead End Kids

Johnny Mack Brown with Charles Stevens (Hofbreed)

Johnny Mack Brown with Charles Stevens  (Hofbreed)

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If you have any Photos… Send them to Bill

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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