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Barbara Burns (nee Parnell) 2020
Memories of my time at the Ritz

In the 1940s
I was twelve years old when I was asked by a friend of the family, Vera Bayliss, who was in her twenties and worked full time, to help out at the Ritz cinema as an usherette. My young eyes had stars in them as I looked around at this grand 'palace' and I felt so grown up and important that I had been asked to work there!  Twelve was too young to be working but nobody in those days thought to question my age so I began my employment one night a week to get used to the procedures. I remember that a Mr Knighton was the manager at the time, a quiet man and being a junior, I didn't have much to do with him apart from greeting him in the evenings. There was a long undercover passageway at the side of the building so when I arrived in the evenings I rode my bicycle down there and stored it at the rear of the cinema.

My job was to open the doors in the foyer for the patrons to take their seats for the evenings entertainment, ask to see their ticket number showing where they were to sit, tear the tickets in half and ask them to follow me so that I could show them to their seats. I could do my job easily as the lights were on before the films started although I carried a torch just to light their way better. 

aged 17
Barbara aged 17 working at
W. W. Chamberlain
I worked downstairs at first, which was easier as the upper floor had steeper stairs. As soon as the lights went down and the film began, I closed the main doors, collected my bike and went home due to the fact that I was still at school. Later on, when I was 15 years old and had left school, I usually stayed until the end of the evening, opening the doors for the patrons to exit the cinema. I also worked three nights and sometimes four per week. I used to watch the films with the exception of horror, boxing or ones with scenes of mass fighting with swords and horses! I kept an exercise book at home and while the film was fresh in my mind, I wrote down the title, the actors performing in it and the storyline, marking it out of ten!  I often wonder where that book ended up; it would be interesting to see how many films I had watched during my time at the Ritz.

At the start of my employment, the cinema usually showed two films, the shorter one first and the main feature after that. As the main films became longer over the years, we reverted to a short news report first, it was called 'Pathe News', some shorts of films to come, then the major feature which ran until about 10pm.  
with Vera
Barbara with Vera in 2009
My 9 years working at the Ritz was a very happy time in my young life as I met a lot of nice people, staff and patrons alike. When the Americans were stationed at Chelveston Air Base, many of the airmen regularly visited the cinema and at one stage my mother said to me 'don't get too friendly with them' as she was afraid that I would meet and marry one of them and leave England to live in America! 
The sad thing for her was that 10 months after I got married in 1966 to an Englishman, I emigrated with my husband and his family to live in Australia.

Vera & Ralph
Vera (nee Meadows) & her husband Ralph c2005

I kept in touch with Vera and her second husband Ralph Horn, visiting them twice when they lived in Denton Close, during my holidays to England, until she passed away in 2012 at the age of 90. 

Barbara Burns (nee Parnell).

Note: Vera Horn (nee Meadows) was related to the Carr Family of Irchester.

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