Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Working in Barking

I worked in Barking for a short while in the early 1960s.

It was in my early days in cinema management. I had joined the Rank Organisation as a Trainee Manager in September 1963, and a couple of months later was promoted to Assistant Manager at the Odeon Barking.

Promotion to Assistant Manager might not sound much, but actually it was quite a big deal. As a Trainee one can always hide behind the Manager (“I can’t answer that, you’ll have to ask the Manager”), but as an Assistant a lot of that no longer can apply. When the Manager is away, the Assistant is in charge, so has to start making decisions.

Barking is in East London, and one of the places that used to be part of Essex until local government reorganisation in the sixties. It is about thirty miles from Southend, my home town.

The Odeon Barking was a big cinema strategically placed overlooking the railway station.

On my first day at Barking, the Manager, Walter Hackett, received a phone call from Mr Jacobs, the Area Manager, and said to me “he wants to speak to you”.

I was horrorstruck. I wondered what on earth I could have done in such a short space of time to have got into trouble, and whether I would get the sack.

But it wasn’t any of that. He told me to have my lunch and then go down to the Odeon Southend, and spend the rest of the day working there.

It wasn’t until I got to Southend that I realised why. The Odeon had a stage, and from time to time put on shows – mostly pop singers, but also comedians and what used to be known as variety shows. I had seen, as a member of the public, people like Tommy Steele and Frankie Vaughan there.

That night the Beatles were performing there. Now at that time the Beatles – John, Paul, George and Ringo - were at the absolute peak of their popularity, both here and in America, where they simultaneously had the Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 records in the charts.

It had been decided to draft in a collection of young chaps, as well as doormen, from other cinemas to help out with any problems.

It was an amazing night, and although during the performance I was as close to the stage as one could possibly get, I could not hear a word that was sung. Funnily enough, I knew what they were singing because I recognised the internal rhythms of the songs.

Having been viciously kicked, punched, poked and spat at by hundreds of young girls at once, while stopping them climbing over the orchestra pit to the stage, my colleagues and I breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was all over.

Unfortunately, after a few seconds reality kicked in, and I realised that there was another show to come. In those days, there were two performances each evening – one about 6.30pm and another about 9pm. But I’m very glad to say that the 17-year-olds at the second show were a lot better behaved than the 13-year-olds at the first.

While I was working at Barking, I met Stanley Baxter and Leslie Phillips.

But I didn’t stay at Barking very long. Just after Christmas, I was transferred, still as Assistant Manager, to the Ritz at Southend.

If anybody reading this has any connections with Barking (Born? Lived? Worked? Ancestors? Relatives?), I would be very pleased to hear from them.