Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Working in Dagenham

Dagenham, in the part of Greater London that used to be Essex, is one of the many places where I worked during my early career in cinema management in the mid 60s.

As a young Assistant Manager, I had to spend a considerable portion of my time going out on relief, in other words being in temporary charge while the actual Manager was ill, or on holiday, or otherwise absent.

One of the cinemas where I had to go for this purpose was the Odeon Dagenham, in the shopping street known as the Heathway.

It was situated overlooking the railway tracks, beside Dagenham Heathway Station, and until one got used to it one could feel the building shaking every time a train went by. Some of the trains passed straight through on their way to Southend, while the station itself was an Underground station.

I remember being astonished at this cinema to find that one of the staff had recently become a grandmother at the ripe old age of 32!

There were other Rank cinemas in the area - the Odeon Becontree and the Odeon Chadwell Heath, two others where I had to go on relief, and the Odeon Whalebone Lane, at Becontree Heath, which was the first cinema of which I was appointed the Manager, in 1966.

Another cinema, the Grange, closed down just as I was coming into the business.

One Saturday night, while I was managing the Odeon Whalebone Lane, I went to the Dagenham cinema to take charge on a Late Night Show, so that my friend Bill Wander, the Manager, could go off to a previous commitment.

Unfortunately, a disturbance in the audience led to my being obliged to call the police. When they arrived, the main protagonist of the disturbance proceeded to assault a police officer who was trying to remove him. This led to my later giving evidence on behalf of the police at Barking Magistrates` Court.

If anybody reading this has any connections with Dagenham, or East London in general (Born? Lived? Worked? Ancestors? Relatives?), I will be very pleased to hear from them.