EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

House lights dim, children cheer and King George V Jubilee movie starring Laurel and Hardy begins at Regent Theatre in 1935

 In 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression, the King George V Jubilee movie at the Regent Theatre in Chapleau was a success, according to George Tremblay in his wonderful book about the movies, 'Break at Nine'.

Mr. Tremblay, who was born and raised in Chapleau, and later became a movie projectionist, starts his book by sharing the story with the lasting impression of a visit to the theatre with schoolchildren to mark the 25th anniversary of George V as king.

"The great day had finally arrived. It was June 1935 and my home town was celebrating King George V's silver jubilee. Most Canadians took rightful pride in the fact that they were part of the great British empire... King George had been their king during the dark days of the great war seventeen years earlier (World War I) and he and his consort, Queen Mary, had inspired the deep affection of their people," Mr. Tremblay wrote.

In those days to celebrate such an event it was customary to give school children a holiday and a ticket for a free show at the local movie house. 

His mother sent George, nine at the time, off to the separate school he attended on Pine street where Cedar Grove Lodge is now, where all the children were being assembled to walk to the theatre, located in the building where the Royal Bank is now.

"Full of excitement and anticipation, I joined my mates in our classroom."

Finally, his teacher arose from her desk and proceeded to hand out the "bright red tickets' which indicated they would be attending the first show, while his older brother Noel, in a higher grade would be given a blue ticket for a later showing.

Off they went with George keeping " a firm grip on my precious red ticket as I trotted off with my classmates"  forming an "impressive line of little people" on their way to the movie.

Although it was a relatively short walk he noted some distractions along the way to occupy their interest.

At the corner of Birch and Lansdowne street across from the present Bargain Shop was Mrs. Moseley's convalescent home for injured workers with its colourful display of crossed Union Jacks or Canadian Ensign flags and wide red, white and blue bunting festooned from pillar to pillar on her verandah.

Other side of  Main Street 1930s
I recall the colourful displays on her verandah when I was a youngster in Chapleau in the 1940s.

Mr. Tremblay noted that such displays of loyalty to the Crown were not uncommon in those days.  As they passed Collins and Matters department store, now Collins Home Furniture, they saw an entire front showcase with large framed photos of King George and  Queen Mary. He added: "Charles Collins, one of the owners of the store, was a World War I returned veteran and his partner, Fred Matters, was an English immigrant and there was no hesitation on their part in displaying their loyalty."

Arriving at the theatre, there was a large crowd present, and an open area between the front of the crowd and theatre door. He was too small to see but then heard the sound of marching feet , and by looking down at ground level, he saw the "putteed legs and polished boots stomp by in perfect unison." 

At first, he thought it was soldiers but then realized it was members of 1181 Chapleau High School Cadet Corps that he would eventually join several years later.

He had to surrender his bright red ticket, and despite all the commotion surrounding a large group of students being seated, they were finally ready for the start of the movie.

He gives a hint of his future career as a projectionist when he notes by observing the upper part of the back wall he could see a small, dark figure moving behind the little portholes in the wall.

The figure seemed to be adjusting something when, suddenly, 'the house lights dimmed. The children let out a tremendous cheer of glee!. The show was finally starting."

Young George was "completely entranced by the new living world being revealed" to him as he saw the "dazzling burst of light shoot out from one of the smaller round portholes" but the highlight of his afternoon was yet to come.

The screen was taken over by the two hilarious comedians of the day -- Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  The movie was 'Towed in a Hole", (1932) which Mr. Tremblay says was their best classic short movie.

"Their every gesture invited laughter. They were a pair of very talented comedians and performers who entranced my generation for many years".  (And mine, too!)

Mr. Tremblay also reminded his readers that Laurel and Hardy also brought a bit of laughter to the older folks of those days at a time when they needed it most, for it was the time of the Great Depression.

"The King George V Jubilee movie had been a success! It had created an impression that would last me a lifetime," Mr. Tremblay wrote. He became a movie projectionist.

'Break at Nine' by George Tremblay is a great read. Mr. Tremblay kindly sent me a copy some years ago, and I keep returning to it for more moments from his life and the movie industry.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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