I was all of fifteen, and could now get a job. All I needed was a work permit which was no problem at all, and a job. And that was no problem either, for I wanted to work at the Cinema and my Dad was the Boss. At times this would prove problematic, but in the main it was overlooked.
There was a hierarchy – manager at the top of course, then assistant manager, door men and ushers at the bottom. Concession workers came under another heading, though in busy times ushers were expected to throw in and help them too. The best concession workers moved on to be ticket cashiers. The projectionists were mysterious union people hidden away upstairs, and in a twin theater constantly busy (this was before automation and multigigaplexes).
The ushers uniform was the same as the doormen, black dress shoes, tuxedo pants with the black silk stripe down the legs, white shirt and a black bow tie (clip-on), and a bright blue blazer, later emblazoned with the GCC logo on the left breast. Our main tool was the flashlight. We were trained how to greet people and offer them assistance finding seats. You would snap the light on, place its beam at their feet and proceed down the aisle. Usually they stated their preference as to area, and we did our best to satisfy their wish.
If it were busy, and the auditorium was filling up, you were expected to be proactive and “make doubles.” Single seats could be scattered throughout a row, and you would ask people to move over to free up two seats together.
With the show in, our next chore required our other tools, a short handled broom and a dust bin also on a handle. Easier to use than chopsticks, we would police the lobby for spilled popcorn and other refuse.
Sometimes we helped the doorman tear tickets. If the show was a popular one, and the lobby was full of people waiting to go in, we would unhook the control ropes, thus opening another entry point. We could get them in and seated in short order, perhaps with the bonus of not having to usher anyone after the show had started.
I learned that life at the Cinema held a million stories and most of them not on the screen.
One day the doorman, whose nickname was “Honey” became unsettled after a new show had been let in. Reports were circulating in the news media about a Mad Bomber at large, spreading terror and his explosive packages in Boston and the surrounding area. One of the ticket holders to Honey’s mind looked suspiciously like the reported descriptions of the bomber. He took his report to my Dad. And while the staff kept tabs on the individual he called the police.
They arrived in short order. We took them into the auditorium to where the suspect was seated. The police didn’t fool around. At the point of their guns they brought him out to the lobby for questioning.
It proved a false alarm. And thankfully the customer thought the whole incident quite funny. He rather enjoyed the attention.