My life My Radion

30 yrs of fun

By Gloria Sewell

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'My life My Radion' page

The Radion what can I say, it was the hub of Laindon when I was a child. As I have said before we were not too well off so our Saturday 6p for the cinema and our three pence and a coupon for our sweeties at Pelham’s on the way was our weekend treat and what a treat. I recall the Radion had 680 seats and most of them on Saturday mornings were filled with us kids for our Roy Rogers club and it did not end there we had fancy dresses: best cowboy for the boys and best Indian for the girls and talent shows. There was also the Flash Gordon serial that always ended each week with a cliff hanger and started the next week a few frames earlier so he had not gone over the cliff, the tillers easily taken in, but it was exciting and had us on the edge of our seats. We also always had a cartoon Tom and Jerry, Donald Duck and of course Mickey n Minnie Mouse. Every boy wanted to be Roy Rogers, every girl Dale Evens and we all dreamed of Trigger in the back garden. Then there was the roof raising sound of "A four legged friend "sung by us all.

Later I began to go along not only to watch a film but, if my little brother was not in tow, to have a snog in the back row and a sly cigarette, before I was allowed to smoke. Someone must remember the smelly little red velvet seats with the metal ashtrays stuck to the back, magic! One film I remember clearly seeing was the "Blackboard Jungle" approx, 1957, I fibbed about my age to get in. It was a film about anti-social behaviour in schools. Glenn Ford played the depressed wimpy teacher and Sidney Poitier played a black rebellious student. This film really marked the beginning of a period of teenage rebellion of Teddy Boys and Girls, full skirts swinging as we danced in the aisles and ponytails flying. Of course the great Bill Hayley played the unforgettable theme tune "Rock around the clock", this was the start of big changes in the world "The swinging sixties", "Women’s Lib". We all felt the vibes of great new things to come and us Laindon teens were determined to be part of it, we would not be left behind and our old Radion with its dome shaped roof shook with the promise of exciting things to come and come they did.

Then who could forget the Pathe news item, the Cockerel would appear on the screen and the R.K.O. radio mask and a short film followed telling us about events in other parts of the world. I have read that in 2002 thanks to a lottery grant 3500 hours of filmed history and 90,000 news items have been digitised, brilliant! Told you exciting times to come. There would also be a short film of local advertisers, trailers for the next week’s film and then the main movie. The projectionist was at the back above the seats his beam of light shining through the cinema, the cigarette smoke swirling sometimes so thick you could hardly see the film through it. Sometimes the projector (in fact often) would break down and everyone would whistle and stamp their feet and sing why are we waiting, poor man.

Another film I saw approx 1959 which sticks in my memory more than others was "Psycho" with Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, very scary for those times anyway, Alfred Hitchcock the producer made it a rule that you only went in at the start of the film if you missed the start you had to wait until the next showing, he said if you saw the ending first it would spoil the whole film, very true. A lighter note, I went to see it with my friend Pam Callow she had a box of Maltesers and during a tense silent scene, can’t recall which one, she dropped them, all you could hear were the Maltesers rolling down the cinema and our giggles, don’t think it went down to well. I recall a Mr Phelps was the owner who we called Mr 4 chins and he also owned another cinema in Billericay called The Ritz, if my memory is correct. He would stand in the foyer as we all went in you could almost read his mind behave you lot. When the show was over the big double side doors would open and the shaft of light that came in was so bright you could not see a thing for a little while.

Later, I suppose around 1965, I remember going to bingo there and winning the £89 Jackpot lots of money then, I know we bought a tent, all the equipment and had a fortnight in Cornwall on it, happy days.

Some of the other memories I have of the Radion are the tasteless popcorn, the soft delicious Walls ice cream tubs with the little wooden spoon, the nuts in shells that made so much mess and the musky smell, all having their own special place in my memory. Add to this my memories of the many boyfriends I went there with, but that’s yet another tale to tell. I hope this helps jog other memories of our Radion.

This page was added by Gloria Sewell on 19/10/2011.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

Georgina mentions, in addition to the Radion, Garons cinema in Southend that screened "older" films. I recall also the Ritz in Billericay, that, from time to time had "all nighters", where horror films would be shown one after another throughout the night. These films were so poorly made that they were laughable, but it was a cheap, fun way of spending a whole night out. The Ritz, it has to be said, did not live up to its rather grand name, maybe in its heyday?

By Donald Joy
On 16/01/2016

The cinema program for the week was advertised in our shop (St Nicholas Stores).  I think there were three films a week.  Two running during the week with a separate film on Sunday. For advertising the program we received two cinema passes.  These could be used twice, singly, or once for two persons.  

I was a Saturday morning cinema monitor.  This entailed making sure that Laindon's "little Herberts" didn't open the fire doors and let their mates in!!  Stoping the boys from tying a girl's plait to a girl next to her.  And keeping "things" from flying about, sometimes launched with the aid of a catapult.

"Elf and Safety" would have a field day were such a place open today.

Whilst thinking of the Radion it brought back memories of the Garon's cinema at Southend-on-Sea, which used to show "older" films (Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, and Abott & Costello).  For 6d. it was a cheap retreat from the rain.  

By Georgina Nottage (nee Ellingford)
On 13/01/2016

Hi. Has anyone got a picture of my dad the late Robert George Riggs dressed as a cowboy in the Laindon recorder?  Many thanks.

By Christyanne Riggs
On 10/01/2016

Hi Angela & John, as well as neighbours I used to work with Joyce at the High Road School. We all live in Berkshire. We did work and live in South Africa. Nice to hear from you. We have called on Gordon & Joan Radley also friends and old neighbours of you guys.

By Stella & Len Boret
On 10/07/2013

Hi again Stella, John said he remembers you emigrating. Where are you now ??

By Angela Underdown (nee carter)
On 26/04/2013

Hi, Stella, I remember you. So does John, my husband, Joyce's son.

By Angela Underdown
On 26/04/2013

Hi Angela, we used to be neighbours of Jackie and Joyce Underdown in Victoria Road. They had two daughters named Debbie age now 50/51, Tina age 48 or thereabouts. Debbie and Marie my daughter also Susan Radley were playmates. Debbie loved horses. Are these your relations?

By Len/Stella Boret
On 15/04/2013

Thank you for your helpfull comments on my request. Although I worked in Laindon for thirty years I see I have a lot to learn. I would love to come to one of your open days. Can you tell me when the next one will be? 

Editor: You would be more than welcome, the following link will take you to the list of memory dates for 2012

By Jim Reeve
On 11/01/2012

I remember going to the Radion to see 'Poor Cow' in the early 60s

By Norma Saggers
On 11/12/2011

Agreed Richard, May be Jim should be directed to a Memories Day, he would learn an awful lot from the wise old heads.

By Eric Pasco
On 11/12/2011

To Jim Reeves (Welcome to my World), it might be useful if you knew the difference between the High Street and Laindon High Road if you are attempting to write a book on the subject. Most OS maps pre 1965 show the Radion Cinema on its old site in Laindon High Road, suggest you have a look at those.

Editor: Well said there are too many books on this area where inadequate research has been carried out.

By Richard Haines
On 10/12/2011

Where was the Cinema the High Street and what is there now. I am writing a book on Basildon then and Now and would like to include it. Thank you.

Editor: The New Laindon Library now stands on the old Cinema site.

By Jim Reeve
On 10/12/2011

Hi Angela, thanks for that I remember Ted Underdown lighting lamps on A127 flyover when they were putting in the new road.

I remember he had a Chihuahua dog and he used to drink in the Prince of Wales Pub. I also remember the fish and chip shop

By Keith Nock
On 09/12/2011

Hi keith, Joyce Underdown was my mother in law, she passed away 1993, (she was formerley Bird, and married Jack underdown). The Birds were Laindon people, living in Tattenham road). Ted Underdown was my husband's grandfather and they lived in Pound Lane Laindon, they had sons Ted, (so that might be who you knew), Jack and daughters Iris and Doree. The Underdowns had, the fish shop in Laindon, next to the Radion.

By Angela Underdown
On 09/12/2011

Thank you William, I too don't think it was disinfectant, but when you think of the amount of people who used to go there and all the smoking and different perfumes folk wore they needed something to spray the air with to make it sweeter. The sprays are now automatic but then was all part of the magic which is now our memories.

By Gloria Sewell
On 06/12/2011

Hi Joyce, were you related to Ted Underdown, who lived in Pound Lane at one time.

By Keith Nock
On 05/12/2011

Further to the Radion spray as described by Andrea and Gloria I do not believe it was Flit, which was an insecticide or a disinfectant, but was a deodorant, but those near to the aisles were well and truly sprayed during the intermission and the only way to avoid it was to run to the front where the ice cream was being sold.

By W.H.Diment
On 05/12/2011

I think you are right Daphne, but I am sure it was not disinfectant (although I don't know for sure) maybe it was water to freshen up the air a bit. Does anyone know for sure. 

Angela, Joyce Underdown, I remember the name well, leave me with my thinking cap on it will come.

By Gloria Sewell
On 05/12/2011

Hi all, just wanted to add my mum in law was an usherette at the Radion. Joyce Underdown. I remember going there often myself in the early 60's. I remember the seats being really itchy!!

By Angela Underdown
On 04/12/2011

I too used to go to the Radion sometimes on a Saturday morning, and I am sure somebody used to come round with a Flit disinfectant spray gun before the film started!

By Daphne Rowbotham (née Churms)
On 28/11/2011

Thank you all for such wonderful memories of the 'Flea-Pit' as we then knew it, despite not being so. How true it is, I have no idea, anymore than I can ask him now due to his passing in July 2010. I had been told my Dad suggested the start-up of Saturday Morning cinema, having been seen successful in Dagenham, and in order to give us kids somewhere else to go on a regular basis. 

Regarding Roy Rogers visiting the UK, the now Late Robert Riggs who I was in class with, won the Best Dressed cowboy and rightly so, then got to meet Roy and Trigger. Even to this day, I can 'see' their photo in the Laindon Recorder.

Editor: I have photograph of Maureen Venables at a presentation with Roy Rogers. I am working on a story on the Cinema to stir the memories.

By Brian Baylis
On 21/11/2011

The photograph of “The Radion” cinema in Laindon High Road that heads Gloria Sewell’s essay “My Life, My Radion; 30 years of fun,” is a reminder that this cinema had an existence that started way back before the events recalled in Gloria’s piece. 

In fact, an article published in the “Laindon Advertiser” of April 1931 gives us a clue to the exact upon which the building first open its doors in 1929. The article concerned reads as follows: “Laindon Picture Theatre: Our local cinema celebrates its second year of successful life on the week commencing April 6th. “To mark this auspicious occasion there will be an all-talking programme throughout the week of films being exhibited for the first time in Essex. The first week we shall see Ivor Novello in a super film called “Symphony in Two Flats” and another, starring Willersby Barry, entitled “Riding to Win” in addition to several talkie novelties. The rest of the week is taken up with, firstly, “Borrowed Wives,” a screamingly funny farce with a melodramatic background of mystery for its hilarious story and secondly by “Under Montana Skies.” His latter is a cowboy story that is distinguished by its unusual plot. Kenneth Harlan, the cowboy hero, takes under his wing a touring revue company composed entirely of girls, and his difficulties and scrapes provide a fast moving blend of fun and drama. “On Monday, 13th, will be shown a most outstanding picture called “The W Plan.” This is a British film of which the ”Star” says “I can recommend “The W Plan” as quite one of the best British pictures I have seen and one which bears comparison with the most ambitious American productions.” It is a gripping spy drama of the war and is led by Brian Aherne and the beautiful Madeleine Carroll. Essentially a film that should not be missed. “The second half of the week brings us “Rio Rita” with the romantic John Boles and Bebe Daniels in the principal parts. It seems somewhat surplus to describe this riot of colour, with its tuneful music that is known all over the world. “The week commencing April 20th is again outstanding for the opportunity of seeing famous films. Showing during the first half is “Let us be Gay,” direct from the Empire, Leicester Square, and starring Norma Shearer. From Thursday there will be the film that has won the American prize for the best picture of 1930 – “The Divorcee” – again with clever Norma Shearer as the heroine. It is a story of conjugal misunderstandings, divorce a la Americaine, a wild round of frivolity in an endeavour to smother a miserable longing, and a final running into sophisticated but calm waters. “Thursday the 30th, winds up a bumper month with the famous “Young Woodley,” the story that enjoyed a year’s run on the stage and caused much controversy during its run. It is a story of an idealistic scholar thrown among the rough and tumble of school life who falls in love with the young wife of his house master. It is a story well out of the rut, and the theme is treated with delicacy and restraint. “Included in this month’s performances are two afternoon shows, both commencing at 2pm. The first is on Tuesday 7th (Anniversary Week) and the other on Thursday 16th. 

MR Silverman, the enterprising proprietor of this Theatre is ever on the alert to effect a possible improvement in his service to the public and his latest achievement is to install a new power plant. With the aid of this apparatus it is possible to warm the auditorium to any desired temperature and, curiously enough, to reverse this process in hot weather and make the premises the coolest spot in Laindon. “Taking it “bye and large” - programme, efficient temperature control and the remarkably high standard of sound reproduction - we certainly think that the Laindon Picture Theatre removes any necessity to go out of the district for our entertainment. Mr Silverman obviously lives up to the proverb “To achieve success you must deserve it.” Editorial note: The reference above in the third paragraph to the “Star” is a reference to the London Evening paper of that name, now long defunct. In the March 10th, 1938, edition of the same Laindon local newspaper, the following is published under a Banner Headline reading “Sunday Opening of the Cinema” “We publish this letter as received and whilst we do not necessarily agree with the contents, we think this will be of interest to many. “Laindon. March 3rd. “TO FELLOW CHURCH GOERS “Petitions against Sunday opening of the cinema will soon be circulated in the Churches of Laindon for your support. Should you sign them or not? Why should we try to stop it? As I see the church of today, it is no better than the cinema , how many go to the church to worship God, very few, the large proportion go to stare, laugh and talk, to make general observations or private speculation, to find a lover or some hat (to) admire, more likely criticise, perhaps a new creation to show. Some to sit nod and doze, the preacher’s voice, style or suit to admire, or hear the latest gossip, true and false. “Let us keep our attention on our own affairs and get them right before we try to dictate to others what they should do.“ ’CHURCH GOER’ Later that year a local referendum organised by the Billericay Urban District Council was held on the subject of the Sunday opening of cinemas. The majority vote was for performances to be held on Sundays, The same year saw the adoption of the new name “Radion” for the cinema now under new management of J.P. Grindley. The prominent illuminated “globe” visible in the photograph was erected simultaneously with the name change just in time for its use to be banned for the five years of wartime blackout.

By John Bathurst (IM)
On 12/11/2011

Hi Andrea, Yes I think we got there in the end Pat Lester and blonde seem to match up in my memory cells.

By Eric Pasco
On 30/10/2011

Hi Eric, if it was the Lester girls, it would have only been Pat (blonde) because Marilyn wasn't at Laindon. Jacqui (Barton) was the little dark girl who was the dancer.

By Andrea
On 29/10/2011

Eric --- that was probably Patricia (Pat) then?

By Andrea
On 29/10/2011

Thanks again Andrea, however can you tell the names of the Lester children since that is the name that rings the loudest bells after Ash. Strangely the Barton name does not. I was born 1947 and I know one was same age as me (a daughter). Thanks again

By Eric Pasco
On 28/10/2011

Hi Eric, yes Lester was the second surname. The last four children were Jacqueline, Colin, Michael and Timothy. (Mike was killed on his Harley at the age of 48 in Wiltshire). Jacqui spent her life as a dancer but now retired in Portland Bill area, Colin in Lyme Regis and Tim currently in Warwickshire.

By Andrea
On 28/10/2011

Hi Andrea,Thanks for that.... can you enlighten me on the names of the children. I also have the surname Lester somewhere in my mind in relation to this family. Was that the 2nd married name ? Regards Eric

By Eric Pasco
On 28/10/2011

Hi Eric, Doris Barton (once a Councillor) did live in DD and in all, she bore eight children. Two were Ash from her first husband John Ash, a Sapper who was blown up by a bomb in London in 1941 aged 22. Second husband - two children and then he died. Husband number three was Mr Barton and they had four children, probably the ones you remember - three boys and a girl. She joked about her husbands saying I've got one on top and two underneath!

By Andrea
On 26/10/2011

Hi Andrea, did Doris Barton live in Dickens Drive and were there other children as I do recall visiting there with Mum and playing with other kids. I really thought the name was Ash, maybe it was at that time, did she marry again later?

By Eric Pasco
On 26/10/2011

Hi Andrea, The memory is an amazing thing, as soon as you mentioned the names it all came flooding back. I do recall the name Ash and Dad certainly worked on railways all his life. Ruth lives in Somerset but Beryl still in Laindon.

By Eric Pasco
On 23/10/2011

Hi Eric, yes it was Griffins shop and I can see Mr Griffin now, dark hair and moustached. Here's a note for you from my other half Chris (Ash) - he knew your sister Ruth very well and Beryl as they used to visit his mum's home. Apparently his mum who was called Doris Barton worked on the railway with Dick Pascoe and then your mum and her became good friends?

By Andrea
On 23/10/2011

Yep, I also was a member of the Roy Rogers Club and had THE badge! Do you remember someone telling us kids that Roy & Dale & Trigger were visiting UK and might come to Laindon! I was so disappointed when they didn't! I also remember the talent shows - brilliant. Later on in years there was a story about the Teddy Boys in the Radion. Mr Phelps had got fed up with them and would send an usherette down to flash torch at them. One evening they all got together and decided to go to the flicks with a torch each. When the usherette came down again flashing her torch, about ten or twelve torches came back and lit her up - she was the star of their show. Mr Phelps was not amused. (Chris my husband and Ernie Hawkins were in that group) tut! There was an usherette from those days, a pretty very distinctive dark haired lady: not long ago (a couple of years or so) I saw a lady sitting in a wheelchair and mentioned to my husband that it looked like that usherette; she heard me, said yes, it was her. Bless her.

By Andrea
On 23/10/2011

Yes Eric they showed some great films there this one starred Gregory Peck and David Niven about some huge guns. I love to read on this site how many Laindon born or reared couples are still together after 50 plus years. Do you renember the little sweet shop and cafe on the right of the Radion we often went there after a trip to the Radion, I think it was called Griffins. Later as teens we used the one to the left of the Radion "Hiawather" the first time I had cappachino was in there in a little glass cup they made it with strong coffee and a steam jet that frothed it all up.

Lovely memory from you Eric may you have many more years together.

By Gloria Sewell
On 21/10/2011

Oh yes the Radion Cinema. I remember the Saturday morning matinees and Roy Rogers and did in fact win the best dressed cowboy one Saturday. Years later around 1962 I took a young lady to see "The Guns of Navorone" and 50 years, 3 sons, 5 grandsons and a granddaughter later we are still together. Not sure how much of that movie we saw though!!

By Eric Pasco
On 21/10/2011
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