King's Cross Voices
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King's Cross Voices Oral Historian Alan Dein spoke to Charles Chilton on 26th March, 2004. Born on Sandwich Street in poverty in 1917, Charles was raised and went to school in King's Cross. He joined the BBC in 1933 as a junior in the record library and worked his way up to writer and producer, creating classic radio programmes like 'Journey into Space'. He retired in 1979, was awarded the MBE, and is also an accomplished local historian of the King's Cross area. Charles has an almost photographic memory of the King's Cross area from his childhood. Here he relates his very first memory, that of a naked man, save for a loin cloth, on the screen at the Euston Cinema.

Charles Chilton Euston Cinema
Charles Chilton.
Photo Credit: Sarah Weal.
Euston Cinema.
Photo Credit: Camden Local
Studies and Archives Centre.

Duration: 3 minutes 23 Seconds. Size:3.9mb

Charles Chilton: From 1900 onwards, rapidly expanding, there was the cinema and the cinema between 1900 and 1920 exploded, you know, like the radio did from 1920 onwards and once the cinema got going, of course the poor old music hall started to die because people didn't go to the music hall. So, there was that. And, I had a great connection with the cinema because my father, being killed in the first world war, as soon as the war was over my mother of course had to look for some means of supporting me and herself and she got herself a job in the Euston Cinema which was the second cinema in London to open.

Alan Dein: Is that so?

Charles: Yeah. The first one was the Regent Poly in Regent Street. The second one is the Euston in Euston Road where my mother worked and she used to issue tickets. Well they weren't tickets, she used to turn a handle and a metal disk fell out and if you said two seats, two in the sixpences, she would go clink, clink, clank, clank, and she'd give them two tickets which were actually square bits of metal designed in such a way that you could tell whether it is was, the money was for an expensive seat or a cheap seat so that when you got in the dark they could feel by the ticket how much you paid for your seat you see. And then you would be shown to your seat. Well, you could get into the cinema from the ticket office through a curtain and just behind that curtain I used to be put in a cot, or bag or something while my mother served the tickets and so my earliest memory, my very earliest memory, is of a lion on a cliff top with a man down on the bottom end of the screen, the lion up on the top right hand of the screen and a man, naked but for a loin cloth, on the left hand bottom side of the screen and the lion jumping on him and he pulling out a knife to grapple with the lion and that's my earliest memory. And I have looked it up and what it was it was the last scene of a weekly serial that was shown at that cinema called Elmo The Mighty, King of the Jungle which was based on the Tarzan stories. So that's the earliest memory I have, I must have been three years old I think and that was because my mother put me into the main body of the cinema on a seat in this, well it wouldn't be a carry cot but something I was laying in, and then every time I cried she would come out from serving the tickets and feed me or something and then go back to serve. So, that's my experience of the second cinema to be opened in London.

Alan Dein: That's wonderful.

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ай2004 King's Cross Voices Oral History Project