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Memories are made of this with John Ward

By Spalding Today Columnist

Somebody was telling me their memory was ‘not as good as it should be these days’ as he was supposed to be popping in to see me but had, well, forgotten - plus he had also forgotten about his doctor’s appointment, although I could offer no advice on his blood pressure issues but his low oil pressure problems in his car engine, I could, or at least offer my opinion.

On a similar line of thought, friend Tony recently remarked that I must have a ‘very good memory’ to be able to scribble about the various events that are chronicled in this section of intellectual and sociological enlightenment but sadly in some respects, it's not quite the case.

Although I can remember with quite reasonable clarity, even in colour sometimes, events that happened twenty, thirty, forty (I would have been about seven then, I would think) years or so ago with no problems - but last week? Not a clue in some cases but read on.

The reason that some assorted events spring to mind is down to the simple pen or pencil I had about at the time of assorted happenings to make notes - anything from paper, card, used cereal packets etc or whatever was to hand that would allow writing or rather my scrawl upon. I often hankered after a slate and stick of chalk but it's not happened - yet.

The real reason is that some people fascinate me (perhaps for the wrong reasons!) although those considered to be 'normal' never seemed to register much but the 'weird and wunderfool' ones always did (and still do, so you have been warned) as their antics were what I would call ‘out the normal’ so I wrote the basics down as and when time permitted of the various encounters at the given time.

John Ward (6921499)
John Ward (6921499)

I uncovered a box of them a few years back when trying to have a ‘clear out’ (again...) of stuff but some are now slightly faded as pencil does not seem to stand up so well on the insides of Kellogg's cornflakes boxes circa 1970 onwards but otherwise they do serve as ‘memory joggers’.

However, I am now about halfway through the box - some are too far gone to make the scrawl out, so are lost really. so one could say that some memories have indeed faded away.

However, the good news of sorts, depending on your outlook or boredom threshold, is the fact that I am noticing more contenders nowadays for the ‘Imbecile of the Year’ Award, as now I carry a notebook around to still scribble down ‘memory joggers’ in order to keep up to date because as each day goes by, they never cease to amaze me as possibly you will be reading about in due course.

In some cases, some encounters were or can be on a level pegging with the television series ‘The X Files’, as the parallels between that and the paranormal was, and can be, a very fine line at times, believe me.

Years ago, I was working in the cinema trade as a full-time projectionist and one afternoon, during a matinee performance, a chap wandered out from the auditorium (it's that big dark bit where the films were shown if the word auditorium is baffling to some) to the foyer (front bit before going into the said auditorium) to get some sweets/wotever from the kiosk but before doing so, he fainted or rather he just keeled over by the said kiosk.

The first reaction of the immediate staff was that it was true the prices of the humbugs, liquorice allsorts and Mivvi (the ‘drink on a stick’ ice lolly) had just gone up in price but he hadn’t brought any, so that was dismissed initially as the cause.

Betty the kiosk lady shot round to see what she could do as he laid there (the cleaners were not due in till the next morning, so it could be bit of a problem as people or patrons would have to step over him otherwise) but as she was trying to make him comfortable or find out what had happened, an usherette came out from the big dark bit (auditorium) at that point, saw the problem and joined in trying to do whatever was required.

I was coming out from the electricity supply room, just off the foyer, having sorted some bits (it was a ‘screwdriver and test meter’ job) so I partly saw this going on but the one thing that still sticks in my mind is the following, that I wrote down afterwards.

Betty with Mrs Usherette had somehow managed to get him to stagger up and get him into a seat by her kiosk, as Mrs Usherette said those unforgettable and mesmerising words: ‘I’ll just look into his jacket to see who he is..’ (quite why was not explained as he was still alive and basically coherent but slightly ga-ga naturally although some afterwards suggested she had been watching too many films) but on opening his jacket, saw and reported thus: ‘His name is John Collier it says here..’

Note: for those of a more or ongoing fuller age range, they perhaps won’t need reminding that this was the name of a well-known national chain of men’s tailors of the day that basically had a branch in most towns and cities throughout the land - I tend to think they were eventually taken over by the Burton's tailoring or other similar concern.

To be fair, Betty looked a bit stunned at hearing that and even more so when Mrs Usherette then said: 'ere! - do you think he’s the bloke who owns the men’s tailoring shops? Do you think someone should ring the shop and let them know?’(to ask the price of a matching pair of trousers maybe?) as it seems it was lost on her that this was the clothing maker's brand label, so we assumed she led a somewhat sheltered life but more worryingly she was deadly serious.

The chap made a full recovery after having a cup of tea, then toddled off home but as he missed some of the film that afternoon, he was given a complimentary ticket to attend another performance another time.

I wrote this down in my own sort of ‘shorthand’ on an old ‘Butterkist’ popcorn cardboard box lid that all the separate packets came in but although it's quite faded today, it's just about legible, hence scribbling about it here.

As a sort of footnote, when Reg the doorman came on duty later, heard about it, he suggested it was perhaps fortunate the chap did not buy his clothing from Marks and Spencer, as their trade or brand name was ‘St. Michael’, so perhaps a call to the Vatican to ask if ‘St. Michael’ had not returned that afternoon from his trip to the cinema to make them aware where he could be found if taking the situation to its full potential - caring or what?

Our wages were not earth shattering, plus the term ‘job satisfaction’ was unheard of then - plus it may have been misunderstood as a track performed by the Rolling Stones pop warblers but we did perhaps get one of the best insights into life and those who made it quite laughable. That still continues today, one way or another.


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