I remember that hideous cladding going on sometime in the early 1960s when my father had an office across the road and my mother a dress shop just around the corner. But that’s ten years ahead of my current story, when The Odeon was still a flourishing cinema presided over by a dragon in the form of Miss Collins, aunt of the fabled Bill Collins. Here it is in the 1930s.
BILL COLLINS: Oh, dear! I was born in a place called Sutherland, south of Sydney, in the Sutherland Shire. And I was born there on December 4, 1934. The house where I was born in is no longer in existence. But it was within easy walking distance of the Sutherland picture show where my Aunty Lil was an usherette and where I became a frequent patron.
In 1934 there was the Depression. I say sometimes in moments of anguish, "I’m a child of the Depression." And money was not easy. Life was a little tougher. But I think we were a lot happier then. The 1940s was an extraordinary period. The war was on and there were terrible things that were happening. But we also enjoyed ourselves a great deal. There weren’t many of the tensions that exist in Australia today. I can remember so vividly the night the Japanese submarines came into Sydney Harbour. And that was quite an extraordinary experience because by that time we had a trench in our backyard, as most people did in Australia. It was the worst of all times, and the best of all times. My mother’s name was Rita May Collins. Originally her surname was Miller. And my father was William Michael Joseph Collins. That’s why I became William, or Bill. And sometimes I think my father was lacking ambition. He just wanted to be in the police force and he loved being in the police force. My mother, she was a teacher. And I learnt a lot from her. It was my mother incidentally who started my interest really in classical music, for example. And my mother, of course, encouraged my reading and all the other things that I did during those years. When I was young, I would rather go to see adult movies than go to children’s matinees. I guess I was about nine years old when I saw ‘Gone with the Wind’. And I’d never seen anything like it before. I’d seen other big films but ‘Gone with the Wind’ emotionally, I think, got through to me. And I still remember vividly, one of the greatest scenes ever conceived and put on the screen, where she vows never to be hungry again…
This makes Bill Collins just one year older than my brother, by the way. I might also mention that in 1965 Bill Collins, then a lecturer at Sydney Teachers College, was the supervisor of a colleague student teacher at Cronulla High – and we rather gave him hell, I recall, as we thought he was unfair to her… But back to 1954:
And we sure did! She passed through one way by car and came back by train.
At that time any movie with a plane in it was good enough for me – well almost any movie was good enough for me, I suspect. And so it was that I saw William A. Wellman’s The High and the Mighty.
That is an interesting introduction to the movie by Leonard Maltin.
It is a middle grade movie really, not up there with classics like, say, Casablanca. But it has its moments.
Ken Childs: Keep talking, please keep talking; I’m frightened…
May Holst: Talking? Honey, you dont know what you’re asking. Tell you a good joke on me: You know, I always dreaded the idea of becoming an old woman. And the way things look now, I won’t have to worry about it any more. You know, I haven’t been whistled at in years, and the idea of growing roses for the rest of my life is really beginning to haunt me. There oughta be a home for dames like me. Yup – we shoulda organized. You know, a house somewhere with no mirror in it, far away where we never have to look at a young girl. They have homes for unmarried mothers but everybody forgets about the girls who – who never quite managed to make things legal. I think I could start one! Yeah – I could call it the May Holst Home for Broken-Down Broads. I kind of like that, don’t you?
That went right over my head in 1954, but then I really was just watching the plane! A Douglas Skymaster, was it? Looked like a bus inside…
Not one of these lovely things:
I relived 1954 last night courtesy of ABC2, which screened The High and the Mighty.