Memories of a First World War Usherette

Interview with Alice Richards recorded in 1976

Memories of a First World War Cinema Usherette

Besides working in the laundry, Mrs Richards also worked as an usherette first in the Cowley road cinema and later in the Jeune street cinema.

I had to be there at five till 10. I used to bike home up by the Warneford [Asylum], ooh I was frightened to death when I used to come by there! And then this little place was opened and the gentleman that was manager of Cowley road [cinema] asked me if i’d like to do the children on Saturday afternoon. I said yes and I did. so that was the two jobs I done.

But isn’t that hard work looking after the children in the cinema?

No, no, they simply enjoyed it. You should just heard ’em scream at cowboys, you know, and we were used to the noise and they loved it and they weren’t a bit of trouble as long as they could sit there and see their penny worth.

It was just silent films, weren’t they?

Yes. All silent films… and the pianist, she was ever so great. She used to comes up from a way… i don’t remember her name but we both worked together ever so well.  But the one on the Cowley road, we used to have to stop and cover up all the sheets every night which made it late.

What do you remember though of the films, the silent films? Is there any particular film that’s stands out.

No only cowboys, it’s more or less cowboys and the cartoons. you know uh Felix Kept on Walking that sort of little thing where i used to have that one quite a lot. The children like that. There might be a drama in the evening when the elderly ladies come and that’s funny you should be in there… a fortnight ago. I was in Westgate and I saw a person there and I thought I’m going back a long way. I know your face. She was with her husband. so i got hold of her coat. I said “Just a minute, excuse me, don’t think me rude.” I said “I know your face.” she says “Did you?” I said “Did you used to go to the pictures in Jeune street? She said “Yes why?” I said “I remember well showing you into your seat.” and she said she remembered my face. Now that’s a long time ago!

Roughly how many years?

Well, look I’m 83 now and I was 24 then.

It’s about 60 years ago.


Does that mean you’ve got a good memory for faces?

Well, that did stand out, I knew her face. Yes I have. I’ve got a good memory for faces. A very good memory.