Love at first sight: Back row at the cinema

Love at first sight

Back row at the cinema

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Parsley Box meals are enjoyed by a host of fascinating individuals who have led experience-rich lives and have poignant and moving stories to tell.

We launched the Parsley Box Magazine to showcase these incredible true life stories, so that others can enjoy and learn from them.

Our customer Alfred, 88, got in touch with us through our magazine to share the story of the great love of his life, his wife Jean, whom he proposed to on the very same day he met her.

Alfred and Jean
Golden Wedding Anniversary (50 years)
November 2004

If you have a story to share and would like to be featured in our magazine, please get in touch.

And now for Alfred’s story in his own words.…

Sunday 13th June 1954, I had just finished a late breakfast and I was contemplating how I was going to spend the day when I received a telephone call.

It was from a chap named Dicky McCoy and he was the manager of the Embassy Cinema, Wallasey. Someone had given him my phone number. It transpired that the entire projection room staff were down with food poisoning, he said something about one of them bringing in some meat pies the day before.

Dicky had nobody to do the Sunday show. He could borrow a couple of third projectionists from local cinemas but he had no chief and by law the senior projectionist had to be over 21. I had become a chief projectionist at 19, but I could only work aboard a ship at sea.

However, I had turned 21 that year while aboard the Cunard liner RMS Mauretania. The Mauretania had arrived back in England on Friday 11th June and as it was my turn to take a trip off, I was at home with my parents in Liverpool.

Dicky asked if I would cover the Sunday show for him and I agreed. Helping out a cinema in trouble was considered the thing to do in those days, other cinemas would rally round with any help they could give.

After all it may be their cinema that is next in need of some help. As time was ticking by, Dicky sent a taxi to collect me and I got there in plenty of time to sort out the reels, get familiar with the equipment and layout of the projection room. It was pretty standard stuff and things passed without incident.

The following day I went back to the Embassy, getting there about 10am and I collected the transit cases of film left in the foyer by FTS. There were no members of the projection room staff back at work, but Dicky had managed to get another chap in to help.

Ken was 20 years old, an old friend from school days and second projectionist at the Tatler News Theatre in Liverpool. After getting things ready for the matinee, I followed Dicky to the Rainbow Café next door.

Dicky told me he would be going back early because he had a new usherette starting and he had to sort out a uniform for her. He went on to say she was 20 years old and wanted to work full time.

He told me he had asked her about boyfriends at the interview, she said she had no boyfriend and no intention of having one. He thought it odd that a young girl would want to do unsociable hours when most young girls would be out having fun.

I asked him if she were ugly, and suggested so ugly she cannot get a bloke to look at her, it may also be a reason to work in a dark place. He laughed and said “You can judge that for yourself when you see her.”

We leave the Rainbow café, Dicky going to his office while I made my way to the projection room. Upon arriving Ken tells me that there is a young woman sitting in the waiting room. The ‘ugly one’, now for some sport.

I collect my camera and set the flash and make my way along the balcony to the stair well. Looking down I could see the top of her head, putting the camera over the stairwell and framing her I shout “Hey you!” She looks up and I get my picture.

“Hey you!”
Embassy Cinema, Wallasey, Monday 14th June 1954

Love at first sight

Going down the stairs to meet her face to face I am confronted with the most beautiful creature I have ever seen, I’m smitten, an epiphany, I’m in love!

We manage a few words where I learn that her name is Jean. Dicky comes and takes her away and I return to the projection room where Ken and I check all is ready for the matinee.

After the matinee I quickly go down to the entrance to catch her leaving and going home for tea. I said I would walk with her because I had reason to go in the same direction.

She only lives around the corner in Edith Road and we arrive at her home in no time at all. Returning later, I walk her back to the cinema and during this short period I found her to be intelligent and witty. After the show had finished about 10.30 that night I was again at the entrance when she came out.

We walked a few yards and I stopped. My intention was to have a quiet word, but I lost all control.

I babbled and I asked her to marry me. I had not given any thought to her reaction, possibly she’d think me completely insane and run away.

However, she did not, she put her arms around my neck and hugged me and gave me a kiss and linked her arm into mine without uttering a word. I knew my proposal had been accepted, her response could mean nothing else.

I found out later that when our eyes had made contact, she had also fallen in love. When Dicky took her to the locker room, she had asked him about me and he had told her that I was helping out and would not be there for more than a few days.

It was on her mind the rest of the day as she did not want me to walk out of her life. It was not considered important that we knew nothing about each other, only the fact that we had met.

It was getting late and I had to get the 11.30 ferry in order to catch the last tram leaving the Pier Head at midnight, otherwise it was a long walk home. I said she should tell her parents and I would call in to see them the next day.

When I called the next day her mother and father were in a state of shock. Her father was skeptical about the whole thing and said so in no uncertain terms.

Her mother was more pragmatic, pointing out that Jean had never shown any interest in men up to that point, and now here was one that she liked, and he wanted to marry her.

“We know what she is like where men are concerned and with her attitude she may never be asked again and she will soon be 21 and free to do as she please. Stopping her now, may cause feelings of resentment in the future.” 

Love that is not madness is not love

Pedro Calderón de la Barca

It was decided to wait three months and if we still feel the same then her father would sign the parental consent form. It’s a fair request, and I needed a little time to get up some money for an engagement ring.

Returning to the Embassy I saw Dicky and I told him his new usherette had got engaged the night before, and he said he was going to have words with her as she had lied to him at the interview. I told him that she had not lied at the interview as that was the situation at the time.

He asked me how I knew so much. I told him, but he thought I was having a joke. I said “it’s no Joke, I want you to be Best Man”. He still thought I was joking.

When he spoke to Jean later, she confirmed we were serious and nobody was joking.

love and marriage ring

Things settled down and the first week passed. The third projectionist came back on the Monday, Ken going back to the Tatler. Joe, the chief projectionist returned on the Thursday of the second week and I agreed to stay on till the Friday night.

Because my circumstances had changed, I did not want to re-join the Mauretania and be away from home, so I looked in the Liverpool Echo for a cinema projectionist’s vacancy.

As fate would have it the Atlas was advertising for a chief projectionist. I phoned the Atlas manager for an interview; Dicky also phoned and gave me a good recommendation.

It was agreed that I start on Monday, Dicky promised that whatever day my day off fell on, he would see that Jean had the same day off too.

I settled into the Atlas and three months later I bought an engagement ring for Jean and we had our photograph taken by the street photographer at New Brighton.

One month later we were married in a simple ceremony at Wallasey Town Hall and Dicky was the Best Man.

Cutting the cake at our wedding reception. Dicky is on the left.
Thursday 4th November 1954

Our marriage was very happy and lasted for 56 years until May 2010, when I lost Jean to cancer at the age of 76.

Alfred’s story and images shared with permission.

If you have a story to share and would like to be featured in our magazine, please get in touch.