OUR stories about Sowerby Bridge’s cinemas (Nostalgia, February 26 and March 5) have stirred up quite a bit of interest among readers, not least from Albert Moss, who knew the Essoldo, on Wharf Street, rather well – he was manager there back in the 1950s.
Albert was born in 1925 and grew up in Sheffield. After working as a draughtsman for a windows firm and jobs in sales – separated by four years in the RAF from 1943 to ‘47 – Albert decided to move into the cinema industry.
“I was more interested in entertainment than sales,” he admits, “I liked watching films and thought I would be able to watch more of them by joining a cinema circuit.”
Thus by 1954 Albert was assistant manager at an Essoldo cinema in Sheffield and two years later moved to the Sowerby Bridge Essoldo as manager.
The cinema had been built as the Regent in 1939 but by 1949 had been taken over by Sol Sheckman’s Essoldo group (the name Essoldo was made up from the first names of Esther, his wife, Solomon and Dorothy, his daughter).
At the Sowerby Bridge Essoldo Albert Moss was responsible putting on some of the biggest films of the 50s.
He especially remembers Giant, a 1956 drama about family rivalry among Texan ranchers, newly rich from the burgeoning oil industry, with a stunning cast that included Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson Carroll Baker, Dennis Hopper, Rod Taylor and especially James Dean.
Giant was the last of Dean’s three films as a leading actor. He was killed at age 24 in a car accident before the film was released and his death gave him legendary status among young filmgoers. Albert recalls that Giant was especially popular with his young customers.
Albert also mentions Alfred Hitchcock’s famous thriller, Psycho, with its famous shower murder scene, and recalls receiving Hitchcock’s personal instruction, sent to every cinema manager, that no one was to be admitted during the last 20 minutes – an instruction which was followed to the letter.
And Albert especially remembers Inn of the Sixth Happiness, with Ingrid Bergman as Gladys Aylward, the British missionary in China who leads 50 orphaned children to safety in the face of a Japanese invasion before the second world war.
As well as the cinema Albert was in charge of the ballroom at the Essoldo. Public dances were held on Saturday nights to the music of a live band. During the week the hall would be hired by local groups for functions such as business dinners.
Albert’s staff were well known in Sowerby Bridge – people like Connie Edkins, the cashier, who went on to become manager of the Essoldo and died only last year, and projectionist Jim Haslem.
Albert was a keen tennis player and joined Greetland Tennis Club, where he met Joan Beardsall. They married in November 1959, but before that Albert had moved on, to run the Essoldo in Keighley.
There, for the first time in an Essoldo cinema, Albert organised the appearance of live acts, like pop star Adam Faith or Jimmy Clitheroe, the diminutive comic entertainer who, at 4ft 3in, became famous as the Clitheroe Kid.
Albert left cinemas behind in around 1961, when he and Joan moved to Halifax and moved into a house in Green Park Road, Skircoat Green.
Albert started working for Granada TV’s Red Arrow shop King Edward Street before moving on to work for a local company Pohlmann’s, once a famous piano manufacturing firm but by then selling TVs, radios and other electrical equipment. Albert worked at the firm’s Sowerby Bridge shop opposite the bottom of the old Tuel Lane, now Tower Hill.
Albert regrets the decline of cinema since the 1960s – “disappointing and upsetting” – which was inevitable after TV came to virtually every house in the land. But more optimistically he reckons that film has seen a resurgence in the last few years.
Albert, now 86, and Joan still go to the cinema, most recently to see The King’s Speech at the Rex in Elland – “a superb, friendly cinema”.
The couple have two children, son Andrew and daughter Elisabeth, and still live in the house in Skircoat Green that has been their home for 40 years.
Says Albert: “We have just celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary – so I reckon I owe Sowerby Bridge something.”