In October 2011, the Longford Cinema, Essoldo, Lucky 7 bingo, Rank Bingo or ‘that building on Chester Road’ will be 75 years old.
It screened its last film 46 years ago and some of those working at the Essoldo still remember that last week well. Nigel remembers this last week because he started work as a trainee projectionist on the Monday and the cinema closed the following Sunday! “It was the shortest job I ever had. During the last week the film showing was The Hill however, on the last day we showed one of the Quatermass films. My friend Jim, the chief projectionist was annoyed that it was the last film, he would have preferred a bigger film.” After work Nigel, then aged 16 and Jim would finish work with a drink at the Talbot Arms where he had his first pint!
Not much is known about what happened to Jim, but he is still referred to as something of a legend in the cinemas history! One person who remembers Jim well is Derrick. Derrick’s dad Robert was the Essoldos’ manager at the time it closed. His mum ran the cafe and along with his sister Linda and they all lived in a flat on the side of the building! Derrick recalls, “In my last year at school, around 1964, I used to rush home from school and up to the projection box and help (unpaid of course) the chief projectionist Jim put the evening shows on. I was never out of the place”. Jim stayed on at the Essoldo for a few years during the bingo days and Derick used to help out sometimes, “I remember, in my spare time, helping Jim install and wire up long banks of fluorescent fittings beneath the canopy following the cinema closure and prior to the bingo opening. I lodged with him and his then wife a couple of years later, around 1967/68, when my parents moved back down south.” Derick stayed in the cinema business and later on even came back to manage the Essoldo / Bingo building himself before buying and operating the Curzon Cinema in Urmston for many years.
Derricks sister Linda (are you still following the family tree!) also remembers that last week and the changes that followed. “I have happy memories of taking friends in to watch films, and going home for dinner from Gorse Park School to the cafe in the cinema that mum ran. It’s funny really, I don’t remember any fuss it was like it went from cinema to bingo just like that. My dad Robert did not get on at all well with the man who came to oversee the change over at the Essoldo! I can remember seeing roulette tables in the big foyer and the changes to the stage, I think some of the seating was changed so there were tables, and as you went in where you used to buy your cinema tickets was all different and there were loads of slot machines”.
Stretfords Essoldo Cinema in the 1960s - You can just make out manager Robert Moss standing in the doorway!
After about a year of managing the building as a bingo hall, the Moss Family (minus Derrick!), moved to the south of England where Robert took up a post with another cinema. The buildings cinema days were truly over. Jim had moved on, Nigel joined the army and Derrick took up projectionist work in Manchester city centre.
But what has become very clear is that the memories are still very much there. This website is here to collect and share memories. The surnames of the people in this item have been removed, but if you knew them, worked at or visited the cinema towards the end, have a memory you’d like to share or can fill in any of the gaps, please leave your thoughts below by clicking on ‘leave a comment’.