Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Alan Flanagan
Interviewer: Darian Zam
Interview date: 6 March 2009
Darian We haven’t actually had anybody tell any stories about that part of it yet, so…
Alan Well, yeah, yeah, because in ah, well, I as I said, I’m 69 this year and I came from Unanderra in those days and I used to go there.
Alan Ah, I think I went there from the age of, possibly the age of around about 12 years old up until I, ah, well that’s in the, in say 1952 up until, well I know that was, I thought it was still there up until the ’60s. When did it, when did, I’m not sure when it just went to just the, when the, when the movie house finished up. I’m not sure?
Darian Um, I’m not sure how long it was running for, maybe for quite a while. Can you remember, Nancy, how long it was a, the movie theatre?
Nancy 15 years…
Alan Oh easy. ‘Cos see I, I live in Unanderra and I’ve been in the Wollongong area all my life and I worked up the road here at Curzons, you know, and those sort of things, back in 1956 and ’57, and I, and I know that I used to go here to the old, the old Town Hall, to the Old Civic Theatre, y’know. Well when I started going to the movies, I was only probably 12 year old and, ah, that’s in ’52. And I’m sure I was still going to the movies there in the early ’60s I think.
Woman in background I think so.
Alan ‘Cos I was working up the road here. Ah, and then I, then I went, I finished up out at the Tin Plate.
Woman in background I’ve got a feeling it was nearly ’70 before they changed it.
Alan That’s what I thought – easy, easy, yeah.
Woman in background 1970, I think.
Alan Yeah. And it’s just when I read that article in the Advertiser,
Alan The memorabilia and nobody sort of mentioned that the old, that Civic Theatre was there.
Darian Do you remember, do you remember any particular movies you went to see there? Alan Oh, well, we used to get, well, Tom Mix and…
Darian Tom Mix?
Alan Probably Hop Along.. Oh, no, Hop Along Cassidy, he was up the next one. See and the old Savoy Theatre…
Alan ….is where David Jones Car Park is.
Alan Yeah. [laughter] Um…
Darian So Tom Nix and …Shirley Temple?
Alan Oh yeah. [laughter] I’m just trying, trying to think of the, oh, one we went to see there.
Darian What about Fred Astaire and all those musicals?
Alan Oh, all that sort of thing.
Woman in background One time they had one of those really long movies that they had on at the Civic, but now I can’t remember what it was.
Darian Gone with the Wind?
Woman in background It could have been because there was always a bit of competition between the Crown.
Alan Oh yeah, the Crown, the Savoy and the Civic, but mainly they were the, classified as the main two.
Darian So, which was the most popular out of the two?
Alan Oh, the Crown theatre. And then…
Darian Why was the Civic not as popular?
Alan Oh, it was downgraded…
Woman in background It was a bit lower class.
Alan ….sort of place.
Darian Do you think because, because perhaps it wasn’t especially built as a cinema people saw that as a bit declassè or…?
Woman in background I think their fares were a bit cheaper too. I think the admission was a bit cheaper.
Alan I think… Oh yeah, yeah. And plus of course back in my day, back in my teenage days it was a place to go to meet people. [laughter]
Darian Oh, okay so you’d go to meet girls.
Alan Exactly. [laughter]
Darian Bit of canoodling in the back row.
Alan Exactly. No, no in the front row.
Darian In the front row! That’s daring. [laughter]
Woman in background Mr Frost who, um, owned the Crown used to go around with the torch [laughter].
Alan Yeah, yeah.
Darian Now I’m getting a picture why the other, why the Town Hall one was thought of declass-, as declassè, ‘cos there was a bit of…
Darian …naughty business.
Alan All the shenanigans [laughs].
Darian Yeah. So let me just go through a few details quickly. Now, sorry, what did you say your name was?
Alan Alan Flanagan A-l-a-n. F-l-a-n-a-g-a-n, Flanagan.
Darian And you said you were born in Unanderra, is that right?
Alan Yeah, yeah. That’s right.
Darian And so you say you’re 69 years old.
Alan I am now.
Darian And you grew up in Unanderra as well.
Alan In 1942 I, I arrived in Unanderra.
Darian Okay. Um, and so your primary school was, ah…?
Alan Unanderra Public School.
Darian The one that’s in the…
Alan The one where the Woolworths is.
Darian Woolies. The old one?
Alan I went there, yeah.
Darian Okay. And what years was that round about?
Alan Well, ah…
Darian About 1947 to…
Alan ’45 till, ah, when I, I went to the old, went to Gladstone Avenue Tech in ’53.
Darian And then you went to Gladstone…
Alan I went over to Lysaght Street in 54, when they opened up over there.
Darian Gladstone Avenue Tech.
Darian Was 1953.
Alan Yeah, only one year…
Darian 1954, sorry…
Alan No, ’53.
Alan Then we all went over to Lysaght Street in ’54, the old Tech.
Darian So the Tech actually moved?
Alan Yeah. We moved over to Lysaght Street in ’54.
Darian And that was called – what was the Tech called?
Alan It was just…
Darian Lysaght Street Tech.
Alan I don’t know, we just used to call it the Tech.
Alan Technical College or whatever it was called. But, but see, later on, later on, you had the high school move from the top of the hill over – the high school, Wollongong High finished up going over and they’re still there now.
Darian Yeah, right .
Darian Um, okay, so after you went to college did you go to War or…?
Alan No, no. I left school…
Darian the War later on???
Alan I actually, I only spent one year at Gladstone Avenue and then I spent only two years and Lysaght Street. And I used to sell newspapers for Green’s Newsagency up the road here in Crown Street. And I saw a sign in a shop window there in 1955. I applied for the job and got it. [laughter] So I worked…
Darian So that was 1955.
Darian All right, and what else? What else were you doing after that? You didn’t go to Vietnam?
Alan No, no, I didn’t. I just worked as a shop assistant until, up until, um, Well, actually I worked at, um, it was called Ashley’s in those days, but then they changed their name to Curzons, next door to Lowe’s.
Darian And what, what kind of business was that?
Alan I was in manchester. I used to be a manchester salesman.
Darian And when did you work there round about?
Alan I worked there until, um, the end of 1960, then I went, then I went to, then I went to the Tinplate Mill at the Steelworks in ’61.
Darian Tin plating?
Alan Yeah, in the Tin Plate mill, yeah, Steelworks it is, yeah.
Darian And how long were you there for?
Alan I was there for 7 years, ’61 to ’68.
Darian ’68, yep.
Alan Yeah, then I went to Stewarts & Lloyds at Kembla Grange, which ma-, was making the natural gas pipes in those days.
Darian Okay. What were they called? Stewarts and..?
Alan Stewarts and Lloyd
Darian And they were making..
Alan Kembla Grange. But I only lasted, ah, about, that was in 1968 up until ’69.
Alan And then we, 208 of us got laid off in one hit and I was amongst them.
Alan And then I finished up on the Water Board.
Darian And then you went to the Water Board and you stayed there till you retired?
Alan I was on the Water Board from ’69 until ’95.
Alan And then I retired early.
Darian Good on you. People don’t do that anymore, they have at least three careers. Well you’ve had quite a few actually by the looks of it. [laughter] Got around, got around Wollongong quite a bit. Did you ever get married or anything?
Alan Oh, yeah, I married a Balgownie girl.
Alan I live in Balgownie.
Darian And you’re still married or not?
Alan Oh, yeah.
Alan Yeah, got two.., two daughters and three grandchildren.
Darian Okay, so yeah, so used to go to the Town Hall when it used to be a theatre. Anything before that? Or can you remember going to anything when you were a kid, like any, um, balls, parties, choirs, anything like that?
Alan Oh, no, I wasn’t into that sort of thing. I played tennis at Unanderra and at the Unanderra courts there.
Darian Yeah. And there weren’t any dances at the Town Hall?
Alan Yeah, we went, oh, not so much there, but we used to go dancing in the old Unanderra Community Centre.
Darian Oh yeah, yeah. [Laughter]
Alan And the ‘Burno’, Southern Cross, next to the Leagues Club.
Darian Yeah, yep.
Alan That’s where, that was in, that was our main thing in those days.
Darian Yeah, for sure.
Alan Yeah, the old Southern Cross dance. And um, and the, oh, well the old, the movie theatres.
Darian Yeah, I don’t know how people meet anymore ‘cos, you know, my parents met at a dance and everyone used to be …
Alan Yeah, well, actually I met my wife, I was working up here at Curzons but I, then I used to go to the, what we used to call the ‘Burno’, the dance, Southern Cross dance hall.
Alan And then I met my wife through that and we got married. This is a few years later of course [laughs].
Darian Yeah. And so can you remember anything from later on after the Town Hall was a cinema. Like, anything after that you went to, any um, ah, plays or musicals or…
Alan Oh, not really at the Town Hall so much, ah, back in those sort of days.
Darian What about voting?
Alan Oh, voting.
Darian Were going for voting there, or…?
Alan Oh, yeah, voted a couple times in there, Council elections and whatever was going on.
Darian Yeah, um, I’m just trying to think what else. Any weddings?
Alan Um, I think I went to one there but I can’t think whose it was. It’s too long ago, yeah.
Darian Um, and they do say that the Wollongong Town Hall was haunted.
Alan I don’t know anything about that. [laughs]
Darian You know nothing about that. They say there’s a ghost in one of the toilet stalls there.
Alan Oh, we used to hear all these sort of stories and things.
Alan In our kids days, you know.
Alan You know I never ever, oh, I certainly didn’t see it [laughs].
Darian Yeah. No, there’s, there’s, people say that the body that was left from when the Town Hall was a graveyard back in the 1830s.
Alan Oh, actually…
Darian They left a body underneath. They, they moved one down to Pioneer Park up here. The other one I don’t know what happened, they didn’t find it or they couldn’t be bothered, or… It’s a bit like the Town Hall in Sydney, they’ve just excavated 200 bodies from underneath the, the Hall, underneath where they used to have musicals and choirs.
Darian I know someone that was working on it. But they left a body under the Town Hall here and people say that the ghost haunts.
Alan Yeah, I remember, like, ah, now that you mention that actually, I didn’t realise that, that way back it was a cemetery.
Darian Yeah it was.
Alan I’d have never even thought about that.
Alan But it was only just brought the story brought to my in life that this about the movie theatre hadn’t mentioned y’know, yeah, not in the articles that I’d seen. And ‘cos I definitely know there we used to go there in the old the older ones there somewhere or other another one, can’t see, but anyway, we used to definitely go in there, in the old movie house.
Darian This one’s the, I think, 1956 renovation, so the cinema would have been in there before that.
Alan Yeah. It was still there.
Alan Um, ‘cos I was working up the road here in Curzons.