Alan Flanagan – Interview Transcript

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.

Darian  Yeah.

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,

Darian  Yeah.

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…

Darian  Yeah.

Alan  ….is where David Jones Car Park is.

Darian  Yeah.

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.

Alan  Oh…

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…?

Alan  Well…

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…

Alan  Yeah.

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.

Alan  Yeah.

Darian  Was 1953.

Alan  Yeah, only one year…

Darian  1954, sorry…

Alan  No, ’53.

Darian  1953.

Alan  Then we all went over to Lysaght Street in ’54, the old Tech.

Darian  So the Tech actually moved?

Alan  Yeah.

Darian  Okay.

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.

Darian  Okay.

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 .

Alan  Yeah.

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.

Alan  Yeah.

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.

Darian  Yeah.

Alan  And then we, 208 of us got laid off in one hit and I was amongst them.

Darian  Yeah.

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.

Darian  Wow.

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.

Darian  Yeah.

Alan  I live in Balgownie.

Darian  And you’re still married or not?

Alan  Oh, yeah.

Darian  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.

Darian  Yeah.

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  Voting?

Darian  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.

Darian  Yeah.

Alan  In our kids days, you know.

Darian  Yeah.

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.

Alan  Yeah.

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.

Darian  Yeah.

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.

Darian  Yeah.

Alan  Um, ‘cos I was working up the road here in Curzons.