The ABC Minors Club: A 60’s Experience Part 4: A Place You Could Belong

The ABC Minors Club: A 60’s Experience Part 4: A Place You Could Belong

The Minors Club did give you a membership card when you joined.  You can see (a very old) one on my Facebook page. It assured you of a seat, over non-members, if it turned out there weren’t enough seats to go around on a particular Saturday morning. But I don’t recall ever showing it, except to buy badges.

You got one free with the card but purchased others, such as the much “cooler” glow-in-the-dark badge. This is the one Reggie, Stan and Ian of “The Bluebottle Boys” favored and is the featured illustration. Of course, the glow-in-the dark-badge also disclosed to the Monitors (I’ll get to them in a later post) exactly where each of us was at any given moment, even in the dark — a fact which most of us who bought the badge didn’t consider.

Minors club

Maybe, by the 1960s, members didn’t have to show their membership card because practically everyone did wear badges to screenings, thereby obviating the need to show a card.

The cost was sixpence for a balcony seat and nine pence for downstairs – which meant it paid to arrive early to stand in line, because the best seats in the house were the front half of the balcony (so you actually got more for less). But since everybody knew this and wanted those seats, unless you arrived well before door-opening time (9:30, 10:00 or 10:30 A.M., depending on the theatre) you might as well shell out the greater sum for downstairs and hope to do better the following week.

While we were in line, there would be a perfunctory search for materials. Things that might be used in the making or deploying of spitballs, water balloons and such, but we were largely on our honor. Oddly enough, we were allowed to bring our toy guns to Westerns. The search would be over the minute the doors opened.

We’d be herded in, the smell of disinfectant virtually punching us in the face as we entered, and separated according to which ticket we’d purchased. Monitors then guided us to the main auditorium or the balcony, as the case might be. American snack bars might have offered a far better selection, but you paid for everything yourself.

ABC cinemas provided every Minors Club member with a free ice cream, a small soda and a small bag of sweets – although beyond that, we were on our own.

Once seated, we were left to talk among ourselves until the programme started. It was then you’d often meet other kids, not from school or the neighborhood, and begin to connect with them – often meeting with the same kids week after week. You might be the most popular kid in school, or you might be Billy No-mates – it didn’t matter.

The ABC Minors Club was one last chance for every kid to start out on the same footing. We might not meet in any other context, but a genuine feeling of connectedness began to develop. Even if you had no mates before, you did now; if you had mates, you now had new ones. Everyone belonged at the Minors Club.

And then, the programme began . . .

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G. H. McCallum

G. H. McCallum is author of the Reggie Stone series, the first of which, Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall, was released on 12 December 2014; look for the second, The Bluebottle Boys, in late spring of 2016. He blogs principally on the 1960s, Victoriana and magic realism.