King's Cross Voices

Memories (Charles Chilton)

Born on Sandwich Street in poverty in 1917, Charles Chilton MBE was raised and went to school in King's Cross. He joined the BBC in 1933 as a junior in the record library and worked his way up to writer and producer. He retired in 1979. He was interviewed in 2004.

Here he relates his very first memory, that of a naked man, save for a loin cloth, on the screen at the Euston Cinema:

"...the Euston in Euston Road where my mother worked and she used to issue tickets. Well they weren't tickets, she used to turn a handle and a metal disk fell out and if you said two seats, two in the sixpences, she would go clink, clink, clank, clank, and she'd give them two tickets which were actually square bits of metal designed in such a way that you could tell whether it was the money was for an expensive seat or a cheap seat so that when you got in the dark they could feel by the ticket how much you paid for your seat you see. And then you would be shown to your seat. Well, you could get into the cinema from the ticket office through a curtain and just behind that curtain I used to be put in a cot, or bag or something while my mother served the tickets and so my earliest memory, my very earliest memory, is of a lion on a cliff top with a man down on the bottom end of the screen, the lion up on the top right hand of the screen and a man, naked but for a loin cloth, on the left hand bottom side of the screen and the lion jumping on him and he pulling out a knife to grapple with the lion and that's my earliest memory. And I have looked it up and what it was, was the last scene of a weekly serial that was shown at that cinema called Elmo The Mighty, King of the Jungle which was based on the Tarzan stories.

So that's the earliest memory I have, I must have been three years old I think and that was because my mother put me into the main body of the cinema on a seat in this, well it wouldn't be a carry cot but something I was laying in, and then every time I cried she would come out from serving the tickets and feed me or something and then go back to serve. So, that's my experience of the second cinema to be opened in London."

The King's Cross Boys

“We are the King’s Cross Boys
We know our manners,
we spend our tanners.
We are respected wherever we go, when we’re marching up the Euston Road.
Doors and windows open wide, aye tiddly aye tie,
Eat brown bread, ever seen a donkey fall down dead?
We are the Kings Cross Boys.”

A popular song of the 1920s, recalled by Charles Chilton

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