MANY thanks to everyone who has been in touch about coalfield cinemas: we will come to them shortly.

Tom Elder, 96-and-a-half, began his cinema-going career at the Cosy Cinema in Middleton-in-Teesdale, which was little more than a converted house in the middle, although it could seat a couple of hundred people.

“My mum, dad and I were guests at the first talkie shown there,” says Tom, who grew up in Newbiggin-in-Teesdale. “It was Sally in Our Alley, with Gracie Fields.” This was released in 1931.

“All things went off at the Cosy. I saw King Kong (released in 1933) there, and when the great dinosaur appeared on the screen, a woman shouted out ‘ee, a bloody great snake’.

“I also remember seeing the newsreel about the relief of Belsen, and the gasp that went up in that little room was amazing.”

In the early 1940s, Tom moved to Durham where the city’s slightly more sophisticated cinemas entertained him.

“I met Edith Purvis at a rhythm club, and she asked me if I had seen Gone With the Wind,” says Tom, who’s still playing his saxophone and writing his life story on a laptop.

“She staggered me – I came from Teesdale and I wasn’t used to the way girls spoke to boys in Durham. When I said I hadn’t, she said she’d get us two tickets, and we saw it at The Regal in North Road.”

As Memories 411 told, The Regal opened on the site of an old miners’ hall on March 27, 1934. It was later known as the Essoldo, the Classic, the Cannon and finally the Robins.

Tom’s next date was at the Royal cinema, which Mr TC Rawes had opened in 1909 on an old carpet factory dyehouse in Walkergate.

Initially, it had been called the Palace Theatre but it was soon converted into a cinema which, Memories 411 said, was renowned for its fleas – and this snippet of information may have explained something that happened to Tom and Edith nearly 70 years ago.

“I took Edith there for the first time and we went into the circle where we were approached by Mrs Rawes, the manageress,” says Tom. “She was of German extraction and well known in the area.

“She sprayed us all over with a lovely spray. I don’t know why, but we didn’t experience any fleabites.”

With a saucy chuckle, Tom adds: “Our favourite cinema was The Palladium in Claypath. It got a lot of cowboy films, and it was darkest when the lights went out…”

Any more coalfield cinema stories, and can anyone tells us more about Middleton’s Cosy?