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Categories: Ken Miller's Tales | Lusaka

The Bioscope

From Great North Road

In the early 60's Lusaka boasted of three cinemas and a drive-in.

The Carleton Cinema on Livingston Road, was the oldest of the three cinemas. Every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning, matinees were held .... a great social event for the kids, many laden down with comics that they would trade

Apart from the feature film, a cartoon, newsreel from the Central Afrian News and a serial would be shown. Predictably in the serial the hero would beat out the villain and the damsel would be saved.

In the evening, during the intermission, there was always a race by the patrons to the Carleton Bar next door where they would seek a smooth libation to quench their thirsts.

After one evening show as the patrons stood dutifully at attention and sang " God save the Queen " two young men with less feelings for the monarchy than the assembled masses, hastened down the aisle obviously heading for the Carleton Bar, were stopped in their tracks when Sir Roy Welensky grabbed both of the scoundrals by the scruff of the neck and held then until the last note of the anthem had been played.The staunch defenders of the Empire gave Sir Roy a resounding cheer. Sir Roy, no lightweight had in his younger days had been the heavyweight champion of Northern Rhodesia.

When the 20th Century on Jameson Street opened its doors around 1958-59, the big time had arrived and under the eagle eye of Simon Sieff the manager, a new standard of decorum was established. Comics could not be traded, and many a young man was ejected from the theatre for indulging in romantic pursuits in the intimately darkened recesses of the back rows.

Simon Sieff was a great promoter, and created a gala event for many first run movies. When "The Cockle Shell Heroes " were shown, the foyer was festooned in kayaks and other military memrobilia. " Oklahoma", "The Bridge over the River Kwai", "The Birds", "Jail House Rock","G.I. Blues" and "A Night to Remember" are just a few of the films I remember seeing.

The Palace on Bombay Road, West of the railway tracks and South of King George Road,was the first multi-racial cinema in Lusaka and opened their doors around 1960.I have no recollection of what films I saw here, however I do remember lining up during intermission at the foot of the stage to purchase a fanta orange. Fanta grape was never a favourite of mine.

In January 1964, having obtained my drivers licence, a whole new film watching experienc opened up for me as I was able to go to the drive-in on the Kafue Road without it being a family experience with good old Mum and Dad. I remember seeing " A Summer Place" a restricted film in it's day. Wonder how the Censor Board, those upholders of moral decency would rate todays CNN News.Many a great evening was spent with a date cramped in my blue V.W. How I wished the folks would have been more considerate and have bought a larger car.

In this age of V.C.R's and DVD's it's great to rent a movie, lie on the sofa ( chesterfield for North American readers) armed with a flicker and control the show. A feat that only a man can accomplish.

Contributed by Ken Miller

March 2002

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