A night at the Ruatoria pictures

THE END: Photographer Ans Westra’s 1963 black and white photograph captures a moment in the life of Ruatoria’s Gaiety Theatre goers.
Picture by Ans Westra and {Suite} Wellington.

A BLACK and white photograph by Ans Westra immortalises Ruatoria’s Gaiety Theatre which was demolished two weeks ago. In Westra’s 1963 picture two barefooted girls in their best frocks watch a trio of smartly dressed boys outside the cinema during a screening of The Great St Louis Bank Robbery.

Fifty-four years later the old timber and corrugated iron building was demolished. Its end inspired in Ngati Porou Natives Facebook page contributor Connie Ferris a poetic handful of lines.

“It was 9 pence 2 go upstairs, 6pence downstairs. 1 penny 4 an ice cream and 2pence 4 a bag of lollies. 6pence return on the bus. Bus drivers were Eric Vickers, I still have a photo of his bus; sometimes the Goldsmith brothers and sometimes Jim Keefe.

“Club rooms. Hide and seek venue. Potential sewing factory. I remember Doris Smith lived behind it. She was the projectionist,” says Lorna Shaskey-Hughes.

Tom Thumb, The Lone Ranger, Tarzan starring Johnny Weissmuller, and The Great St Louis Bank Robbery as seen in the poster in Ans Westra’s picture were among movies people saw at the Gaiety. Charlie Chaplin comedies and Elvis musicals also screened.

“Ae, the theatre erupted when Elvis came on,” says Henare Ngaera O’Keefe.

“I remember all the girls screaming at the top of their lungs. Feet stamping.

“I recall the chocolate pennies they sold and how everyone stood for God Save the Queen anthem before the movie began. That was followed by an ongoing serial called Deadwood Dick.”

Uncle Mae Kupenga tells a story, says David Kupenga.

“The younger ones couldn’t afford to go so our Uncle Anaru went. On return he had to recount the movie frame by frame. Of course he embellished the story. What took one-and-a-half hours to watch took three hours to tell.”

Others recall the Jaffas, Blackballs, Snifters and pink and white frosted peanuts that were rolled down the aisle.

There was pashing.

“I remember papa Ernie growling you older ones for trying to pash up at the back,” says Timi Terei Tamati.

“Aww, remember those two seats just before the projector room upstairs where young love blossomed?” says Riria Fox.

“In my day it was Kiri and Waiapu Pepere. They left Rua and then Tuki and Puni Nepe occupied them. We all knew not to sit in them. It was an unspoken no-no.”

So many memories of this theatre, said Kiri Dewes.

“We used to go on horses from Whakawhitira across the Waiapu to this theatre.

“You can wipe out the theatre but not the stories in the hearts and minds of those who knew it. Ka aroha.”

A BLACK and white photograph by Ans Westra immortalises Ruatoria’s Gaiety Theatre which was demolished two weeks ago. In Westra’s 1963 picture two barefooted girls in their best frocks watch a trio of smartly dressed boys outside the cinema during a screening of The Great St Louis Bank Robbery.

Fifty-four years later the old timber and corrugated iron building was demolished. Its end inspired in Ngati Porou Natives Facebook page contributor Connie Ferris a poetic handful of lines.

“It was 9 pence 2 go upstairs, 6pence downstairs. 1 penny 4 an ice cream and 2pence 4 a bag of lollies. 6pence return on the bus. Bus drivers were Eric Vickers, I still have a photo of his bus; sometimes the Goldsmith brothers and sometimes Jim Keefe.

“Club rooms. Hide and seek venue. Potential sewing factory. I remember Doris Smith lived behind it. She was the projectionist,” says Lorna Shaskey-Hughes.

Tom Thumb, The Lone Ranger, Tarzan starring Johnny Weissmuller, and The Great St Louis Bank Robbery as seen in the poster in Ans Westra’s picture were among movies people saw at the Gaiety. Charlie Chaplin comedies and Elvis musicals also screened.

“Ae, the theatre erupted when Elvis came on,” says Henare Ngaera O’Keefe.

“I remember all the girls screaming at the top of their lungs. Feet stamping.

“I recall the chocolate pennies they sold and how everyone stood for God Save the Queen anthem before the movie began. That was followed by an ongoing serial called Deadwood Dick.”

Uncle Mae Kupenga tells a story, says David Kupenga.

“The younger ones couldn’t afford to go so our Uncle Anaru went. On return he had to recount the movie frame by frame. Of course he embellished the story. What took one-and-a-half hours to watch took three hours to tell.”

Others recall the Jaffas, Blackballs, Snifters and pink and white frosted peanuts that were rolled down the aisle.

There was pashing.

“I remember papa Ernie growling you older ones for trying to pash up at the back,” says Timi Terei Tamati.

“Aww, remember those two seats just before the projector room upstairs where young love blossomed?” says Riria Fox.

“In my day it was Kiri and Waiapu Pepere. They left Rua and then Tuki and Puni Nepe occupied them. We all knew not to sit in them. It was an unspoken no-no.”

So many memories of this theatre, said Kiri Dewes.

“We used to go on horses from Whakawhitira across the Waiapu to this theatre.

“You can wipe out the theatre but not the stories in the hearts and minds of those who knew it. Ka aroha.”

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