For pure nostalgia, it is hard to beat the cinema. In Galway for many years there were three - the Town Hall, the Estoria and the Savoy.
The contractors who built the Savoy were Flaherty's - they had a yard next to College House on Market Street. The foreman was Martin Duggan - father of all the hurlers.
The cinema opened on Christmas Eve, 1934, managed by a man called Telford, and owned by Walter McNally. The opening night featured a gala concert with Count John McCormack starring, and the first film shown there was "Flying Down to Rio" starring Carmen Miranda. The house was full, 1239 people in the biggest cinema in Connacht. The prices in those early days were, nine pence, one shilling & four pence and two bob (in the balcony) with three showings a day, continuous from 4pm.
Radio Eireann broadcast Question Time from there with Joe Linnane as compere in1943. After the war, the Savoy hired musicians to play before the films so that they could save on tax. Live music had to be longer than the film in order that the Savoy would be taxed as a live entertainment house. Johnny Cox and his band played there each day.
Some of the early staff were Mrs. Lynch, cashier; Rita Kirwan, chief usherette; Harry McMahon, commissionaire; Paddy Murphy, chief operator; Una Grealish and Martin Gannon.
Like all cinemas, the Savoy had its characters - a lady from Bohermore named Kate always sat on the outside seat and would never let anyone pass in or out. If they tried, she would start shouting and pucking them and generally kick up a racket. A fellow who came in with a few pints on him one night was overcome by the heat, and eventually slipped down onto the floor. By the end of the film, he was trapped under two rows of seats, and these had to be lifted up in order to get him out. There was really no other form of entertainment at the time, apart from dancing, so the silver screen invariably attracted big crowds. The Savoy was unusual in that the floor sloped upwards towards the screen. This meant that when you were in the fours - the cheapest seats at the front cost four pence for the matinees - and you wanted to sneak back to the nines (nine penny seats), you had to completely readjust your eyes as it got darker the further back you went. Also, the staff used to suspend a rope in the aisles between the cheaper and dearer seats which caught many people unaware. Trying to get in for nothing was a great Galway occupation, and it was here, and in other cinemas that many people did all their courting.
Frank Devlin used to paint all the posters which were put up by Ned Joyce, the billposter.
Our photograph today was taken at a Savoy Staff Social and shows Miss Noone, usherette; Miss Mannion who worked in the ticket box and was later manager; Miss Walsh, usherette; ______ Cooke, usher; Frank Philbin, head doorman; John McDonagh, 3rd operator; _____ Haddock, usherette; ______ Noone, usherette; ______ Staunton, usher; Paddy Cunningham, chief operator and _____ Booth, usher.
The Savoy closed for refurbishment for a time in the mid seventies and reopened after Christmas 1976, with the emphasis on family entertainment. It opened only on days when children were free from school, with a number of shows each afternoon, one of the few cinemas in the country catering exclusively for children. Ominously however, a sign of the times, part of the building was given over to the latest craze - pool.