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Outing with a girl stranger’, Walter Hood - 19 April 1938 (Reel 29, Box 36C)

 Embassy cinema

Embassy Cinema, Deansgate. Showing

Every Night at Eight’

 This report was written by Walter Hood. He was a working-class man from the North East who’d been to Ruskin College, Oxford. With this background he was confident amongst both the southern affluent students who came to Bolton to volunteer for Mass Observation but at ease with working, at Labour Party meetings, in pubs and so on. By April 1938 he had been in Bolton for almost a year – a permanent volunteer who lived at 85 Davenport Street with Tom Harrisson and whoever else was volunteering at the time. Walter Hood’s reports covered a huge amount of ground and Harrisson trusted him managing a range of volunteers and observation projects. Walter seems to have palled up with some of the local men who volunteered: Joe Darbyshire, Ernie Luetchford, Jack Fagan. My guess about this report is that he was not out on a formal task for Mass Observation that night, but decided to write up this episode which just happened as he was walking through town one night. I say ‘just happened’ but he may well have been on the prowl. We know that liaisons of this sort were not unusual amongst the volunteers, most of them young single men, away from the restraining influence of their home environment…

 I passed the girl in Knowsley Street – she looked at me hard so I turned back and made her acquaintance. She must have walked very slowly because she was only about 3 yards ahead of me.

 I asked her where she was going in the rain. ‘Oh, just taking a stroll, but I wouldn't mind…’ Then she suggested we might go to the pictures.

 She was about twenty, dressed in a cloche hat and a brown tweed coat, brown high heel shoes.

 At first when I met he she carried her umbrella in her left hand, but when we turned to walk to the town and cross the road to take the left-hand-side she moved it into her right hand so that I was partly covered when walking on the outside of the pavement.

 We went to the Embassy Cinema at 9.30 pm, estimate 250 people there.

 The picture was about two girls – who for publicity’s sake went a spent ten days in a forest. It was a comedy. Everyone roared at the dress of the two girls as they entered. One was dressed in a tiger skin – and the other an exaggerated Indian Squaw dress. Also it caused lots of amusement when the blonde in the tiger’s dress thumped her chest like Tarzan. She did this three times and there were loud laughs each time.

There was much amusement when the girl had a terrified look on her face because she had seen a cub tiger.

 When a mad-man comes on the scene with an imaginary horse and makes the girls get onto – there was lots of laughter during the whole of the scene…especially when the chap says ‘you’re standin’ on its tail – [loud laughter]

 Also when the girls comes out of the wood, each crackers with an imaginary horse.

 The big picture was George Raft in 8 o’clock. George Raft in this was a land conductor. I asked the girl if she liked this picture. ‘Yes, but it’s not a good part for George Raft – he’s a tough guy’.

 The laughter in this picture was caused by one of the three girls who sang together who aloing with George Raft struggled to find fame on Broadway – But the girls didn't find happiness because George was a stern manager/task master. And made the girls go to bed early. They accepted one invitation and found that society frowned on them. So they came back to George and the radio.

 Laughter when the girls wanted to go to Egypt to ride on camels and jogged around the room.

 When they were telling the boss off and he was standing behind them.

 Their antics when they were well-to-do one had three dogs which caused a laugh. The other having her toenails manicured and asking for things in rench.

 The theme song ‘I’m in the mood for love’ [The girl hummed it twice afterwards]

 Girl, V keen about the picture – her favourite film star John Loder.

 ‘The Best film’ which she had really enjoyed was ‘The Ghost goes West’.

 She does not like thrillers – but good singing and something to laugh at or a good story [love]

 She likes lots of film stars that I had never heard about.

 I asked about capes…She said that they were not in fashion were really in fashion a year ago – and were just being worn out. No one would buy one – it’s all raincoats.

 On veils:

 When I asked her about veils she said that some are starting to be worn at the back- now. She said that they come and they go, but thought that they started in the spring with the winds.

 When we went inside she went into the back seat. In this picture house the seats at the back are for two. Naturally I followed.

 She placed her umbrella under the seat and asked me to remind her of it after the show.

 She sat quiet for ten minutes then I offered her a cigarette. She took off her hat and loosened her coat. Took off her gloves and took the cigarette. It was when the wild looking man came on the screen that gave her the opportunity to appear afraid. She got hold of my hand – as she leaned slightly forward. I put my left arm round her. She slightly lifted her right arm, so I put my hand around her breast – ‘messed around’ – all that picture. During the George Raft picture when the singing of sentimental love songs – she let go of my hand and started to rub her hand up and down my thigh.

 I then began to feel the breasts of the girl with my now disengaged hand. She stopped my hand straying too far. We also did some kissing.

 After the show we took a Great Lever - bus 15. It was still raining. We got out before the terminus. She took me to a shop doorway with a street lamp shining in.

 Tried to persuade her to move along to her home. ‘No’ she said, ‘I always stay here with a chap – at least for the first time’. She wanted to see me again. I got the bus. She was a pretty girl too.


Dave Burnham, for Live from Worktown