Mrs Hextol and I went to the pictures last week with some trepidation, because the last time Mrs Hextol visited this particular electronic picture palace, she was barred from ever going back.

I should say that her transgressions took place rather a long time ago, but it was still quite a relief that there was no corned beef-legged usherette shining her torch in our faces before turning us out into the dark night.

Mrs Hextol’s sin was constantly running along the rows of tip up seats and repeatedly slamming them up and down, to the intense annoyance of other patrons who actually wanted to see the film.

It did not matter that she was only about two years old at the time – her and her parents were asked to leave, and never to return to the Cosy Electric Picture Hall in Mickley.

The Cosy of course ceased being a cinema over half a century ago, and now doubles up as a masonic lodge and a very pleasant function suite.

We were there to see granddaughter Abbey perform in a showcase of young singing stars, and goose-bumpingly brilliant she was too, but I was also taken with the building itself.

While their functions may change over the years, old picture houses can never disguise what they were built for. The ambience and the smell have permeated the brickwork, and while the young songstresses were belting out their numbers the other night, my mind’s eye went back to the days when the hall would be filled with the faces and voices of long forgotten stars of the silver screen like Franchot Tone, Tyrone Power and John Payne, not to mention Veronica Lake, Tuesday Weld and Tallulah Bankhead.

Picture houses used to be so packed operators would change the main feature three times per week, and still pack the place to the gunwales

I used to spend a lot of time at the pictures as a child, in the days when there were only two channels on the telly, and they only operated in the evenings.

Often, I would go with my dad, and recall once him sitting sweating profusely and writhing in his seat when a film about submarine warfare was shown. It clearly brought back all too vivid memories of his own wartime service in HM Submarines, when he was lucky to escape with his life after being depth-charged for several hours by a Japanese destroyer somewhere in the South China Sea.

More often though it would be to the Saturday matinee, when the picture hall was given over to what seemed like thousands of screaming children, who threw sweets about, fought pitched battles among themselves and with the usherettes. Many were thrown out, but reappeared again moments later after being let back in through the emergency exits by their cronies.

There were always cartoons, and then a black and white film, usually featuring the Three Stooges or The Little Rascals, and there was raucous cheering when the lights went out to signal the start of the show.

Sometimes, it was necessary to sit in the Penny Planks, the seats right at the front of the cinema, where you always got a stiff neck from staring up at the screen towering many feet about your head.

I recall it was ninepence (about 3p) to get in, and a generous portion of fish and chips afterwards was 1s 3d (about 8p)

And we always went to the pictures, only occasionally the flicks, and never to see a movie, an Americanism I personally find as abhorrent as the modern trend for calling everyone, regardless of gender guys. The only guy I can countenance is the one that goes on the bonfire!

Happy though the Penny Plank days were, the big challenge at the pictures was getting in to see an X-film when under age.

It was a major rite of passage, and one that I found really difficult as an adolescent because of my radiant youthfulness and cherubic choirboy features.

Boy years younger than me were allowed in by the gimlet eyed and dinner jacketed manager, but I was always left kicking my heels woefully outside.

I thought I’d made it once when I got as far as the ticket office, but blew my cover by asking the gorgon in the booth for a half fare.

And when I did finally get in, I once again let myself down by cheering when the lights went down, earning myself instant ejection once more.