Bonita Thompson’s first job was an usherette in summer holidays before teacher training. She was 16 or 17 when she started her job in 1958 at the Lyric Cinema, North Allerton, Yorkshire(now the New Life Baptist Church). She states that the job just happened. She was the lady in the spotlight selling ice cream and she learned how to thread the projector. You had to watch the dots to know when to switch the reel. She couldn’t remember her wages but she remember she bought her first pair of heeled shoes and her second pair were even higher. She never went to the cinema much because when she worked their films were repeated three times. She went to the coffee shop and there was a jukebox. The coffee shop had Pyrex cups and saucers. Her dad bought her a dancette and records like Lonnie Donegan but her favourites were the Everley brothers. She was a boarder at Skipton Girls High School and she managed to get the housemates to take her to see Elvis Presley in Jail House Rock!
After she left school at 19 years old she was asked to return to fill in as an assistant housemistress. Half of the pupils called her Bonita and the others called her Miss C.
She did teacher training at the college then taught at Bedale Primary and Brompton Primary for 5 years before going out to Cyprus to teach at service schools for 2 and a half years. She then met and married her future husband there 40 years ago in Nicosia. The headmaster gave her away as her father had died. Her mother, sister and niece came over and she wore a fur hooded creamy/white full length coat as it was a November wedding. Her friends did the food and flowers and the officer’s mess provided 2 stewards for the reception there. The Finnish army were there as UN peacekeepers, so they provided champagne which was kept cool in Baby Burco Boilers! The beer and wine was kept cold in a bath with big blocks of ice from the ice lady down town.
She returned to UK and RAF Buchan where there was no accommodation in 1971 and a coal strike. Lived in a caravan at a filling station by RAF Buchan. There was a hole in the caravan roof and we burned packing from some wedding presents to keep warm. Eventually got a flat in Peterhead.
She did supply teaching and then taught at Boddam for 1 and a half years before moving to Brize Norton. They eventually moved to Kinloss. She also taught at West End Primary in Elgin and Andersons in Forres
Collected and submitted by Jo Sweeney, WRVS volunteer
Skipton High School for girls now
The history of dancettes (record players) and much much more……………
Images from the 1950s (prop hire company)
Cinema Treasures website with more information about the Lyric.
Great Lives- BBC podcast- Lonnie Donegan