Peter Bomford remembers the good old days at Launceston’s Star Theatre as if they were yesterday.
The early 1960s was a time when people from all walks of life would put on their Sunday best for a night at the pictures.
Back then more than 800 patrons could fit into the unique art deco building on Invermay Road, with the dress circle on the second floor and the stalls on the first.
A ticket would only set you back 80 cents – just 30 if you were a pensioner or a child.
The evening screening would start at seven with a popular serial and the crowds would come back week after week to lap up the latest installment.
It would then be time for the newsreel followed by the latest cartoon, before finally the first of two feature length films would begin.
These were the “good old days” according to Mr Bomford.
Unfortunately after more 30 years, the Star Theatre was closed.
Hampered by the introduction of television and the growing popularity of local drive-ins, the last screening at the Star would take place on July 26, 1969.
This was a day Mr Bomford described as the “saddest day of his life”.
“It was just horrible and completely heartbreaking,” he said.
“I remember a few of us stayed back after the final screening, but we were too sad to even share a toast.
“I couldn’t stay in Launceston. I left and went to Melbourne.
“I had many jobs over the years but nothing ever quite lived up to that experience.”
It was an experience that began when Mr Bomford was just 14 years old.
With a father who helped build the theatre just down the road from where he lived, Mr Bomford said it was only a matter of time before he started working there.
That day came in 1961 and quickly transformed into far more than just a part-time job.
“It was my entire life and I was just so proud to wear that suit,” he said.
“It became my second home really, though I would say I spent more time at the Star than I did at home – if I had a choice.
“I just couldn’t get enough.”
At the beginning Mr Bomford even worked for free because he loved it so much.
But it didn’t take long for word to get around and soon he found himself on the payroll and working on the door as an usher for the theatre’s matinee performances.
“There would always be two of us on the door,” he said.
“We had to wear a proper suit and a tie, of course, with clean shoes.
“It was all very serious and you had to be courteous.
“That was the main thing – that and a big smile.
“I did some sign writing, some cleaning – pretty much you name it, I did it.”
Last month, after being closed for almost 50 years, the Star Theatre opened its doors once more.
The historic property was bought by Launceston locals Paul Lee-Archer, Andrew Quaile and Ben Davis in March 2015 and has since undergone an extensive renovation.
Before then, it was used as a charity outlet for the St Vincent De Paul Society, which bought it in 1971.
After a soft-opening on Easter weekend last year, Mr Quaile said it became apparent just how many people held the theatre close to their hearts.
“We opened up just before all of the renovations got underway and we were just blown away by the people who came through the doors,” he said.
“Everybody seemed to be re-living their glory days and it was a fantastic thing to see.
“It is pretty exciting some of the stories we are hearing from people who are reminiscing.
“They come in and just remember the antics of their childhood, like throwing Jaffas down the aisles.
“All the memories we are hearing are just remarkable.”
Originally opened in 1937, Star Theatre is one of the only remaining art deco cinema buildings in Australia – something Mr Quaile said was detrimental to its appeal.
Now more than a month after re-opening for good, he said it was clear the “heyday” of the family theatre was sill alive and well.
“We are just really excited to be able to bring people together again for films in this incredible space,” he said.
“We try to offer a different experience here and I think there is something really special about that collective experience of watching a film together.
“There is just so much more vibrancy and atmosphere when you are watching a film with other people.
“To be able to get an applause at the end of a screening, when no one is actually physically live in front of you.
“That is just the best feeling.”
As for Mr Bomford, the opportunity to work at the Star Theatre once more was something he was not going to give up – despite being retired and in his early 70s.
After a congratulatory phone call to the new owners, it didn’t take long for them to offer him a job.
“Really I just couldn’t stay away,” he said.
“As soon as I read in the paper that it was re-opening I knew I had to be a part of it.
“Even now I still have to pinch myself that it is real and I get to do this all over again.
“I will be here for as long as they will have me.”
And it seems Mr Bomford is not the only one happy to see the Star open once again.
Mr Quaile said the first month had gone better than expected, with more and more people walking through the doors for a trip down memory lane.
“I have been overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback we have had,” he said.
“Going forward now we would love to see it thrive, but also when we opened we really wanted to give something back to the Launceston community.
“As corny as that sounds it is the truth.
“We want this space to become something that people actually want to use and see it as something for various uses.
“We are really appreciative that people are coming and showing their support and we are really lucky to have someone like Peter on board.
“Really his wealth of knowledge is something else and obviously his passion for the theatre and for the job.
“He is showing us how ushering really should be done.”
Next weekend the Star Theatre will host an Easter Festival.
The event will feature three days of films, live music as well as beer and whisky tastings.
More information can be found at startheatre.com.au.