at the Talkies
Al Langford, Windsor
you were 19 years-old and looking for a job during the Depression
Years, you were very lucky if you found one. If you found
your sweetheart at the same time, you were twice-blessed.
September of 1931 (two years into the Great Depression, which
lasted until 1939) the Capitol Theater in downtown Windsor
(on University and Pelissier) advertised for a staff of ushers,
cashiers, cleaning staff, etc. It had recently been taken
over and refurbished by the Famous Players Company. I was
one of the many who gathered on Pelissier Street for interviews.
When I say “many” I mean there was a mob scene
estimated to be over 150 people (there is an excellent write-up
of the gala re-opening in the Border Cities Star, Sept.18,
met: May Pfahler and Al Langford in, 1931
angels or the tooth fairy must have been looking after me,
because I got a job as an usher. I can’t recall what
it paid, this many years later, but I know it was under 50¢
an hour (when I worked at Chrysler’s in about 1934,
we were paid 65¢ an hour.) As far as I can remember some
of the other lucky ones were Jim Hayward, Stewart Love, Art
Ducharme and Jack Marcon. Stewart was the ticket taker (he
wore a special hat). Connie Spencer was the new manager. His
wife (I forget her name) was a “looker.” She supervised
us guys and designed our spiffy uniforms. We wore short jackets,
which had sleeves large enough to conceal the ever-present
flashlight. The well-starched dickies had a bad habit of popping
out of the jacket at embarrassing times.
year, all of us posed for a picture to urge people to mail
their Christmas parcels early. I remember Archie McPherson
as the backstage honcho.
Capitol was a very busy place that fall and winter; we had
a full house almost every weekend. There was seating for almost
2,000 people; the movies were quite good too. We ushers heard
them so often that we could recite the heroes’ lines
word for word.
for the love angle! The new cashier was May Pfahler, who was
formerly the cashier at the Tivoli Theater in Walkerville
(she looked like an animated doll in the ticket booth!) Her
boss was J.J. “Dapper Joe” Lefaive. Joe always
had a fresh flower in the lapel of his jacket.
I had my eyes on her the moment I saw her and man, did I have
competition. John Heggie (asst. mgr.) was smitten by her and
so was Al Dunwoodie (one of the cleaning staff). I can also
remember an old geezer who used to come to the Capitol quite
often and stand at the wicket, make small talk and moves on
my sweetie. I had my work cut out for me because I wasn’t
any better looking than they were.
word best described May: “HUGGABLE.” She was petite,
five feet nothing, maybe 105 pounds. Lots of fun, but could
be deep and profound. One of her prized possessions was the
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; she could recite many of its passages.
She read “Gone With The Wind” at least four times.
and May while he was
in the Air Force, 1943
romance blossomed and we dated for quite a while (it was tough
trying to get married on an usher’s wages). Finally,
on July 6th, 1935 she said yes and we got married.
had a wonderful life together. Ups and downs? You bet! She
and the kids (two girls and a boy) travelled with me all over
the training stations in Ontario and Quebec while I was in
was rather odd that May and I hadn’t met while we went
to school. May lived on Hall Avenue and I lived on Moy Avenue,
the next street over. She had to walk a long way south to
John Campbell while I had to walk east to King Edward. She
was a top student at the Windsor Business College (so she
knew how to keep my spending habits to a minimum). As I said,
we have three wonderful children, 12 grand ones, and 13 great
regret, I have to add a very sad note to this story. My beloved
passed away in December 2002, which left a monstrous void
in my life.
like to recite to her the last two lines of Shakespeare’s
Sonnet 29. “For thy sweet love remembered such wealth
brings, that then I scorn to change my place with Kings.”
a copy of the February 2004 issue of The TIMES for more love
here to go back to the home page.