George Cullum (GC-95-220) and Ethel Cullum (EC-95-220)

Cinema de Luxe, Norwich. Uploaded by granola. Creative Commons (Attribution) License via

George and Ethel Cullum responded to a call in the East Anglian local press for volunteers to take part in Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain, and they were among the twenty-one individuals, couples and groups living in that region who were interviewed during late 1995. Born respectively in 1910 and 1908, Mr and Mrs Cullum were among our oldest participants (the median year of birth for all our core informants was 1919). Ethel Cullum was born in Sprowston in Norfolk and left school at the age of fourteen and went to work in a boot factory, but for most of her working life she was a housewife. George Cullum, born in Spixworth, near Norwich, also left school at fourteen and worked as a bricklayer and later as a printer.

The Cullums’ interviews took place on 25 October and 14 November 1995 at their home in Spixworth. In their first interview Mrs Cullum talks about the deprivations of her early years in a family of twelve children headed by an extremely strict, even brutal, father who, according to family legend, was the illegitimate son of an aristocratic mother. The young Ethel was not allowed to go dancing, and “every time my mother had a child, she used to get a hiding off my father.” The couple talk about the cinemas in Norwich that they went to in the 1920s and 1930s, and Mr Cullum recalls being told by elders about some places in Norwich where films were screened during the 1910s. The couple chat about film stars and their interest in stars’ lives, and about their own current lives, family members, outings and hobbies, and about Mr Cullum’s domestic skills.

In their second interview Mrs Cullum, a lifelong film fan, does most of the talking, with vivid accounts of ‘making do’ as a child as well as recollections of favourite films and stars of the 1930s and of the decades since; of enjoying solo trips to the cinema as a young mother; and–uniquely among our informants–expressing a preference for current films over the films of her youth: “Films nowadays are made so much better.”