By Bill Heaney

The Carlton Bingo Hall in the old Rialto Cinema in College Street, Dumbarton (The Vennel) is to close its doors for good.

The mainly women participants, many of whom have been loyal patrons for many years will be upset at this announcement.

Bingo players were a close-knit part of the local community and loved to play the game for what, from time to time, were attractive prizes.

The customers and staff did lots of good charitable work by donating to good causes, especially around Christmas.

Commenting on the announced closure of the Carlton Bingo Hall in Dumbarton, local MSP Jackie Baillie said: “I was saddened to hear that the Carlton Bingo Hall in Dumbarton is to close. I know that this has been a hugely uncertain time for Carlton Bingo – and for hundreds of other businesses in our local community.

“This closure will mean further job loss for local people. Carlton Bingo is not alone in being forced to close its doors for good. Businesses up and down the country are struggling to survive due to the economic crisis that the Covid-19 pandemic has created.

“The Scottish Government must ensure that businesses and employees have long term support beyond the end of the current Job Retention Scheme. Local businesses provide much needed employment and every effort must be made to support and protect them during this time of great uncertainty.”

The Rialto has been on its site in the centre of the town for more years than most residents can remember.

The last film to be shown on the night before the cinema caught fire and was rendered unfit for purpose thereafter was an Audey Murphy western which ended with a train being set on fire.

One wag said when he saw the damage next day: “The fire must have spread from the train to the cinema.”

Many local couple did their courting in the back row on the Rialto and recall blockbuster movies starring the likes of Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain and Gene Cagney in Shake Hands with the Devil.

Not to mention Ginger Rodgers, Fred Astaire, Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, and the ABC Minors who are in the picture above.

Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell were viewing for bigger boys than I who paid their sixpence at the door. If we ever used ginger bottle to get in, I certainly don’t remember that. We usually had enough for dolly mixtures from Bobby Allen’s, Granny Russell’s, Minnie Steel’s or Mary Baker’s.

Well known managers included Des Petrie and his assistant Billy Grainger, a big rock fan and later promoter who welcomed Cliff Richard in person to the Rialto and took the Bachelor Boy across the road to McCafferty’s Railway Tavern for a [half] pint.

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