1955 Queens Road Central

Mon, 10/12/2015 - 21:04

Where: We're on Queen's Road Central, with D'Aguilar Street leading off to the left, and Theatre Lane to the right.

Here's how it looks today:

What: The big building on the right is the original Queen's Theatre. It closed in 1958, so only a lucky few readers will remember that building. Most of us will remember the second generation of Queen's Theatre that replaced it though:

Queen's Theatre - 2nd generation

Back to the old photo, and further on from the theatre we reach these two buildings with their distinctive columns:


They're both visible in this photo of Queen's Road from the 1920s. The arches above the closer set of pillars are clear to see at the right edge of the older photo:

1920s Queen's Road Central

There were 30 years between those photos, and several buildings appear in both. But the 60-year gap between the 1950s photo and today is just too wide: none of the buildings from the 1950s are still here. The only visible connections are a few brands which live on - San Miguel beer at top left, Jimmy's Kitchen and Camel Paints over on the right:


When: Queen's is showing the film 'Battle Cry':


It was released in America on 2nd February, 1955, dating this photo to the mid 1950s.

UPDATE: In the comments below, Moddsey notes that Battle Cry wasn't showing yet, and narrows down the date to April 1955:

The film "They Rode West" was screened at the Queen's Theatre between 20 and 22 April 1955 with the film "Battle Cry" as the 'Next Change'. The Savoy Lounge next to the theatre was an entertainment nightspot.

Who: It's a long shot, but I wonder if anyone remembers the owner of this car:


Whoever chose that registration number was out to be noticed. Following the Chinese tradition of assigning meanings to numbers, the number 4424 translates to: "die, die, easy die" !

Reference: A333B

Date picture taken
20 Apr 1955


Identical view back in 1948, posted here about 10,000 nodes ago: 

1948 Queen's Theatre
1948 Queen's Theatre, by moddsey

Very interesting to compare the shop signs on a high street and see what eight years can do in the commercial world.  The big names were all still there - the Grand Dispensary and its semi-circular 'children's happy juice' sign, Queen's Theatre,  萬城百貨 (department store) behind them with the balcony on the first floor filled in to make more space, and the Commercial Press further back.  Down the road on the right 龍子行 also survived (what store was that by the way?).  On the street corner on the left On Lok Yuen changed from promoting fruit punch to ice cream, but Bata Shoes had gone, and the vertical trade company sign above it made way for Asia Steel Works.  Above the 'Yuen' of the horizontal sign on the left, the doctor seemed to have changed names from 霍永楷  to 霍永根.  Probably the same guy or a relative with a similar name?  Tung Lee Money Changer had also gone, but there was a new 'Three Horse Beer' sign jutting out above all of them. 

No doubt very busy in both photos, but I get the feeling that there was just a little more action going on in 1956.


The film "They Rode West" was screened at the Queen's Theatre between 20 and 22 April 1955 with the film "Battle Cry" as the 'Next Change'. The Savoy Lounge next to the theatre was an entertainment nightspot.

The 1948 view is a good choice for a comparison. I don't see any changes in the buildings between the two photos.

Thanks for the date too. Is there any trick to finding these dates for film showings? I'll update the text to say Battle Cry was the next change.

Regards, David

No tricks, David. Date of release plus 2 months. The only problem is that sometimes the films are shown again which then makes it difficult to guess the correct date. The big difference for me when comparing Queen's Road Central (QRC) between the late 1940s and early 1950s is that this segment of QRC was once a two way street for traffic in opposite directions. The one way traffic direction that is shown in your 1955 photo, although proposed in 1947 as shown here would have problably been implemented in the early 1950s as seen in this photo

1949 Queen's Road Central

1949 Queen's Road Central
1949 Queen's Road Central , by eternal1966e


I cannot remember this shop opposite Queen's Theatre, but there was an "On Lok Yuen Building" in Des Voeux Road Central, not too far from here. There was another On Lok Yuen (cafe) in Sheung Wan, also on Queen's Road Central, further west, right next to Central Theatre (now Central Building). There was a narrow lane in between that On Lok Yuen and Central Theatre, where painters for Central Theatre used to lay huge canvas on the ground to paint pictures - movie stars, scenes, etc. (to be displayed) for the movies on show there. On Lok Yuen specialized in making ice-creams. I still remember they were quite expensive, a small paper cupful - a choice of vanilla, strawberry or chocolate - costed 50 cents in the late 1950s. In comparison, a bottle of vitasoy or Watson's orange juice / cola costed 20 cents. A bottle of coca cola costed 30 cents. The price of stuff was very stable in those days.

A zip of cold drinks at On Lok Yuen was a luxury to me in those days, but a great way to relieve the heat of summer, as it was air-conditioned, a rare environment in those days

TW Wong

So it's a manual trawl through the old papers? Thanks for the help to pin down the date.

I hadn't spotted the switch to one-way, that's good to know. Something else I've thought is different is how few motor vehicles there are in the older photos. But then looking at the modern view from Google there are only two cars visible! So even in the old photos it could just be photographer waiting for a quiet moment to take the photo.

Regards, David

TW, thanks for sharing your memories.

We've got a page for the On Lok Yuen over on Des Voeux Road (http://gwulo.com/node/13812) and also several photos (http://gwulo.com/node/13812/photos)

I didn't know about the one on Sheung Wan though. I've just made a page for the Central Theatre (http://gwulo.com/node/29285), but we don't have any photos yet.

Regards, David


What another interesting Gwulo subject Queen's Road "then and now" and the Queen's cinema, remembered with affection."War & Peace" I remembered, one long film, extra entrance fee.  What particularly interests me is " Jimmy's Kitchen". I arrived in Hong Kong at the end of 1955, and remembered so well walking past " Jimmy's Kitchen" and "Maxims", two places I could ill-afford to visit. Except, for one fearful excursion into "Maxims" one afternoon, which was empty at the time, and ordered the only alcoholic drink I was familiar with, Sherry, with which I was served with, plus a few crisps and it cost $7, a huge amount then for a National Service Sailor from HMS Tamar, Hong Kong Flotilla. Interestingly I remembered so well " Jimmy's Kitchen" and returned had a meal there, in 2003. I told the Australian (Then) Manager about my memories of the place in 1955, and he produced a great book of pictures, and memorabilia, from the 50's. But the restaurant had moved it seemed to me, from where it was in 1956.We were so well entertained and had a gratis escargot starter. Something I could never imagine to eating when I was 19 (1956). One of those old Tourist guide books which I still have indicates the exact address of " Jimmy's Kitchen". Reading yet another Gwulo display and comments, is again so fascinating David.  Incidentally John Metherell Hon Secretary of the thriving Hong Kong Flotilla Association, Old Sailors from the Hong Kong Squadron of the 1950's, he will be making a reurn with his son Lee ( born there) and tracing old places. Shortly, in November. We look forward to a great diary of whom they saw, and what has changed. The funny thing is the islands, the profiles, they never change....that is where we spent so many of our years there, on patrol, in the dfangherous waters then of the Pearl River. I grew up in HK. Wonderful place. And this weekend we celebrate all those years and Hong Kong will come alive again for a lot of old gentleman, but then it will never die in their memories.

Hsu Brothers at 33 Queen's Road c.
Hsu Brothers at 33 Queen's Road c., by Vincent

A closer examination of the sign of HSU Brothers (集祥抽紗行) located at the 1st Floor of No 33 QRC (洛興行). The shop below HSU Bros. on the ground level was the Victoria Dispensary (勝利大藥房), adjacent to the Vansen Department Store (萬成百貨公司). 

One worth to mention about 33 QRC is that, according to the Christian Weekly, main office of the United Photoplay Service Ltd (CR No. 0000963, 1930-1956, 聯華影業製片印刷有限公司, also known as Lianhua Film Company) was registered on the 2nd Floor at 33 QRC. The United Photoplay, a pioneer film production company in China, was founded by Law Ming-yau (羅明佑), Lai Man-wai (黎民偉) and others in 1930.  

Behind HSU's sign was a partial view of a pre-war signboard in Chinese, reads "Bookstore" ("書館"). It belongs to the Commercial Press (商務印書館) at 35 QRC. The Commercial Press was originally situated above Madame Flint at 37 QRC as shown in David's 1920s QRC photo.

Behind the Commercial Press, there was a white banner in Chinese, reads "Removal Sale, Dragon Seed" ("龍子行遷出大清盤"). The Dragon Seed Department Store and Dragon Light (龍光行) were located at 37 QRC before mid 1950s. Today's Yu To Sang Building (余道生行, 37 QRC) was erected in 1957. The Dragon Seed thereafter was settled at 39 QRC (today's Prosperous Tower).

The pictures brought back many memories to me.  In 1927/29 my parents sometimes took us to queen's to see films with Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin etc - silent films of course, but live music was provided by a pianist and sometimes a violinist.

In 1939 my two sisters and I took part in the chorus of 'No No Nanette' put on at the Queen's by the Philharmonic Society, great fun.

My diary for 1939 lists seeing 86 films yes 86!   Some were repeats which were shown at cheaper cinemas such as the Oriental in Wanchai, the Star in Kowloon, and the Alhambra also in Kowloon.  The Kings and Queens only showed new films, usually a few months after general release (air mail not in common use then)

We first saw Gone with the wind at the Queens.  There was an interval halfway through when we went to Jimmys Kitchen for a quick snack.

Just along from the left of the Queens was the Bluebird cafe which also sold sweets.As a child I used to buy their special lollipops which were patterned like golf balls, heaven to suck. When grownup, I often went there for a sit down ice cream.  The week before the Jap attack Dec 8 1941, when we were jittery about a possible attack, I went there and treated myself to a box of crystallised ginger, recording in my diary that I'd bought it in case it was the last of treats. It was!


How fascinating is this very much earlier history of Hong Kong Cinemas. There is added fascination with the fact we are now provided, on Gwulo, with such detailed memories,  and have information on the films viewed, and cinemas visited during that terribly anxious time, just before the Japanese occupation.Those who suffered during and after have our great admiration and your stories of such heroism, inspire everyone.  My period of cinema visiting was during 1955 through 1956 and then up to mid 1957. I still have those cinema programmes both in English and Cantonese, flimsy little things, which now I value so much. Sometimes then I went to Queens, but mostly Roxy Cinema, which I tried to locate ( on a visit in 2005) on the now named Roxy Roundabout ( Causeway Bay) is that correct ? Remember seeing in particular " The King & I " , "Julie" a little known film starring Doris Day, " The High & The Mighty" and of course " Love is a many splendoured thing" & "Soldier of Fortune" . Our Royal Navy Hong Kong Flotilla which operated ten armed Motor Launches out of the Tamar Boat Pool. Patroling all around Hong Kong, and existing together with the marvellous fisher folk of Hong Kong, Aberdeen, Chueng Chou and all the islands, Castle Peak, Tai' O, . A time in HK like no other in 1956. On watch from 4am to 8am alone, watching the sun come up, and I still love the mornings, with the Junks all around us , they also coming awake, and the fisherfolk needed their sleep, after playing majong until the early hours. Getting back to the film and theme music,  " Love is a many Splendoured thing" -our recent Reunion, we are all in our 80's now, featured much terrific dancing, and singing the theme from that movie with a well trained band in the Trouveville Hotel Torquay. 77 of us, about 35 veterans the rest families, we keep our fifties HK alive and well, and never forget that magical, sometimes dangerous time out there, amongst the islands, and the wonderful folk of Hong Kong, who have all now retreated I gather to high rise buildings/flats we saw at Aberdeen. At our twice per year reunions we all sing the songs of old HK and cry a little when we remember. "China Nights" Our usual haunts were of course the China Fleet Club, but in my case the Flying Angel Missions to Seaman, on the waterfront, which provided us with much entertainment. In particular the first Juke Boxes we ever saw or listened to, the new rock and roll, well ahead of UK who were all into skiffle we read in our letters from home,  Bill Haley, Elvis, for the very first time in 1956.Keep the memories flowing to this page. We of the Hong Kong Flotilla Association(HMS Tamar) consume every detail.  We are always looking for our fellow Royal Navy sailors locally enlisted, who were our great friends, and whom we served all of us together. Peter Yeates