I have just I driven past the building that used to house Roxi Cinema in Bamenda. That was when Cameroon was not yet connected to the television network and there were of course no videos on which one could watch a film like we do today. So the only way to watch a film was to go to a Cinema Hall. Roxi was the first and the leading one in Bamenda at the time. There were two others in the town, one of which was near Fon`s Street and the other was in Nkwen, at the petrol station which is located at the entrance to Cow Street, from Mile 2. By far, Roxi was the most popular of the three. I think it was owned by a Lebanese man called Toffi, or something like that.
At the time the incident I am about to recount happened, I was in Form One at Sacred Heart College, Mankon-Bamenda. One day our principal, the Rev. Brother John Phillips sent the entire school to Roxi Cinema, to watch the film, “The Ten Commandments”. I think that at the time Sacred Heart College had around 250 students, unlike today that the number on roll has skyrocketed to well over 800. The school paid for that treat.
When we got there and I was waiting with students for our turn to go up to the counter and purchase our entry tickets, I found that I had been “politely” surrounded by three boys who – unlike us – were not in uniform. We students used to call such people, “town boys”. One of them grabbed me by my belt and thundered: “Give us all the money you have on you!” I became so frightened I was tongue-tied. I sweated. Just then, he bellowed, “Didn`t you hear me? I said all your money!” Fortunately for me, one of them came to my rescue. He addressed the other boy in Pidgin:”Boh, leave that one make he go. Na school boy. He no get money.” Then the assailant let go of my belted trousers and I heaved a sigh of relief. They walked away from me, led by the boy who had intervened on my behalf. When we got into the hall and started watching the film, I still did not have my wits about me. I was still shaken, peeved, irked and upset. So in the end I did not quite enjoy the acts of Moses and his exchanges with God which I had initially intended to sit back, relax and enjoy.
Interestingly, I realized that my “savior” used to be my classmate in primary school but dropped out when his father died, perhaps because there was no one else to pay for his studies. But what I did not understand was whether he had saved me because he recognized me or whether it was just a generous decision that he could have taken for the benefit of any other person in that situation. What was even more significant though was that he did not make it known to his accomplices that he knew me. We are both alive today and once in a while we run into each other and exchange the usual civilities. Even so, none of us has ever broached the subject of that incident in front of the Roxi Cinema on that day.