Anecdote Index





.....Porter..at a Teashop........ ...

(25) by Les Humphreys

I was a part-time employee at Lyons during my final years at Stationers' Company's School, Hornsey between 1957 and 1959. I began my short career working saturdays at the tea shop in Wood Green High Road. My duties were of a general nature, ranging from clearing tables, washing dishes and replenishing the self serve counter.

One of the more memorable tasks was polishing the brass plate that ran the full length of the front window, and cleaning the window itself. I remember being taught the art using the scrim cloth to wipe the window dry, but somehow, never quite being able to bring it up to a smearless shine.

Later I moved to the tea-shop in Enfield. This branch featured a dish washing machine, which removed the drudgery of standing over a sink for what at that time seemed long periods. Commuting by bicycle from Hornsey, the ride to and from Enfield afforded welcome relaxation in the fresh air, which regrettably todays traffic denies.

I spent the summer of '59 working full time at the Corner House in Piccadilly. While duties were as mundane as they were in the suburbs, working in the city heart added a whole new dimension to the experience. Such a variety of people and so many interesting places to vist during lunch breaks. Carnaby Street was in its heyday at that time and although Lyons wasn't the biggest payer, the latest in men's apparel was not unaffordable and many a paycheck ended up in Carnaby Street.

I was very impressed with the training received at Lyons. Before being posted to the workplace, I was given a week's course in kitchen and counter procedures at Orchard Street, learning many skills that have lasted to this day. Particularly impressive was the tea fountain - a 'lazy susan' of steel and chrome which kept four four cup pots of tea ready to serve at all times, with instant boiling water for scalding the pot prior to adding the tea. another favourite was 'coffee with a dash' - served from two urns, one containing hot black coffee, the other, hot milk. A serving comprised a cup with half from each urn.

I worked for a manageress - management at the branches was in my experience all female, as were most of the staff. Manageresses tended at that time to be middle aged, single and totally dedicated to their work - certainly there never seemed to be any problems with staff relations in the workplace. On the whole, working at Lyons was a satisfying and enjoyable experience.

After leaving uniiversity I started work as a computer programmer at the Milk Marketing Board. Lyons at that time was in the business of developing the Leo series of computers. Although I toyed with the idea at the time, I never did get around to reapplying for employment there. As they used to say in the Red Rose Tea Ad, pity !

I also worked for a while at a number of ABC teashops in London

Les Humphreys, Almonte Ontario, Canada

© Les Humphreys, 2005