Anecdote Index





.....Early...Days..in..the..Teashops......... ...

(21) by Louise E. Post

This photograph was taken about 1889 in Hyde Park. Louisa Larsson would have been about 18. At the time she was a young attractive woman. She told the family many times that she was the first hostess to be taken on by J. Lyons & Co at their first teashop at 213 Picaddilly. The teashop was opened in Sept. 1894 and was one of the last to close in 1976. This was many years before the waitresses were called 'Nippys', a term not coined until 1925. Prior to that date they were known as 'Gladys'.


My grandmother Louisa Johnson Larsson was born 21 May 1871 at 2 Palmer Street, Stepney, London. She was the daughter of Charles John Larsson of Norkopping, Sweden and Harriet Mary Johnson of London.

Louisa's parents met on an ocean voyage. Her mother Harriet was at sea for her health and her father Charles was a crewmember who worked on the passenger decks, possibly as a steward. The ship sailed to Sydney, Australia where Harriet disembarked and took a job as a domestic, while Charles continued to work at sea. Charles and Harriet married 13 March 1865 at Scot's Church, Sydney, Australia.Their first child, Charles George Larsson was born in Sydney on 10 December 1865. In 1867, they decided to return to Harriet's birthplace of London, England. The family sailed from Australia to England and a daughter, Eliza Johnson Larson was born "off the coast of Africa" during the voyage. From 1869 to 1879, four more children, including Louisa, were born in and around London. During this period Charles Larsson tried working on shore, at jobs which included Railway Porter, Brewer at a Brewery, Brewer's Traveller, Waterside Labourer and Shipping Agent. About 1880, Charles Larsson returned to a life at sea, working as a Ship's Steward.

About 1883, 12 year old Louisa Johnson Larsson, recited a poem called "The Fisherman" at the London Sailors Institue and won a prize. She was also a member of a Thames River women's rowing club and was known as a skilled oarswoman.

In 1892, Louisa Johnson Larsson married her first husband Frederick Stansfield Day in Hackney and began to raise a family.

In September 1894, the first Lyons teashop opened at 213 Piccadilly. In later years, Louisa recounted the story to her family many times, that she was the first hostess in the first Lyons teashop in London.

In April 1907, Louisa, her husband Frederick and six of seven children emigrated to Canada The eldest son remained behind to finish school at Christ's Church Bluecoat School in Horsham. The family travelled 10 days on a steamship, and then seven days across Canada by train to a coal mining town called Nanaimo on Vancouver Island off the coast of British Columbia. There, husband Frederick went to work as a bookkeeper for Dupont Powder Works.

The arrival in rural British Columbia must have been a terrible shock for a family from a large city. They were in a small town surrounded by wilderness, living at first in a tent until they could find a house to rent. In September 1907, Louisa gave birth to an eighth child, a daughter. In September 1908, husband Frederick Stansfield Day died of cancer. Louisa was left with nothing, no family nearby, and no way to support the seven children at home, ranging in age from one year to fourteen years. Friends and neighbours came to the rescue and helped the family to survive this incredible hardship.

In 1910, Louisa Johnson Larsson married Elijah Dudley and then over the next five years, bore four more children including a set of twins. The last child would unfortunately die after only a few days..Second son Walter Day, aged 17,  died in December 1911 in an explosion at the Powder Works. Eldest son Ralph Day, who had joined the family in Canada after finishing school, was killed in August 1914 in a farm accident.

In 1915, the family moved to the city of Vancouver on the mainland of British Columbia. The three eldest children, all girls, obtained jobs to assist in supporting the family. One daughter married in 1926 and the first grandchild was born in 1927. Louisa's second husband Elijah Dudley died of cancer in 1927. She remained widowed for the next thirty-five years.

Louisa loved to cook and bake, maintaining a well kept home for her family of nine remaining children. There was the annual canning of vegetables, particularly pickled red cabbage that was shared with everyone. Of course as each of the children gained a spouse and more grandchildren were born, the family grew until a total of twenty-four sat around the table.

In 1944, Louisa went to live with her eldest daughter and husband. She was now 73 years old and would live in their home for the remainder of her life. It was now this home where all family members gathered together, as Louisa was still the centre of the family.

Louisa loved to write poetry. They were just simple peoms, but meant a lot to each family member who received one. She also loved to write letters and would write to anyone on an occasion she thought was special. I still have the letter she wrote to me on my graduation from High School. There were also jingles, which were popular on radio in those days. She wrote jingles constantly and won several prizes on one of the local radio programmes.

Louisa's eyesight was extremely poor in later years, which caused her to fall at times simply because she couldn't see a step or a curb. However, that sense of humour still helped her cope with this difficulty as well. Between daughters and granddaughters, there were so many girls in the family, Louisa used to play a sort of guessing game as to which female walked into the room. She rarely got the given names correct, but we used to play the game along with her until she finally laughed and said, "oh, its you". Then you received a hug and kiss no matter what your name was.

Incredibly, Louisa had never been sick a day in her life. About 1955, when she was in her mid 80's, Louisa, her eldest daughter and husband were involved in a car accident. Louisa's leg had been badly gashed, so she was taken to a hospital for the first time in her life. It happened to be a Catholic hospital and when she awoke from surgery, she thought the nun's were angels and she had finally made it to heaven. For the next week, she was a delight and a wonder of amusement to the staff at the hospital. No matter what the circumstances, she always had a smile and met each new event in life as just another adventure.

On 16 May 1962, Louisa Johnson Larsson died after a massive stroke. She was aged 90 years, 11 months and 360 days

This woman I have shared with you, was my grandmother. Infact, the only grandparent I ever knew. I will always remember her for her smile, her warmth and her sunny disposition.

I am fortunate to have several items in my possession that were hers - a serving platter, a potatoe masher and a small tablecloth, reminders of her cooking days. I also have a brooch, a ring, and a silver watch, reminders of her as an individual. The most value of course, is in the memories that are attached to these items. The wonderful memories of an extraordinary person.

Louise Elizabeth Post
British Columbia, Canada
25 June 2004

This photo was taken when she was 80.

© Louise E. Post 2004

Above, four Lyons waitresses dressed in replica uniforms of the 1894 period

A drawing of a waitress by the illustrator 'Mars', dated 1899