Anecdote Index





.....Teashop Memories.....

(29) by Roy Dale

Lyons was my first employer - 1965/66 - a few memories of another Saturday/school holiday boy for you. Jobs in Lyons were prized; a school friend was leaving; I got his job. My teashop was in Chelmsford High Street - a short frontage with a narrow shop that went back quite a way with a bend part way down. My duties were mainly on the tea and coffee - and hot Ribena, served in a glass with metal holder - counter with occasional forays into the exalted areas of light meals a short distance down the counter. Boy, was it hot in summer with all that steam and fat! Uniform was a tatty, frayed, short white coat, albeit clean and starched at the start of a day. There was a constant battle, via the service lift -electric dumb waiter - (with its speaking tube), with the kitchen staff upstairs for more cups. A small churn of milk stood behind the counter. Unrefrigerated, it was likely to "turn" in summer. Cleaned cups often still had lipstick and tea stains - the great British public rarely complained - although one did when glass (no doubt from the action of the high speed cleaning brush on a tumbler in the kitchen) was discovered lurking beneath the surface of a cuppa. Surprisingly, he seemed quite happy with a fresh cup of tea. (Today, he would have, no doubt, sued).

Staff meals came at funny times - yes, I too remember pie, chips and vegies at 10:30 (or 2:30). The staff canteen was like a large windowless cell behind the kitchen upstairs. Upstairs at the front, was the holy of holies, the silver service restaurant with waiting staff. I never aspired to that. To me, the key staff were the manageress (sometimes formidable, sometimes attractive, sometimes both) and the cashier, a middle aged woman who never seemed to have a holiday.

Other memories. To encourage recalcitrant late diners to leave, we would stack neighbouring tables with chairs. Cleaning out the milk side of the coffee urns at the end of the day  - and being told to do it again by the manageress. Being told to sweep up spilt sugar in the pantry and put it back in the container. Big bags of expired cakes to take home on Saturday night - and cream bun fights out the back with some of the same. Pay(after PAYE and a short-lived Selective Employment Tax) was one pound, twelve shillings and sixpence for a very long Saturday.

I remember my Joe Lyons days with a mixture of horror and affection. I've moved on to other jobs (I'm a surveyor) and other countries (New Zealand, principally). It was a good grounding for a working life, gave me my first paypacket (which LEO would have had a hand in) and independence - and those cakes were pretty good too.

I recall the equipment in the kitchen upstairs - that clanking, chain type dishwasher and high-speed brush cup cleaner that exploded glass tumblers if you pressed too hard. It was like Singapore in there - I got a mate a job working there - he didn't last long! Last memories are of my final day, at the bus stop on a Saturday night clutching my bag of expired cakes. The steely, portly, middle-aged, manageress was also there - I'd told her I was starting with the Ordnance Survey in Southampton the next week. "You'll like it there, I used to be the manageress at the teashop near the Bargate". She smiled; she was human after all.


© Roy Dale 2005