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Mrs Susan McEwan (1967)

I worked in the Tea Room near the West Gate at weekends and all summer for 3 years, from 1965 to 1967, aged 15 to 17 years old. There was a proper tearoom for afternoon teas, where the customers were served by waitresses in black uniforms and frilly pinnies, and we peasants who worked in the kitchen weren't allowed to step foot or even show our faces at the door! There were three of us friends who worked together. One served at the window hatch for the outside snacks and lunches such as cheese and peach salad - some lettuce, a tomato and half a tinned peach filled with cottage cheese! Or a prawn salad, the little packet of frozen prawns opened and defrosted in a cup of boiling water, no Marie Rose sauce! - which the other two of us made up. The two of us also had to clear the outside tables - a nightmare on hot, sunny, busy days as we were so busy behind the scenes that the tables were always overloaded with dirty dishes when we finally got out there to clear them. They would also be swarming with wasps - I resorted to wearing my rubber gloves to protect myself! On busy days we would run out of hot water for the (hand washed) dishes by mid-afternoon. Goodness knows what bacteria lurked on the 'washed' cups and saucers. The only thing that kept us sane on a Sunday was the Top 20 on the radio which was balanced against a water pipe to act as an aerial so we got a signal. There were compensations though. On a wet weekend there would be almost no customers, and when we finished on a Sunday afternoon, we would go home loaded with a tin of cream cakes that would be off by the next day so couldn't be sold. I learned to crochet on wet weekends like that, and read loads. What different and simpler and happy times they were!!!

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