That’s service - with a smile

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THESE days at any outside public event there has to be a plethora of eating facilities, each serving hot and cold food and every kind and flavour of drink you can imagine.

Mrs H and I visited a well known department store café in Leeds and it was packed with a long queue. But the staff had the service off to a treat, you could say with almost military precision. They too had to have sufficient staff and gadgetry to cope. But if you turn the clock back to the glory days of Sunny Vale when tens of thousands visited every season how did they cope without the same cooking gadgets the modern outlets have?

Back in those days customers were a little more patient perhaps and not expect their food and drink instantly.

They did not have the benefits of the modern cookery gadgets of today but a team of ladies that could make sandwiches in quick style. In the preparation and research for my Sunny Vale book I soon discovered that the ladies who worked in the café had a reputation for making a nice sandwich and serving it double quick time.

A teacher I interviewed told me about the time almost 1,000 children, teachers and parents made its way down the cobbled road and to what many in those early 50s still referred to Sunny Vale as the Playground of the North.

The time arrived when all the children had to have their pre booked tea. After their first course of quartered sandwiches, a glass of mineral water and a packet of crisps where was the pudding, was the question.

Repeat requests to the catering staff seemed to bring delaying tactics.The head teacher approached the café manager ’Where are the children’s puddings?’ ‘Don’t worry’ she replied, ‘your rhubarb and custard will be here very soon, in fact whilst we are keeping the custard piping hot some of my other staff are out picking the rhubarb now.’ Now that was service, you could not get anything more freshly served than that. In this week’s photo is the outside of Sunny Vale Automatic Café as well as an inside. From the outside it looks a shabby type of place but the inside, a café that does not have any staff. How novel was that for the 1930s and 40s. The whole café was what we would call today a vending machine. You put your coin in the slot and then out would come your drink. What an innovative idea for those days.