This tale of a “British Restaurant” is an hard one to swallow.
Do you remember the British or Civic Restaurants?” as they were known.
British Restaurants were inaugurated in 1941, to provide a substantial cheap meal for the general public, and there were originally five such restaurants in Wolverhampton, situated in older School Buildings as I recall.
It was going to be a special day out, a family treat, and it was to include our first sit down meal outside of home.
I’ll never forget that fine July day 1945, as we set out from our house in Nursery Street heading to the West Park for a day out, which was to include an extra special treat, a lunchtime meal at the British Restaurant in Dunkley Street.
See if you can trace our route on the map
Off we went Mom and I, with my youngest sister Kathleen in her pram, with my other sister Mary, hanging on to mom’s arm. The reason I remember the date so well -1945 , was because, as we passed down the Londes; an alley at the bottom of Nursery Street. On the side white -washed wall of the Colonel Vernon in North Street someone had taken a tin of red paint, and had written in large letters VOTE LABOUR!.
And this was still on the wall plain to see, a few weeks after that unexpected Labour victory.
Across North Street then down Birchfield Street we travelled passing my school Red Cross Street closed now for the summer break. and within a short while we were at the five ways, crossing into Dunkley Street.
The park in those days, was a favourite destination of ours, and on passing the Higher Grade school in Dunkley Street I always wondered, why so many people; not just school children, but people of all ages were going in and out of the building through the alley at the rear.
Today, I would find out the answer. It was of course the entrance to the Civic Restaurant
We finally arrived at the entrance to the restaurant, which was in Molineux Alley, and as I waited our turn in the long queue, Mom sat Mary down at the table she had found for us, and placed Kath’s pram next to it, then joined me in the queue to order lunch.
The main meal of the day was steak and kidney pie with veg, Mom ordered a childs’ portion for Mary, which cost 6d, and two adults portions for us, at 1/8d each. We then sat down to enjoy this special treat.
I was halfway through my meal, and mom was juggling between eating her’s, feeding Kath with her bottle, and at at the same time helping Mary with her dinner.
Suddenly there was panic and uproar, mom got a piece of meat lodged in her throat and began to choke.
Mary was screaming, Kath was crying, and Mom was going blue in the face. When to our aid a lady and gent rushed across from the table next to us, bent mom over, and with few slaps on her back dislodged the offending lump of gristle.
After the hurrah had died down, the lady in charge came across, apologised, and offered mom another meal, but she was to upset to accept it.
But I accepted it gladly, and eagerly devoured the two large portions of Bakewell tart and custard, which came afterwards, free of charge.
Although our grand day out, turned into what would be a bad experience for mom, and one she tried her best to forget. It certainly amused my father and others who were told the story.
I have visited the West Park many times over the years and will never tire of it. If I happen to pass the old Newhampton Road School, my mind instantly goes back to 1945, and that eventful first visit to the restaurant.
At the end of the day; there were two things I learned from that unfortunate incident which have stood me in good stead throughout my life.
Always give you complete attention to the job in hand, and never bite off, more than you can chew.