Hard To Swallow

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.

One of the five British Restaurants in Wolverhampton, listed as Walsall Street Civic Restaurant as late as 1960.

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.

Viewed from North Street showing the “Londes”and Nursery Street

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.

The Fordhouse trolley bus enters Waterloo Road

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.

Entrance to the restaurant.

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.

Higher Grade School Newhampton Road East.

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.

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  1. Not in Wolverhampton, but the Civic Restaurants certainly existed. I remember my aunt in Greenford taking me to one as a treat (and saving her finding lunch during stringent rationing) when I stayed with her on holiday. cjl

  2. My mother worked at the Dunkley St restaurant before I was born – in 1947.She was a dab hand at baking and Bakewell tarts were a speciality which we all enjoyed as children at home. She could well have made the one you enjoyed that day. I thoroughly enjoyed your article – not least the picture you included from Molineux Alley.It brought back many memories fir me, because I did that walk in term time 11 years later for the duration of my time at secondary school. I was lucky enough to go to the Muni.

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