Monday, 29 June 2009

Coffee Bars and Milk Bars

I was musing idly about the past, which reminded me of coffee bars in the late fifties, which I used to frequent. They were everywhere - in London I would go to the 'Two I's and the 'Heaven and Hell'. Cappuccino and espresso coffee was sold, and always served in glass cups and saucers, for some reason. An earlier phenomenon had been Milk Bars. My great-aunt had 'The Green Door' in Ilfracombe, named after a pop song of the day, and there was apparently one in Notting Hill Gate called 'The Moo-Cow'. I can't remember the name of the one in Combe Martin, where I used to hang out when even younger. They specialised in ice creams, including huge sundaes, and milk shakes, and ice cream sodas, which were basically cream soda or lemonade with a ball of ice cream in it, and sometimes a dash of fruit flavouring. Teenagers and young children used to meet in these places, often sharing a milk shake with several straws.

Although they did not serve alcohol, coffee bars were seen as a young adult option, since they were inevitably furnished with juke boxes, another novelty of the time. They were seen as much cooler than pubs, and may have had a part in the mod movement later, with its Italian suits and motor scooters, all things Italian being in favour, even the wall murals with Swiss mountain scenes often encountered in these places.

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