More from Sheila Houlton - the tea stall on the heath

When I was seven years old, Mum and Dad dragged me all the way to Upper Norwood to look at a cafe which was unoccupied and which they hoped to turn into the cafe of their dreams. It was horrible and after Dartford Heath (my own back garden!) I hated London. Fortunately we didn't go and they then had a small caravan with a hatch opening and set up business on the corner of the Heath near Bexley Hosp. They'd only been open a couple of weeks when I got chicken pox and Dad wheeled me home in a (wooden) wheelbarrow so no-one would see me, as it was discovered whilst I was at the cafe with Mum. They sold tea and cakes, pasties and pies ALL HOME-MADE and did a roaring trade, especially on Saturday and Sunday visiting times. After about a year, Dad acquired a bigger van - a refurbished and customised ex-Army lorry. They added a wooden lean-to so that lorry-drivers could sit in shelter. Tea was tuppence- hapenny a cup and Dad insisted it was good and strong, so I don't know what the profit was on that!


The whole family were dragged in to help with washing up and serving and Mrs. Beck (Will's Mum) came to help as well. Unfortunately, she contracted TB and had to go away for about a year. The lorry was by this time parked almost opposite the Dell, just in front of one of the large craters. I remember going up Heathend Road on summer mornings, just as the sun was rising over the trees, to have a fried-egg sandwich for breakfast, before going to school. What bliss! The day the Army arrived, we were so excited! (of course, poor Mum had to do baking the whole of the preceding day so it wasn't exciting for her!)


On one occasion, we were broken into and sweets, cigarettes and drinks were stolen. My brother found the culprits - an A.W.O.L. soldier and his girlfriend, who were canoodling on the bench up the Middle Road, opposite "The Action." They'd left sweet papers and other debris, so it was easy to identify them as the thieves. Don't know what happened to them. We used to have an Anderson shelter which Dad resurrected from beneath the back garden, and used it as a shed. In this shed, which was UNLOCKED, believe it or not, we had a large freezer from which we sold ice-creams. We sold Papa's icecream and the ice lollies and choc-ices were wonderful. Choc-ices were 6d. and the lollies were 3d. The freezing was done with Cardice which came in large flat blocks which we were warned not to touch. No electricity used to power that freezer.


Mrs. Challis was not a well lady and my Mum used to send me to her with eggs (from our chickens) in return for tea (for the cafe) as Dad insisted in a strong cuppa for the lorry-drivers. They were proud of their 'produce' and of their service with a smile. Everything had to end, in 1951/2 when the owner of our house at Baldwins Road wanted to have the house sold without sitting tenants, so we moved to Dartford on 1st October 1952. I thought my life had ended. Dartford hadn't got half the joy of the Maypole Estate!

More pages