The Southend Timeline is delving into the world that is Garon's, first stop is a chat with a lovely lady; Lottie, who is 96 years young and recalls her time working for this famous family in Southend.
Try and cast your mind back if you can over 70 years ago or so in Southend. The town's central road layout has not changed that much to today. However, the High Street then was a busy vehicle thoroughfare and there was one retailer on the road that stood out more than most, Garon's. This shopping empire included a grocers, butchers, fruit 'n' veg, cafe's and restaurants, and even a cinema and stretched for many years along the High Street. The name Garon was famous across the town.
Lottie spoke to Tricia on behalf of Southend Timeline to describe her time working in the Garon's Restaurant in Victoria Circus; now an amazing 96 and quite sprightly for her age, she thinks recalling the past so long ago would be difficult. But in the relaxed conversation that ensued mixing the memories, and help from her daughter, she soon starts chatting about the old times which unlocks some pearls from those days, when Southend was a Garon town.
Lottie was busy in her late teens to early twenties during the 1930's; at a time when work was a necessity and being on the dole was no option. She worked as a maid in service, one of her first jobs, in a big house in Thorpe Bay, for a Bank Manager and his family; she remembers quite vividly even now, the daughter with a red sports car as being "a bit of a so-n-so".
But today's chat was about life working in Garon's. Lottie's Garon's was on Victoria Circus where they ran a large emporium but to the side she recalls it being a busy restaurant. She remembers loads of marble in the dining area along with sloping red tiling styled walls; not that she would forget as one time she banged her head on one of the sloping walls ending up with a trip to hospital. This venue was an early Starbucks serving coffee, sodas and ice cream along with light dinners. With long shifts sometimes requiring a full day and finishing at nine, Lottie would run over to the Hippodrome on Southchurch Road just opposite, and sit in the 'gods' on planks of wood to view the stars performing live on stage, or maybe the latest glamourous film straight from Hollywood.
Lottie never really knew any of the Garon family, but was aware Harry and Frank Garon the brothers were very much in charge. Her role as a waitress would be to deliver to the table some of the gorgeous cakes Garon's were famous for, to drooling customers. As in all these types of roles there were good and bad bits to the job, she enjoyed being on the Soda Fountain as this was a bit of light relief to the heavy slog of waiting tables. Her daughter prompts Lottie to remember 'College Pudding' something "that couldn't be done today" she says. Lottie remembers throwing leftover cake from the customer's plates in to a large bin in the kitchen. The old bits of cake were then steamed and remixed in a not so appetising way. But the end result formed 'College Pudding'. Now imagine all these amazing cake mixes gathered together to provide an intense flavour, it was a hit, cheap and tasted fantastic, you can see Lottie remembering the taste as she speaks over half a century on "it was lovely" she says. I wonder if the name of College Pudding came from the Municpal College just over the road and would be a cheap way for students to eat Garon's luxurious cake mix.
One of Lottie's happier memories was being on a Garon's float as part of the Southend Carnival. She was a guest at a mock wedding fully displayed on the back of a float for the many thousands of carnival watchers as they paraded along the seafront. No doubt marvelling at the grandeur of the wedding on show, characterised by the magnificence of Garon's catering and in particular their spectacular cakes.
Garon's is an ongoing project to discover the family and the business, can you help?