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World War Two: Off-ration meals and treats

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From wartime British Restaurants to peace-time Civic Restaurants

What Civic Restaurants were

British Restaurants were renamed Civic Restaurants in 1946, i.e. after the Second World War ended. However as the experiences below show, they were no different from their forerunners, the British Restaurants.

Ticket for meal at a Civic Restaurant

Ticket for meal at a Civic Restaurant, courtesy of Malcolm Johnson

Civic Restaurants did not last long. The one where I lived in Edgware was pulled down to make way for a new public library.

On reflection, the closure of the British Restaurants and Civic Restaurants is surprising because rationing and austerity continued after the war into the 1950s. Perhaps everyone just wanted to forget everything that had any connection with the war.

Civic Restaurant tickets

It would seem that the token system of payment at British Restaurants was replaced with a ticket system in the Civic Restaurants. Or was this a matter of where the restaurants were? If you know, please share.

The Civic Restaurant meal ticket shown in the picture is clearlymade from cheap, rough-and-ready unbleached paper which was common at the time for disposable use. The jagged left and right edges show that it was torn off from a roll. Interestingly it is numbered which presumably allowed staff to see how many tickets were sold in a given time, hence to guide future catering requirements. Also the numbers made it possible to guard against theft by comparing how much money ought to be in the till with how much was there.

A visit to a Civic Restaurant

Guest contribution

There was a Civic Restaurant on Crayford High Street in Kent. I can remember being intrigued by the name, as at the time, as a boy of 8 or 9, I wasn't at all sure what 'Civic' meant! As it was 'Civic' not 'British', it must have been immediately after the war. The site it occupied was a pre-war two story building with flats above, now two or three shops.

My grandfather, on one of his frequent sorties for something to augment the rations, took me there for something to eat, probably because I continually complained of being hungry! I was there on one occasion only, but the memory of that day is still one of my many wartime and post-war memories!

The place seemed vast to me at the time, although it was probably quite small in reality - plain painted green walls, long tables in two or three rows, and an assortment of old chairs. The tables were covered in glossy American cloth*, a checked pattern, that I clearly recall. It was probably a Government issue.

We queued up to be served by a lone WVS lady wearing the WVS uniform.

Granddad bought me a sponge pudding with runny custard-which didn't impress me! He sat watching me as I ate it. I think he had a cup of tea and a bun-and a smoke!

Michael Sullivan

* American cloth was a close-woven cloth with a coating of boiled linseed oil which made it waterproof. It was common for table coverings because it could so easily be wiped clean.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.

Text and images are copyright


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