Research by Katie Blythe
Tiarrah Pizza Bar:
Zdenek and Lenka Tankos are originally from Slovakia. They married at the Winter Gardens and settled in Cliftonville. After working in a variety of hotels in the area, they decided to open their own pizza bar on Northdown Road named after their daughter.
“I remember one Sunday we were just walking, with the kids around. We wanted to have some pizza and nice wine and we couldn’t find a place! Nice, clean, you know, where you can sit down and enjoy your pizza… nothing there. It was Sunday, everything was closed. So, we just decided, ‘why not? We got the skills; we got some little bit of saving. Let’s try’. That’s how we came to the business."
“There’s not any place where you can sit down, have some pizza, some nice wine, nice cocktail, pasta on this end, and especially with this oven. I don’t know if anyone’s got this kind of oven in Margate. And the food is not fried, we bake in the oven, so it’s healthier. And everyone wants to be healthy these days, so we don’t fry, we avoid the oil, you know? And that’s why we say, ‘Okay, we need to do something special here. Something modern, something new’.
“We’re the first Slovakian people to open a business here. I said to my wife, ‘we’re going to show them we can do it’ and we’ve done it!” – Zdenek, co-owner of Tiarrah Pizza Bar
Originally from Turkey, Cankat Yildirim arrived in Cliftonville and took over the local Turkish produce store. Over time, he has added food from all over the world, reflecting the growing diversity of the area.
“First time I came here to buy the shop at 10 o’clock at night. And at that time, we walked around to the beaches. I made lots of searches online, so the demographic structure, the council people. I mean, we know the world is changing every single day in a different way.
“I was also working in London, in a company. I working as a general manager. I made a decision in my life, choose to come to Margate every day or to carry on my career in London. So, I choose Margate. It was a tough decision for me because the business was not good. I mean, there are lots lost in the business. I started mine here in Margate, it was 2018, I took this decision to take over the whole store. Otherwise, we were planning to sell it all, everything, and go to somewhere else.
“This was an opportunity for us because Northdown Road is bigger than central Margate, eligible to create a new business, and more crowded than in the Old Town. The families are living on Northdown Road, so we are serving most of the families here… ethnic groups are 50% of our customers, another 50% of customer is UK-born, British. Lots of people from rest of the world.
“Every day if you don’t follow the new fashions, it takes you to back. You run on the treadmill, but you can’t go anywhere, you know what I mean? So, with the changes of Margate, I changed everything in the store. We were serving most of the Eastern European people in here, so, when I see these changes, I told my staff, ‘Take this old product from the shelf and throw them to the bin’ and I put new products on to the shelf. Because it’s very ethnic items, if even I don’t know what the item is, I can’t expect new customer to know these items! So, I start changing with gradually. The Londoners are familiar with Turkish products from London. Also, lots of people go on holidays in Turkey and they try something, and they come back to me they start asking, ‘Do you have this product?’ The first thing I did when I came here, I changed the name of the shop. So, it was international - but the shop’s known as the Turkish supermarket, so we are originally Turkish, but we are serving internationally. So, I had to break the ice, the first impression.
“After Brexit, lots of Eastern European went back to their countries because of visa dates or whatever, they couldn’t manage to stay here… But at the moment, the customer portfolio is balanced from all nations in the world. We are not selling only Turkish or Middle Eastern products, we are also selling Mediterranean products, we specialise in Mediterranean items. I don’t have lots of Turkish products in the shop actually. Italian products, Spanish products… dairy products from Greece.
“In the beginning, there were lots of different people were living here, so I like Czechoslovakian people […] this was an opportunity for me. I’m a businessman so whenever I see the opportunity, I move there. So, I’ve started connecting to Margate emotionally now, I’m thinking of buying a house and staying here, seaside is nice. Northdown Road is my first choice because I think Northdown Road was very famous before, maybe again it can be popular? According to my observation, when the new shopping malls opened, all these businesses closed down, or they lost their sales and they had to close down. They sold it, their liquidity, whatever they had, and they left Margate. So, I think Margate, especially Northdown Road, is picking up again, and that was the reason I came to Northdown Road.”
– Cankat, owner of the International Food Centre
131 Northdown Road:
The Ruback family arrived in Thanet at some point between the two World Wars. Descending from a line of Jewish tailors, Harold Ruback operated out of many premises in Cliftonville, before finally settling at 131 Northdown Road. Here, his niece Ernestine describes his shop:
“My father was one of four brothers; one was in London and the other two brothers were down here. So, there was three families of Rubacks living here and we were quite a close family… My primary school was Holy Trinity… we weren’t very far because we were in Norfolk Road, one set of cousins were in Surrey Road, and the other ones were at the bottom of Cornwall Gardens. So, the mums took turns in taking us to school and you know, we were in each other’s houses after school; it was quite a close-knit family really, it was nice. […]
“My uncle was a tailor. He was the President of the Tailors and Cutters; he was the Queen’s best tailor. He had a fitting room in Savile Row, he was really well known. And he had a shop in Cliftonville; he had fitting rooms in Savile Row but a shop down here. […]
“I remember the fitting rooms. As you went through the front - because he also sold ready-made clothes, off the peg clothes - you walked through to the back, and they used to have these old massive steam irons. And the cutting room, the tables with all the white chalk on the material, you know how they chalked the seams and then they’d do all the tacking and things? And the sewing machines as well, very old Singer shirt sewing machines. I remember all the steam irons, but I don’t know whether they would have been the ones where you put the coal in it. Although, Uncle Harold or maybe my grandfather, had those in his shop because they moved to the premises in Northdown Road from one further down towards St Pauls.”
Heinz Vogel’s parents were Jewish socialists living in Czechoslovakia. In 1939, they realised the direction that the country was turning and made the decision to escape. They eventually ended up in a refugee hostel called Montrose College situated on Lower Northdown Road.
“The Germans marched into Austria in 1938. They were welcomed by the Austrians, although I think it was really in inverted commas, because they were very good at organising welcomes. There were no demonstrations against the Nazis in Austria. Then, there was Munich, where the British Prime Minister came back with a little piece of paper, basically said he’d solved it all! ‘I’ve got the signatures here and everything will be alright.’ That was in 1938. Much to his surprise, that wasn’t true! By March 1939, they’d invaded the Czech Lands - not Slovakia. Slowly they encouraged the Slovaks to have independence, but a right-wing independence. They weren’t welcome in what is now the Czech Republic, and they were met with resistance.
“My father decided that his life wasn’t worth very much then because not only was he known as a Jew, but he’d also been an active Social Democrat. That was a lot worse in 1939! He went to Prague where he lived in a room where nobody knew him; it was a good way of hiding. He was up there for a few weeks to see what would happen, and nothing much did in the beginning. He returned and decided he was going to escape and take his family with him; that was his wife - my mother - and me, the three of us. We were then living in Ostrava, which was the heart of one of the big centres of industry, steel, coal, and manufactured items. The Poles, who had never been very friendly to the Czechs, had also helped themselves to a bit of Czechoslovakia when the Germans helped themselves to Sudetenland. This actually turned out to be quite useful because my father tried to get out by joining various groups. The first time they went out, they were turned back by the Poles - because we were quite close to the Polish border – which was in many ways more dangerous than trying to get out. He had another go and he tried again with somebody else and could see they were doing exactly the same thing. So, he turned back on his own.
“I don’t know how he found out, but there was an organised escape route through the coal mines. Because the Poles had helped themselves to a bit of Czechoslovakia, there were coal mines in Ostrava with entrances at both sides of the border. There was this escape route where a car would pick you up at home, take you to the coal mine, and you’d go in through the Czech entry. I’m not sure whether they took you underground or overground, but the transport moved you across the coal mine, letting you out on the Polish side where a car was waiting to take you to London. So that was very successful! He’d organised before undoubtedly and gave my mother a message when he got through successfully. When she got the message, ‘we are to escape’, that was a different kettle of fish altogether, because we didn’t take anything. He was able to take a little suitcase on the train through the coal mine, but we couldn’t, instead putting on extra clothing. We got on the tram, went as far as it went, and headed for a walk through the forest. We passed the German guards who didn’t seem to worry about us going out at all until we got to the Polish ones. Then my mother said, ‘you go play over there while I talk to this man’. So, I left them and after about three quarters of an hour, I got fed up and went over to see what was happening. This Polish guard looked at me and he said, ‘does he belong to you?’ She said, ‘yes’. ‘Oh, well. You better bugger off quickly then’. He pushed me out into Poland. It was weird for him to see a child! She’d been pretending that we’d just been to Ostrava for the day because that’s where we came from originally.
“So, that’s how we got away. We met up in Bielsko-Biala, which is not far over the border. From there, as a family, we made our way to Krakow. There, they had people organising the onward movement of refugees. I’m not sure who was organising that; I think the various political parties, certainly the Social Democrats, and the Jews were in on it. It was all very well organised in the end, but it was anybody’s guess whether you’d finish up in Sweden, or Canada, or England. My mother’s brother, his wife, and daughter had already come to England because they had a friend here who got them in and had paid £50 to do so. So, they said, ‘we’d like to go to England’; which we did. That was March or April, and we were in Krakow for about six weeks while things were being sorted out. Finally, we got moved, put on the train to Gdynia. That was the Polish port in the north, on the Poland America Line to New York, stopping at Dover on the way. […] First time I saw the sea was when we got to Gdynia for the boat to England. The Czech Republic is completely landlocked! […] We were put on board that ship and three days later, we were on English soil.
“By this time, it was July 1939. In Dover, somebody met us and took us to London. We were put up in accommodation in the East End while they sorted out where to put us - maybe 10 days at the most - before they sent us off to this hostel. It was a boarding school, in Margate.
“It’s quite a small building. We were all put in one bedroom, one room, the three of us. People either had one room or if they had too many children, they’d have more. The building had about three floors. We were there from July until the war broke out. There are photographs around of inhabitants of the hostel digging the back garden for the air raid shelters, and my father is in one of those. Unfortunately, I don’t know the names of the other people because I was only 11.
“I didn’t realise how bad it must have been on my parents. They led a very good middle-class life over there and suddenly found themselves in one room in a hostel. I think we got half a crown of pocket money. It took me a long time before I realised how they must have felt. There were other young boys and girls there in the hostel, so soon got friends and as far as I was concerned it was fine, but that was because my age really.
“The social life was all in the in the hostel; everything we wanted there was on the ground floor. There was a big study room which must have been the staff room where the men used to go and smoke their cigarettes. The dining room had all the facilities to be expected. I don’t think there was a lift, and I think we lived on this third floor. I didn’t really explore other people’s rooms. Everybody was quite happy there, quite comfortable. […] The rooms contained beds, cupboards, a wardrobe, and a dressing table. I imagine they were students’ rooms previously.
“I don’t think anybody there had any jobs that they went to; they’d not been there long enough. Everyone had left after a year apart from about two people, but during the period that we were there - none had been there very long. They’d be busy digging the air raid shelters.
“We used to go to Woolworths because I got half a crown pocket money from my parents. We’d buy various bits of toys! […] The better shops were on the Margate side of Northdown Road. It was a better class here than I believe it is now. My parents made friends with an English family living in one of the semi-detached houses nearby across the road about a couple of 100 yards away. That part of Cliftonville didn’t really have much character apart from the place we were in. It was alright, very smart with big front gardens, back gardens, three floors, and everything that anybody wanted. It was very comfortable in many ways. The more prosperous side of Cliftonville was on the Margate side, but now it’s changed. It’s got the sort of shops that it never had before…
“We used to go picking up old used cigarette packets. People thought we were looking for cigarettes, but we weren’t! We were looking for the picture cards inside! We used to get lots of those. It had a nice beach there. […] The part of the beach near where we were was not really frequented by that many people. It wasn’t like the main beach at Margate; was just quiet sands…
“There was maybe a dozen or so who were sent to English schools in Margate; there was one within walking distance… I can’t remember anything about the school. We went there as a group, about a dozen of us. We stuck together. We never spoke any English because we didn’t need to with our old friends with us… people were very bilingual in those days. I didn’t go to that school for very long, because once the war was going, my father decided he wanted to join the army. We then moved on to Birchington… we weren’t there for all that long. After Dunkirk, parts of England were declared a protected area, and anybody who wasn’t a permanent resident here in that area had to leave. That’s when we went up north to Stockport, and that was the beginning of my settled life in England.
A Slovak Roma Experience:
“First time I came in 2004, I thought, ‘wow! I love this city!’ I saw so many people, different nationalities. It was very busy. Plays on the seafront and the beach, all the people were very friendly. Cliftonville was doing well. It was busy, a nice place. I didn’t know much about Cliftonville, I was just the new one coming in. I’d seen people very friendly, and they’d been also very helpful. They’ve been able to help us as foreign people - me and my family - they’d been able to direct us, whatever we needed, and find a place in the school for my younger sister.
“In 2008, there was some economic crisis for the England… So, it was coming slowly down, it was harder to get a job. But those who had jobs, they were able to keep it… When Brexit happened, it started at that time, the people then start thinking. They were asking questions, like, ‘oh, how long you have been here? What are you doing?’ Those silly questions. It all started then, but never ever before. I never ever felt before, like, ‘why are you here?’ ‘What are you doing?’ But then after, I’d hear people telling me, ‘you’re taking our jobs’ or, ‘why didn’t you go back to your country?’ [laughs] But they didn’t realise what Brexit would bring! We can see now in the shops.
“Everybody made a mistake. The thing is, the government made a mistake, not the people, I would say. Because the government didn’t like giving advice to people, for the Brexit vote to break. ‘We cannot control immigration;
we do not have the borders under control’. But they didn’t talk about the taxes! They didn’t say about the workers! They didn’t say about the imports from different countries! They didn’t say about that. Not many people have knowledge about this…
“I know personally so many people from Poland, from Russia, from all other countries - and they were hard workers! - they all left. Now we’ve heard, ‘you won’t be able to get any workers, you won’t be able to because it’s hard’. So many businesses are struggling with the staff’.
A Latvian Experience:
“I came to UK in March 2011. I didn’t know where I was going, I didn’t know anyone in UK. I found the information through internet, through unknown people. I didn’t know anything about the job; I didn’t even know where I was going before I got on the plane. I had been given a phone number to call when I arrived. I had to leave my husband behind – he is not European so he needed to wait for a visa - and I left my nine-year-old daughter who still needed to finish the school year and my one-year-old son who I was still breastfeeding. I just got on the plane and came to nowhere!
“When I arrived in London, a man called me and said, ‘just come, I will pick you up from Margate station’. It was getting dark, and I was so afraid. I thought I knew English; I tried to listen in the train, but I didn’t understand a word of anything.
“I arrived at Margate, and he picked me up. The whole street was dark and small. We were in the car, and I was actually petrified. The first house he put me in had a round staircase, and there was just one bed in the room, without anything; without bedding and I hadn’t brought anything with me [laughs] so I slept under my coat.
“The next day was Sunday, and I called the number I’d been given for the job. I said, ‘hello, I have arrived’. He said, ‘very good that you arrived but there is no job’. I thought, ‘wow’. I didn’t have any money, I had only two weeks rent paid upfront, and I had borrowed money for my airfare. I was just in this room.
“Monday morning, I got a call. ‘If you want, the car will be downstairs at your house in 10 minutes. You need to be ready’. By the third day, I started my first day at work. It was very fast! The first week, I only had food I had brought with me; one loaf of rye bread and soft cheese. This was all I ate all week. [laughs]
“My family came after one month and we got another flat. When my husband arrived, they wouldn’t allow him to live with the children in their rooms. We were in four-bedroom flat containing six people. So, we found another room in another house, and he started to work after three months. Life started like this in this place.”
An Eritreans Experience:
Anonymous arrived in Margate as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child in the spring of 2021. She is 16 years old, originates from Eritrea, and speaks Amharic and English.
Arnold Schwartzman was born in Wapping in 1936. His family lost their house in the London Blitz, and following the War, chose to move to Cliftonville to open a kosher hotel.
“My parents had spent their honeymoon in Margate and knew the place well. At 15, my father worked as a young waiter in Folkestone and every summer during the holiday season, worked in Margate as a waiter. We moved there just after the war; I was nine years old. My mother, who was a very astute businesswoman, opened a boarding house in Warwick Road and named it ‘Rosanda’ which is a combination of my parent’s names, Rose and Dave. I think it was no. 29. Having been the maître ‘d of a famous restaurant in London, now in the hotel business, my father became the manager of the Walpole Bay Hotel. I grew up in ‘Rosanda’. They had some very successful summer seasons. Small boarding house. Eventually, they bought one building on Lewis Crescent. One was called Kings Fort, and Carresrock. They were Victorian boarding houses, and they were combined to make the Majestic Hotel. I just loved growing up there!
“I went to Holy Trinity School, and when I was 11, I had to take my 11 Plus to get to Chatham House in Ramsgate. My friend had already gone to King Ethelbert, and I wanted to join him. I was too stupid to go Chatham House; I sat through the whole exam looking at this big puffer fish on top of a bookcase. I was fascinated! [laughs] I spent the whole time looking at this fish! I failed the exam and went to King Ethelbert, but I really enjoyed the school. I used to go every day on the No. 8 bus from the harbour, and to get there I used to get a bus from Cliftonville by the remains of the Astoria cinema on Northdown Road, now demolished. That was a beautiful art deco cinema bombed in the war.
“My parents first bought one hotel and then the next. They built an adjoining covered terrace on the front… I remember one particular guest who used to come every summer was this elderly lady, Mrs. Black. Her son was Stanley Black, a very famous BBC band leader, and every week he broadcast on the BBC. She would always go up in the lounge and sit and listen to her son on the radio, every week! [laughs] That was her big thing, ‘my son, Stanley!’
“We had this wonderful chef, Papa Savva. He was a Cypriot. He showed me this family photograph, he had 10 or 11 brothers and they were all Greek Orthodox bishops. He was the only one in the middle in a lounge suit. One of his brothers was the second Bishop under Archbishop Makarios, he was next in line to be the archbishop. When I was about to be called up in the army, the EOKA terrorists were against Great Britain. He said to me, ‘it is for sure they’ll send you to Cyprus. You stay with my brother in the palace!’ I said to him, ‘I don’t think my sergeant major would be too happy about that!’ [laughs] ‘You stay with my brother in the palace!’ Special Branch used to come round and check up on him to see if he was up to no good. He was a nice man, and one of his cousins was my barber on the hill going down to the Clock Tower.
“At the end of each season, my father would take all the silverware in a suitcase up to London to Mappin and Webb to have it replated. Early one morning, he walked down to the harbour with his heavy suitcase full of silverware. A local bobby stopped him - early in the morning! He said, ‘what have you got in there?’ ‘You won’t believe it!’ Of course, it was full of silverware. He had to wake up his friend Mr. Godfrey in order to bail him out!
“Another guest was even more significant, the very famous graphic designer Abram Games. He came down because his parents were staying there. He didn’t stay there himself, but he used to visit on the weekend; he was very loving son. I latched on to him, and he’s the one that encouraged me to go to art school… At that time in 1951, Games had designed the very famous symbol for the Festival of Britain. He was the official propaganda poster designer for the War Office during the war, a very famous artist. I was very lucky that throughout my career, he was my mentor until his dying day, writing stack of letters. He was a very severe, harsh person. I remember visiting him when I came out of the army, and he looked at my work, and said, ‘I told you before you went in that when I was in the army, I did all this work’. I said to him, ‘you know, I did lots of things in the army’. He picked up the phone and called the head of design of the BBC, and said, ‘I’ve this young man here, he’s a graphic designer. He’s not very good but maybe you’ve got a job for him’. [laughs] I got the interview, but I never got the job! Over the years, he would then send me these letters and say, ‘I knew you'd turn out well in the end’.
Miss Margate & Beauty Queens:
In the early 1960s, Jackie entered the Margate Carnival Queen competition on the suggestion of her mother. She went on to be a highly successful international beauty queen.
“My mother’s friends said, ‘Why don’t you put her in the Carnival Queen competition coming up?’ I’d never seen a beauty competition, didn’t know anything about it! Mother bought me this dress, she said, ‘right, you’re going to do – ’ Well, I flew around the floor in the Winter Gardens, absolutely petrified! All these people were looking at me!
“Then, the Bathing Beauties started at Margate, the national bathing beauty queen. All these girls used to come from all over the country for the heats. I was a poor student and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get a job because I need money’. A friend said to me, ‘why don’t you do the competition? £10, £15, or £25!’ A lot of money then! My friends who were working in cafes earned £7 a week; I’m not doing that all week, all day! [laughs]
“New bathing costume and off I went for the Miss Margate heat. Did the first one - oh god! And then, the Carnival Queen thing came up again which I won. Humphrey Lyttleton was the band, and it was lovely at the Winter Garden. It was really quite a big thing then.
“They’d made this big box, a huge thing. But not knowing the process or anything, they told me to, ‘go in there and sit on that seat’. So, I did. It was on wheels, and they pushed it into the middle of the floor and called out the two runners up. Then, ‘the winner is…!’ They took the lid off and the sides fell down and I was sitting there [laughs] in a bright yellow dress! I thought ‘oh, this is good’. I got £25; money and shoes and a bag and a modelling course and all kinds of things!”
Bathing Beauty Queen:
Vivienne Osbourn nee Barry’s family moved to Cliftonville when she was a baby. She began entering Bathing Beauty competitions for fun in her late teens.
“I was a bathing beauty queen there about four or five times. I’ve got photographs to prove it! I was Miss Charming, Miss Health - because I was a good runner. My father was still working at Manston airport and the Yanks was still here. All the young kids there my age had the most amazing American clothes. My father used to come home with cowboy dresses with tassels on. There was a girl I was at school with at St. Gregory’s. She had so many petticoats, I was so jealous! She couldn’t get through the door of the classrooms, she had to squeeze in. I used to be drooling! The American GIs gave my dad all his clothes to bring home. Before they left, they sent home for my mother a product called Damask Skin leg makeup and it was the first of the fake tans. You rubbed it on, took hours. For my second bathing beauty competition, I covered myself because I’m Irish, I’m freckly and I’m pale! I covered myself from head to foot. My sister had been studying in France, she was doing her degree at the Sorbonne, and she’d brought back a French bikini. I was dressed up, and I was walking around, being beautiful. They said, ‘now dive in’. I dove in and it was like an oil slick by the time I got out! They almost had to dredge the pool and drain it out of all this brown grease! [laughs] I didn’t win that one. I got a runner up or something. […] I was still at college, doing my teaching degree, but I remember going into the Lido there were a lot of professional beauty queens. I was 17, 18, 19, and I walked in there and it was like ice!”
HOLIDAY / HOTELS
Seafarers Guesthouse, Madeira Road:
Betty Renz nee Battell is 90 years old. Her family moved to Cliftonville just after WWII ended.
“As soon as the war ended, we came down to Margate because we always used to have holidays down here. This was early in the summer of 1945, and dad said to mum, ‘would you like to live here, always?’ And she said, ‘oh, Charlie!’ They bought a house in Madeira Road, and we were down before Christmas!
“Imagine how wonderful it was to come down to the seaside, which is what we’ve always loved to be - by the seaside! And for him to say to mum, ‘do you want to live here always?’
“We came from a tiny little house where your knees all met in the middle, and this was a five-bedroom house, which my parents used as a guesthouse. As we arrived, I saw it was the only house with a balcony. We arrived from the station, and I thought, ‘that can’t possibly be the house because I would so want to live there’. I said, ‘which house is it?’ And dad said, ‘the one with the balcony’. It was wonderful! We’ve still got the house; my daughter is in it now.
“Before us, it was owned by a rich person. In any of the rooms you used to be able to press the bell, and a buzzer would go off downstairs to tell them where they want attendance in. Dad took it all out because we kept pressing the bells! [laughs] You know what kids are like!
“It was quite old fashioned, and I think they had to have a boiler put in and all sorts of things like that. They had washbasins in every room, but there was just one bathroom, so people would have to share. But the people that came were very happy to come. In those days, things were different. People didn’t expect to have a shower in every room and all that. You’d just go on holiday and happy you’ve got a washbasin there!
“The usual people would turn up weekly, mum was such a good cook that they would come anyway. My dad amused me once because they’d a letter from a religious person and on the envelope, they’d written, ‘Jesus is coming!’ And my dad said, ‘I hope he doesn’t want the last week in July or the last week in August!’ [laughs]”
St Anthony’s Guesthouse, Godwin Road:
Susan Bryant grew up in St Anthony’s Guesthouse, which was run by her parents and grandparents.
“Very busy in the summer - we had a family room next to kitchen with a bed settee, we used that. We also had a chalet, which was more like a shed in the garden with bunk beds that we slept in when people were knocking on the doors wanting a bed for the night... I do know that my grandparents advertised in Irish newspapers, so we have Irish guests that came, not necessarily from Ireland but of Irish descent…
“Breakfast was at nine, evening meal at 6. Saturday breakfast was at 8:30. No dietary substitutions! On Friday, guests had a choice of fish and chips, or egg salad, but that was the only choice that were given. Initially, my nan and grandad also did lunch. When they first started it was full board and then they went to half board, but never just bed and breakfast… We used to get the meat from a company called Baxter’s; I remember the Baxter’s man coming and my gran ordering however many chops and steak and kidneys we would need. She would home cook everything… Breakfast would be corn flakes, or corn flakes, or corn flakes! They could either have a full cooked breakfast, or boiled eggs and toast, and obviously tea.
“Saturday was the busy day in the guesthouse because that was the turnover day. We would be sent off down the beach to keep out of the way of all the work being done; Kay’s used to come and collect the dirty laundry. We’d wrap it all into one big sheet and tie it into a knot to be collected…
“Saturdays were a general turnover day; guests just came for a week, there was none of this one-night, two-night, three-night stays… They were dropped off at different places and the trains were more regular than we have today. It was just very busy, but staggered over the day… People would have got off the train and dispersed in whatever direction they were going… A lot of people came from London, but in the 50s and 60s where you lived in the country depended on where you would go. If you were a little bit further west you went down to Devon and Cornwall, if you were more central in the country to Skegness or up to Norfolk… I do remember quite a lot of the guests would return every year. It wasn’t just ‘let’s go to Margate this year; let’s go to Skegness next year’. There were a lot of return families who would come back.
“As I got older, I used to help as a waitress and general dog’sbody, clearing and sweeping up for pocket money…
“1973 was when we sold the guest house because that was the time when all the cheap holidays to Spain began and Margate at that time was mainly seasonal; just those few months in the summer. Obviously when people started to holiday abroad things started to get tough.”
Second Avenue Hotel, Second Avenue:
Bernadette Tighe nee Keenan grew up in the Second Avenue Hotel, which had been run by her family since the 1930s.
“My grandfather started it and then my father took it over after the Second World War. There were four of us siblings; my eldest brother who was 10 years older, and twin brothers who were four years older, then me, the only girl…
“Between the 40s and 50s, they built the business up. Late 50s and 60s, right up to the middle 70s, it was obviously very busy because people didn’t have package holidays then, so they all came to the seaside. London especially, but old age pensioners from Northern England would come down for a cheap holiday, all done through a coach company… They’d either come for a week or a fortnight as we didn’t take one-nighters. It was full board.
“When my grandfather started the business, he just bought the one building. Troy passed it on to my parents and it became double fronted. It was two stories; no double glazing in those days. It had an area outside which was concreted with benches so people could sit out.
“We had 20 bedrooms, some single, some double. You didn’t have showers; for those 20 bedrooms, we had two bathrooms and four toilets. That was it! We did have basins in the rooms though… It was a double fronted building… There were two different flights of stairs to get up to the second floor with double and the single rooms. They all had their own key with these black plastic fobs with Second Avenue Hotel on them. My bedroom was No. 1…
“As you went inside through the hallway, there was the dining room, which had been knocked through when we took over the second house. On the other side was what they call the Lounge, which was a long room and had chairs and a little bar at the end. Behind those two rooms were the kitchens. The first part of the kitchen, by the dining room, was called a still room; that was where meals were plated up ready for the hotel to take to the guests…
“They had a machine to cut the meat into thin slices, which you then put on a plate, and you had a ring you put on top. You put another plate on top of that and then it went in this steamer. When it was time to serve, the vegetables were done separately. And they were like silver-plated dishes, not real silver! That went out with the meat and the gravy.
“Sundays was always ham salad in the evening. A roast dinner on a Sunday, which they used to alternate because people were staying a fortnight. Cooked breakfast every day. We always had like a starter, so it would be melon cut in a bit and then you push a bit out, so it makes a pattern, then add a glacé cherry on it. I still make it now!
“There was a small cash and carry in Harold Road, and they did things like blancmange in the big catering tins. My mum’s favourite was crème caramel. We made a lot of meat and two veg. They’d have fish, plaice once a week from the fishmonger’s, probably on Fridays. Vegetable-wise, everything was fresh until later on in the early 70s. Then you had frozen peas! But you didn’t have anything like that before.
“As children, we used to fight sometimes if we were helping in the kitchen. They had one of those slicer things for the beans with a big neck clamped on the table. We had to push runner beans down into the slicer, into the middle. We had fresh peas at lunchtime because I remember podding them! Every morning, we had to take people their morning tea on the tray, because we couldn’t get the trolleys up the stairs…
“Behind the main kitchen with its two big double catering ovens were these bungalows going back round. There was the sitting room - a family room which was totally our room… We had an outside loo out the back which was used if we were busy in the kitchen. We would have had to come in and wash our hands in the sink where things were being prepared!
“All up the roads opposite and at the top of Second Avenue, Sweyn Road, and Godwin Road had Bed and Breakfasts. People would come year after year… We had a lovely family life in the hotel because although my parents were both working, they made sure that one of them always sat down with us for a meal, whatever time it was. Later in the late 60s, my father put in a small bar, meaning he was up later and later at night because it was residential, there wasn’t a licence. He was always the first one up in the morning, so, it was quite tough really! They’d either come for a week or a fortnight; we didn’t take like one-nighters, it was full board… A cardinal stayed with us for a couple hours for an ordination in the olden days.
“My father was the chef, my mother did all of the admin and helped with cooking. Apart from our eldest brother, we children all helped in the hotel. My brothers went on to help in the Butlins hotels at the top of our road. I did jobs like chamber maiding and helping in the kitchen. Unlike other children, we didn’t have posters on our walls because in the summer, we had to get out of our bedrooms.
My brothers had two little rooms converted in the loft, but my parents and I had what they called a bungalow, which was actually a large shed. They had one and I had this smaller one…
“Changeover was chaos! The people who had been staying would obviously get up, have breakfast, and then they were gone. When they were old age pensioners, we had to move the time back so we could get them all out and get all the rooms ready. My brothers taking the cases out of the rooms to be brought downstairs. I was a chambermaid at that time, stripping all the beds, changing the towels, cleaning the room to within an inch of its life because my mother was particular! There were 20 bedrooms, but usually you did 10, and someone else had the 10 the other side… That actually took quite a while. Cleaning downstairs, the dining room, the lounge, the bathrooms. Making sure everything was ready for the next guests coming in.
“If there were storms, we would have to stop doing our normal things. All the people would be in the lounge, and we’d have to go and make them coffee and biscuits. I must admit, it did drive us mad because they were all where we wanted to go and work.
“My parents were great friends with the hotels on each side. One side was called Arosa and that was a double fronted one. Everybody was friends all the way down… People knew each other in our little road, but all the other hoteliers knew everybody else because they were all in the same line of work. My parents were in the Margate Hotel and Guesthouse Association... They had dinners in the winter, and dinner dances at the Winter Gardens, because everybody worked all summer…
“One winter, I was on a teacher training course, and I needed to make some money. Dad got me a job in another hotel near The Lido to chambermaid all over the Christmas period. That was quite interesting because it was it was different from my own place, but the money was useful.
“My mother was the brains behind the thing; she did all the accounts and was very canny… She was told she had to give up the hotel because she had a heart condition. She said she was never going sell it to become an old people’s home, particularly to this particular man. In the end, she had to.