On Cleethorpes station there are the number one and number two refreshment rooms and despite trying to find out I never knew where number three was, but we had the number four refreshment room on the pontoon at the back of the ice factory. I don’t know when we took it over but certainly it was my fathers doing so probably late 1950s or early 60s. It was and still is a concrete bunker and it always smelt damp but it was a godsend to the merchants and barrowboys. There was a pot belly stove stood in the middle of the floor of the seating area for cold days.
In the mid 80s my father was persuaded that it would be a good idea to open a ship store supplying the dozens of Grimsby Seine netters and visiting Danish boats and we converted the seating area of the refreshment room into that. (The ship store was probably not one of our better financial moves.)
A very popular café was situated on the corner of Wharncliffe Road in Russell Grant’s building, the manageress was the most incredible lady called Rita. When she retired after more than 30 years I looked back and she had had only had two days off sick! She was loved by all the men and it was their delight to be banned by her and chased out of the shop (till they came back next time again of course). That one was just called Wharncliffe Road.
Another one which was a tiny little café was on Cross Street. I was quite small when my father closed it and it never really reopened. I do remember not long after, my father got a call late at night that there was a cat trapped in the café and so he went down to find that the cat had died and left a solitary kitten. We looked after it for a couple of days until a kind soul could be found to take it and I remember it was completely wild and dangerous – feral. Not surprisingly we called this cafe Cross Street.
In the 60s the Jubilee café came up for sale and it was purchased and included into the company. We always called it the Jubilee café but in earlier days it was called Cannings after Councillor Canning who originally I believe moved it from one of the parks in Grimsby and extended it to form the café.
The Jubilee café was on the engineering side of the docks next door to the slipways and with the engineers, carpenters, plumbers, painters, electricians and all the rest who frequented it, it had a very different smell to all the rest – strange what you remember.
When the new fishmarket opened we no longer had a need for the number four refreshment room and as I was in charge then, I opened the new café which predictably enough I called Newmarket, based in the office space overlooking the Fish market.
This was an interesting time when there were lots of visiting VIPs who were shown around the market and then treated to a silver service smoked haddock and poached egg breakfast in the boardroom. I had the job of setting it all out and serving up, and some of the groups were quite disparate. We had a group of Colonels from different armies. Neil Kinnock and local politicians. Brake brothers. Groups of fishing leaders from Denmark and Iceland. I suppose I really should have kept a diary of them all. When Frank Flear became Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire we had a very strange mid-afternoon sit down buffet for probably 30 past Lord Lieutenants. Quite surreal.
Apart from the Jubilee café they were all referred to by the customers as Sollys, it was only us who called them by their geographical names really. Although sometimes the customers would refer to them by the manageress’s name so Wharncliffe was quite often called Rita’s.