February 2, 2011

How railwaymen made their coffee in the pre-Starbucks epoch

Not really connected with the social history of telephones, but this anonymous railwayman (c.1901) describes how he made his lunchtime coffee.
“Railwaymen’s coffee was a mixture of coffee and chicory but I believe it was a species of bark.  A percolator was not necessary in its production.  Water was made hot in a beer can and coffee dumped in and boiled for a minute or two.  Then condensed milk was dumped in (Goat Brand), stirred into the brew and sugar added.  I can still smell it.  That kind of coffee isn’t made any more.  Progress killed it.”
Presumably he drank the contents of the beer can before using it for boiling water.  His most telling comment for me is his last one about 'progress' - not always welcomed with open arms by everyone. 

p.s. On his fourteenth birthday he passed his telegraph examination; his wages rose immediately to 8 shillings a week.  He was sent to work in Earl's Court station to man the telegraph circuits, telephone exchange and record the comings and goings of trains through the station. 
Source: W. MacQueen Pope, Give Me Yesterday, 1957.

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Digital Telephone Book by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.