Reading old editions of American magazine LIFE on Google Books, we were delighted by the various attempts to explain Britain to Americans, especially when those articles touched on the pub. Here are a few bits and pieces, but you ought to check out the original scans for the wonderful photographs that accompany them.
Robert Barlow Neve is the most self-respecting, self-satisfied man on earth — an Englishman… He goes to the pub on Sunday night for a beer and a chat. He likes his fellow men and, unlike the Frenchman, he gives his fellow men the same respect he demands from them… [PHOTO CAPTION] ‘Mild and bitter’ ale from mug quenches all England’s thirst. Neve takes it at the more refined Saloon Bar, not workingman’s Public Bar. Taps are for expensive, mild and bitter ale.
24 April 1939, ‘An English family is self-satisfied‘
What was on the ‘expensive’ tap? Presumably not an imported Scandinavian double IPA with Himalayan vanilla.
England’s public house or ‘pub’ is more than a counterpart of the US saloon. It is every man’s club — a meeting place for rich and poor, high and low. Next to the Church it does more than any other institution to solidify English life. Most Englishmen have their favorite pubs and there, besides their tastes for alcohol, they liberally indulge their inclination for conversation. Talk in pubs comes closer to reflecting English thought than all the editorials in London.
3 June 1940, ‘Backbone of England is Public-House Bar‘
With local elections in a couple of days, politicians would do well to bear that last point in mind.
The Bath House pub in Dean Street takes a righteous attitude of censure toward teetotalers. A sign over the bar reads, ‘You don’t undress when you come to this Bath House. So don’t drink water.’ At the same time Vic, the publican, would frown on any guest who misjudged his capacity. At both dinnertime (noon) and supper the people from nearby offices drink mild and bitter ale as they wait for a seat at the small wooden tables or on an old-fashioned stool at the food bar. While they wait, Harry Leon, composer of popular songs, pounds the upright piano in the corner and another customer sings… At the food bar Vic or his wife, Mrs Ruffell, ladles out soup, bread and butter (not margarine), rabbit, roast beef or ham (not Spam), potatoes and cabbage or fresh crisp lettuce with a tomato, and follows with a hot dessert of jam roll or suet pudding or not too biting cheese. The bill 2/6 (50c).
8 November 1943, ‘Life Among the Ruins‘
‘Not too biting’ — fairly bland?
6 replies on “Pubs as Alien Territory”
None of your ploughman’s there – in wartime, too. Mmm, rabbit.
Ah, the Bath House. One of my favourite Soho pubs – or it was until Crossrail killed it. RIP.
What a great find…lovely stuff. ‘None too biting’ – implies they had something ‘biting’ at their end?
At least the last place didn’t serve Spam.
Expensive ale? I guess that might be Burton.
Ah, the days when there were $4 to the £1…