Tag Archives: catering to children

Holiday banquets for the newsies

xmasdinnerca-1912nycbowery

In the 19th and early 20th century, newspapers were sold on city streets by young boys, and a few girls. Some of the children – who could be as young as 5 years old — were homeless while others came from poverty-stricken families. Their meals could be few and far between and they were always hungry.

But on Christmas Day, or a day close to it, they ate well thanks to the annual custom of  newspapers, philanthropists, mayors, and others who organized feasts for them. Some of the dinners were held in orphan homes and public buildings, but many took place in restaurants.

xmasdinnernewsboychicago1887Turkey was the typical featured food of the newsboys’ dinners. In 1875 the Telegram gave a dinner at Henri Mouquin’s restaurant on Ann Street in New York for over 1,000 boys and a handful of girls. The menu was roast turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls and butter, finished with cake, pie, coffee, and oranges. Nearly identical meals were given across the country for decades to follow, some accompanied by cranberry sauce and side dishes such as corn, peas, celery, and pickles. After dinner the children sometimes received a box of candy to take with them.

The newsboys of Kansas City MO, guests of the mayor, hailed turkey in a little ditty they shouted in a procession from City Hall to Staley & Dunlap’s restaurant on Main street in 1895.
Who are we? Who are we?
We are the newsboys of K. C.
We are the stuff; that’s no bluff;
We eat turkey and never get enough.

A dinner held in a Dallas restaurant in 1899 had a menu that departed radically from the customary dishes [see below]. There was no turkey or pie. And not only was the menu organized into the old-fashioned categories of Fish, Boiled, Roasts, and Entrees, they were not presented in the traditional order of appearance. It also contained quite a variety of assorted dishes, some of them unusual. “Boiled Rallet of Beef” might have referred to Rilettes of beef, which was beef cooked to mush and served on toast.

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xmasdinner1903Boisterous behavior during dinner was expected. The boys cheered loudly for their hosts and entertainers, producing a noise level often described as deafening. Food fights were typical. At the Chequamegon restaurant in Butte MT in 1902, a report said the children “yell, whistle, throw biscuits at each other and occasionally land on each other’s jawbones with a dislocated leg of the bird.” Dinner sponsors often egged on high spirits by giving the newsies tin horns and firecrackers.

As much as the newsboys and newsgirls enjoyed the holiday dinners, the charitable events had their detractors. Reformer Florence Kelley criticized the dinners as well as the newsboys’ lodging houses found in some cities because they encouraged children to work and live independent of their families. She criticized New York City in particular for making newsboys into heroes. Rather than being seen purely as victims, as would be the case today, the boys were often regarded as spunky survivors with potential to succeed in life despite their rough style of living and lack of schooling.

xmasdinnerbishopcafeteria1930s In the early 20th century, states tried to limit child labor. Girls under 14 were barred from jobs involving selling. Boys under 10 could not sell papers and those aged 10 to 14 had to obtain written parental consent before a badge was issued to permit them to sell papers in the streets. Still, the dinners continued through the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1930s Bishop Cafeterias in seven cities held annual newsboys’ dinners to honor the chain’s late founder Carl Stoddard who had been a newsboy as a child.

Newsboys’ dinners could sometimes be found into the 1960s, but the children were absent, having been replaced with adult news vendors.

© Jan Whitaker, 2016

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Filed under food, menus, patrons, restaurant customs

Sweet treats and teddy bears

rumpelmayers343Where could you — once upon a time – enjoy European pastries, cinnamon toast, and ice cream soda while you hugged a teddy bear? Rumpelmayer’s, of course. A very popular rendezvous for pampered New York children after a visit to the zoo or the ballet. I suppose adults could hug the bears too, but Rumpelmayer’s sweetness – its confections, pink walls, and shelves of stuffed toys — might close in on you if you didn’t hold fast to some grown-up habits such as cigarettes and highballs.

rumpelmayer's36REV2Rumpelmayer’s tea and pastry café  began its Manhattan life in 1930 in the new Hotel St. Moritz on the corner of Central Park South and Sixth Avenue. The hotel almost immediately went into foreclosure though it continued in business. Oh, happy day when Repeal commenced in December of 1933 and the St. Moritz announced, “In Rumpelmayer’s, as in the Grill, we will feature a number of bartenders with Perambulating Bars, for serving mixed drinks.” Bars might be everywhere, but Rumpelmayer’s other attractions were not. For decades it provided a jolly spot for children’s birthday parties, lunches, late Sunday breakfasts, and afternoon teas and hot chocolates. It closed around 1998.

rumpelmayerspitcherREV2Always proud of its continental delicacies, New York’s Rumpelmayer’s was related (exactly how I’m not sure) to sister tea shops in London, Paris, and on the Riviera. The original Rumpelmayer’s was begun by an Austrian pastry cook in the German resort town of Baden-Baden in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It then followed its Russian clientele to Cannes and Nice, then later to Mentone and Monte Carlo. In 1903 a shop was opened on Paris’s Rue de Rivoli (pictured, somewhat later) and in 1907 on St. James Street in London. Parisians, infected by Anglomania in the early 20th century, eagerly adopted the afternoon tea custom, in this case reputedly known as having a feeve o’clock-air at “Rumpie’s.” Though it was rated slightly less chic than the Ritz, it attracted mobs of fashionably dressed women who paraded their outfits up to the counter where, according to custom, they speared their chosen pastries with a fork.

In London before World War I Rumpelmayer’s became incorporated into the daily routine of the elite smart set who spent most of their time at the table, beginning with breakfast at 11:00, lunch at the Carlton at 2:00, tea at Rumpelmayer’s at 4:00, a stroll in the park, followed by dinner, then supper a few hours later. Although some Rumpelmayer’s survived well into the 20th century, the pre-WWI lifestyle that gave birth to them did not.

On tea shops and tea rooms, see also:
Mary Elizabeth’s
Schrafft’s
Vanity Fair, etc.
Country tea houses
Lord & Taylor’s Bird Cage
Maillard’s
— Also, search for department stores

© Jan Whitaker, 2009

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Filed under confectionery restaurants, family restaurants