Monday, May 12, 2008

The Lewis Tea Room Training Course

"Whether we consider the first primitive inn by the wayside, the sort of inn which, according to the parable of the Good Samaritan, afforded rest and refreshment to the stricken man brought to its door, or the smart motor inns of today, we find the connecting link in the word hospitality, which is the basis of inn-keeping.

From the simple inn or tavern in which early settlers sought food and shelter for man and beast, to the great hotels, restaurants, cafeterias and tea houses of the present day, these establishments have ever been the gathering place of the leading spirits of hamlet, village, township, city and state."

-- From "The Lewis Tea Room Training Course," copyright 1926

Several months ago, I was trolling eBay and came across a most intriguing listing. A seller was offering some booklets and memorabilia that had belonged to an Ohio tea room operator in the early 1930s, and I bought the lot of it. Mildred Drake Besst of Canton, Ohio appears to have taken the course to help prepare her to operate a tea room that was listed on Ohio restaurant licenses as "Balcony Lunch," "Balcony Lunch Room" and "Balcony Restaurant."

Some of the checks and one restaurant license are in the name of Lillie V. Drake, who I'm guessing is the mother of Mildred Drake Besst. (And if anyone in Ohio knows otherwise, I'd love to hear the story!) There are 14 "binders" from the Lewis Tea Room Training Course, which are really thin paperback booklets, and the correspondent was expected to complete a work sheet after studying the materials. Mildred got A's and was often told "Good Work." Here is a typical question: "Through what three things may 'atmosphere' of a food shop be created?" Mildred wrote: 1) Color scheme and decorations - interior and exterior. 2) Type of fixtures and surroundings. 3) Personality of the management. All of that still holds true today, doesn't it?

Reading through all of this material gives an interesting portrait of tea room life in the 1930s, and also of the economic situation of the day. This check for $30.29 was to the Wade China Co. Wouldn't you love to know how much china that bought on June 30, 1931? And what did it look like? I was also intrigued that there are many checks to The Sanitary Milk Co. Whatever Mildred was serving up in that tea room, she certainly seems to have gone through quite a lot of milk. And I am having a lot of fun learning about it all!


  1. You certainly do find some interesting things on eBay. I bet it is a lot of fun learning about the day to day operation of a tea room in the l930's.

  2. OH, my my my! What a glorious find! I'm sure you've read "Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn." I bet this tea room is connected with those stories! What a great historical and tea-related treasure!

  3. Oh my goodness! How exciting! What a fantastic Ebay purchase to add to your tea collectibles!


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