Looking Back: Teenagers, juke boxes and coffee bars!
However, in the early 1950s, coffee bars were looked upon as ‘dens of in iniquity’ by our parents when some appeared in the centre of Sheffield, although eventually they were just considered part of the ‘swinging 60s’.
The only coffee our parents ever drank was the strangely tasting ‘Camp Coffee’ which was packaged in a bottle showing a Gordon Highlander soldier being served a cup of coffee on a tray by a Sikh soldier with the slogan ‘Ready, aye, ready!’ The label was changed in the early 2000s, with the tray removed to erase the imperialist connotations of the Raj and the Sikh as servant, showing him as an equal.
The new coffee bars were stylish with glass counters, red vinyl stools, Pyrex see through cups and shiny juke boxes emitting exciting sounds from Elvis Presley and Bill Haley.
The Teenage Tavern on Pinstone Street was a place of innocence although my parents very much disapproved.
Had it been the El Mambo on Union Street I might have been able to understand it! My father said that bad things happened to girls who frequented the place, and I’m still waiting to find out!
The El Mambo probably didn’t deserve its bad reputation, although possibly frequented by the cities more colourful inhabitants.
Many of the male clientele wore drainpipe trousers, drape coats, Beatle crusher shoes with DA hair styles, and ladies ‘dressed to kill’ in smart ‘frocks’, or pencil skirts, stockings, high heeled shoes, and beehive hairdos.
It was also the haunt of young Arab men who had been recruited from Aden to work in the Sheffield steelworks and who found it a safe and unprejudiced place to meet. However, many 1950s Sheffielders were most disapproving of the concept of white women mixing with foreigners, especially those with dark skins.
The front of the El Mambo was blown off sometime during the early 1960s, it never re-opened, and a little bit of Sheffield history disappeared.