Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 128-129)


These were raised annually at the Perth Royal Agricultural Show where the Guilds operated a very large refreshments kiosk.

My first impression of the kiosk was that of an enormous shed with iron roof and walls and a cement floor.  The latter was convenient as it could be hosed down each night.  There were shutters front and back which lifted to enable long counters to be utilised for the sale of snack food, cool drinks etc.

One side of the kiosk was furnished with sinks, large wood stoves, cupboards for food storage pie warmers etc.  A long partition divided these from the restaurant itself, which was covered with very long trestle tables and forms.  On busy Show days hundreds of meals were served there.

Prior to the opening of the Show stacks of plates, cups and saucers, cutlery, saucepans etc had to be carefully washed, having been stored in cupboards from the previous year, and willing members of the Guilds turned p with aprons ready for the fray.  It was a happy time and there was a daily roster of helpers.  When the kiosk was in operation washers-up were employed to ensure a regular supply of clean china and utensils.  It was the duty of the washers-up to throw out any cups or plates which became chipped or cracked, as the Health Inspector always made regular checks to be sure there was no risk to the health of customers.
 Ordering food was a tremendous task, and I can visualise now the huge boilers of steak and kidney cooking, and sausages being boiled before being put into the oven to brown, to prevent splitting.

Trays full of fresh pastry were always ready to go with the meat or fruit.  Some of the large wholesalers from whom we dealt, generously donated cooked hams, corned beef, fruit cake etc., which they sent along with the ordered goods.  Cooked pies and pasties were ordered each day and, towards the end of my service with the Guilds, Peters sent along their men to keep the pie warmers full, and ensure that a plentiful supply of their goods was on hand.  This made our task easier and more efficient.

When I first became State Secretary I had no idea that I would be expected to organise the Show Kiosk but, probably due to experience in our shop at Swanbourne, it did not prove too difficult and, as I got on very well with Guild members, I received the fullest co-operation.

We mostly employed cooks, but there were times when they let us down and we had to take over and do the job.  I remember one such occasion!  We decided to have our own meat pies baked in the kiosk over night, and one man cook spent the day mixing up hug mounds of pasty ready for a second man to bake into pies that night, starting at 5 p.m.  We were doing well and our home made pies were a great draw card but one evening the night cook did not turn up, so about six of us had to start rolling out the dough and cooking the pies.  We managed to cook about sixty dozen pies and how our arms ached with all the rolling!
 Some of our stalwarts who lived nearby went home to sleep, but two or three of us who were sleeping in the kiosk on camp beds and tried to get a few hours rest before it was time to get breakfast ready for the stockmen who were looking after the animals.

 We received milk from the cows and gave meals in return, we also sold tickets in advance to other workers.  The men came in, presented a ticket and received a good hot breakfast.  Their time was limited so we were kept busy with the frying pan cooking bacon, eggs, sausages etc., while other prepared porridge and made toast.  When they were all served we managed to snatch a quick breakfast, put away our camp beds and start off once again with preparation for the long day's work.  Mrs Doris Walker (now Mrs Flood) and I worked very happily together.

We suspected that some of the workers were purloining food to take home and, looking around after our night's hard work baking pies, you can imagine our fury when we found some of our precious pies hidden away apparently to be taken home.  The person who hid them no doubt received quite a shock to find them gone.  That was our last attempt to serve home made pies, and we were glad to buy from the manufacturers for the remainder of that and future Shows.

At night, when the rush was over, we made jellies and custard in buckets; set milk for cream, and made plans for the next day, so that it was often 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. before we finished

Mr Eric Kastner, the husband of one of our members brought us in a bottle of port and told us to have a little when we went to bed to help us to sleep.  We had not been sleeping well, probably being overtired, and we therefore decided to try it and, whether it did the job or not or whether sheer exhaustion was the reason, we did manage to have a few hours sleep.  We were worried about the bottle as the Guilds are strictly teetotal.  The first morning it was carefully hidden but the second day somebody put it on a nearby window ledge, meaning to shift it later.  Towards evening we noticed hte bottle still on the window ledge in full view, but nobody had mentioned seeing it,  They perhaps thought it was vinegar.
 One very hot Show day Mrs Rischbieth came into the kiosk and was in a state of collapse.  We sat her down and sent somebody to make her a cup of tea to which they added a little brandy.  (We always had some on hand for medicinal purposes).  Mrs Rischbieth was strictly T.T. and would have been horrified but nobody told her.  She said it was a lovely cup of tea and it certainly revived her.

Each night a gang of men was employed in the grounds picking up rubbish and generally cleaning up for the nxt day.  Some of them came into the kiosk when we were working late and we gave them a cup of tea or coffee and some sandwiches or whatever we had left over.  One of them was a little sawn off fellow about 4'6" high, and he said he wouldn't mind marrying me as I was a good girl!  As you can imagine, the story was spread about by my colleagues and did not lose in the telling, so I was congratulated on having received a proposal from one of the customers!  It created a great deal of fun!

After a while we turned the kiosk into a cafeteria which proved much quicker as well as better for us and the customers, the latter being able to select their own food.

The end of the Show each year found us completely exhausted, and one of the hardest jobs was clearing up and putting everything away ready for the next year.  Any stocks of food over were sold cheaply to helpers on the last day or taken up to headquarters.  There was never a great deal over and most of us couldn't bear the sight of it. "

This is quite a long story about the Show so I will continue it in Part 2.  I must keep the continuity going as mum 'wrote it' even though it does jump from one year to another quite often.  Hopefully you can still follow it OK.


  1. Hari OM
    Having been involved in 'mass catering' from time to time, I could very ounce of the effort here!!! Nowadays, of course, the health and safety aspect has removed almost all personal touches as far as pies and snags go.... still requires organising though!

    Ohhhhh thank you for adding me to your blogroll! Glad you will be able to navigate to my side more readily now. You'll find a bit of just about everything at my place...!!! Hugs, YAM xx

    1. ...feel....I could FEEL every ounce.... (tsk - so much for vetting before hitting publish!)

    2. I did some cooking and cleaning when I went away on camps when a teenager but of course then it was just a lot of fun.
      It's great to be able to see your blog so easily now. I won't be able to visit every day but will try not to miss any of your posts from now on. xx
      P.S. We all miss typos from time to time to no need to apologise.

  2. Yet another story which shows how hard our forebears worked. And worked.
    Just the effort involved in keeping those wood stoves going makes me wince. And, if it was summer as shows so often are, it would have been very, very unpleasant working conditions as well.
    Thank you, and your mama, for these windows into the past.

    1. The Perth Show has always been held in late September/early October so the days would probably be in the mid-twenties (celsius). Still very hot with wood stoves going though.
      I am glad you are enjoying these flashbacks I am showing.

  3. Interesting to read just how much work goes on in the background when it comes to feeding the masses. and I'd thought Tuck Shop duty was bad enough! I'm reminded of the CWA, (Country Women's Association) that has a large kiosk/cafeteria at the Royal Show each year. Their Devonshire Teas are very popular and now I'm picturing all the women busily making scones every night to be ready for the next day. really, the amounts of food and the dishwashing just boggles the mind. And your mum and the guild ladies did it all without modern technology, no dishwashers or microwave ovens! I'm kind of proud of them.

    1. Yes it was all hands in those days with very little in the way of mod cons. Perhaps they were made of sterner stuff that the more modern generations.
      I know mum enjoyed it very much but oh dear. she used to be quiet exhausted at Show's end.