When Steve and I were younger, there was a period when we dined at Dummler's Cafe every week-day. The Dummlers were a quite famous family, and had been in the cafe trade in Gateshead for many a long year. Their original premises were in central Gateshead, on Sunderland Road, and not a stone's throw from the very busy High Street. When the town centre went through one of its many re-development phases, Dummler's cafe was knocked down, along with the Essoldo and Ritz picture houses, to make way for the burgeoning industries of the 'Dole' and the 'Nash' (National Assistance) which moved into the towering office blocks and which still scar the town today!
By the time we had found this gem of an eating establishment, it had been relocated to Deckham, which is about a half mile due North from the original. It was now on Old Durham Road, which as the name might suggest to many, was the A1 of former years, the Great North Road which ran from London to Edinburgh. It was now run by the second generation of Dummlers, which consisted of Jimmy and wife Joan, and Jimmy's sister (whose name has, just this second, disappeared from my memory!!). Sometimes they were added to by Jimmy's brother Fred, who sadly eventually committed suicide.
The cafe was a converted downstairs 'Tyneside' flat, the front room and the small back bedroom were diningrooms and the big back room was now the very busy and bustling kitchen, it was marvellous! What fun we had in there.
They had a very wide ranging clientèle, from pensioners and labourers to insurance salesmen and local businessmen. Sometimes there would be up to 8 or 9 in our group when we descended on the place en-masse.
The menu was quiet wide ranging, from lovely Cholesterol sandwiches filled with greasy bacon, to three course lunches (hence Steve's reference to Dummler's Dinners). They had never cooked dumplings as part of the menu, but between the gang of us, we eventually persuaded them to do so. Being vigorous young men, who expended large amounts of energy in our chosen work, we usually had to have 'double' dinners to satisfy our appetites, so with the onset of the dumplings, we would ask for a 'Dummler's Double Dumpling Dinner' much to the amusement of Joan Dummler who usually had the unenviable task of serving us all. I once persuaded her to make me a turnip sandwich, which was delicious, but she went mad when she saw that I'd added it to the hand-written menu, with a price tag of 8 pence!!!! Happy days!
Among the many characters who dined there with any regularity, were Old Fred White and his mate Walter Tindale. These two could keep any audience enthralled for hours with their tales!
Fred had deserted while in the Far East during the war, and had become a very successful gangster in Malaya, or somewhere over there, I cannot quite remember now. After being caught and incarcerated in Lucknow Military Prison for a while, he escaped from a hospital (to where he had been transferred with a self-inflicted cigarette burn on his penis, which he told them he feared was syphilis) and wasn't actually caught again until he was badly injured in a knife fight in Aberdeen, after which he served his sentence on Dartmoor! Over the years, Fred and I spent many a freezing day, huddled over the old pot-bellied stove in my garage, while he recounted tales from different times in his life. By then, of course, he was a very different, old, bloke who was scratching a living cutting up old scrap cars with a large chopping axe!
Likewise with 'Little' Walter, who had been a great horse trader when he was younger, his tales of the goings on at the annual Appleby Horse Fair were sometimes difficult to believe, but I'm sure they were actually true. The gathered throng would be on the floor with laughing, what a character he was! He'd tell us of local characters who also fancied themselves as 'horsey men' and were therefore at the Fair; like Billy 'Sugar' Kelly, the coalman (who was also a regular in Dummler's) who would play his ukelele banjo accompanying Fred 'Boy' Nelson, the fruiterer from Windy Nook, singing and playing his accordion. I'd have paid money to see that, as I knew them both, and they seemed such an unlikely pairing!
Actually, I remember one day in Dummler's when 'Sugar' leapt up, from the table, exclaiming that he couldn't continue with his meal as he suddenly felt sick, because he'd caught sight of the arrival of one Robert Kelly, his brother, and a rival coal merchant; they hated each other with a vengeance!
One of the old pensioners used to go in there three times every day; once for his soup, then a bit later for his main course, and then later again for his pudding! The place was a haven for so many characters, the likes of which we'll never see again, I'm sorry to say.
Later on, Steve took a job as a barman at a local hostelry called 'The Plough' at Deckham, where many of these local coal/horseymen and other general wastrels drank. As each one's turn to pay for the drinks came around, a huge wad of notes would be theatrically pulled from the trouser pocket, so that all and sundry could see the wealth of whosoever's turn it was! They were worse show-offs than schoolboys.
Ah well, back to the present, I suppose! Freda has discovered a new 'project' for me to engage with, so I'd better look willing. You'll get to find out all about it. eventually. TTFN.