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Sunday, September 08, 2013

When Wimpy bars ruled the land

They've closed down the Wimpy Bar at Southgate Circus. Sounds like a line from a Springsteen song.

We've lived round here for forty years and while we didn't go in the Wimpy any more we would point it out to the kids and say "that's where we went on one of our first dates". If I remember right we'd been to see 10 Rillington Place at the Odeon. That's not there any more either.

In the days before McDonalds Wimpy bars were all across the land. They were named after a character in Popeye who used to say "if you buy me a hamburger I will gladly repay you Tuesday". Wimpy was a place you ended up in the days when you wanted something quick, when it wasn't really an option to go for a pizza and there were no gastropubs.

Wimpy is twinned in my mind with memories of gigs. We went to see the J. Geils Band play the Lyceum at a "midnight court" show in 1972. Afterwards we ended up in a Wimpy Bar in Coventry Street. Then we walked to Kings Cross and waited for the morning and the first overground train back to Palmers Green. The following day I bought Randy Newman's "Sail Away" at a shop called Harum. When we came home from seeing Van Morrison at the Rainbow we stopped at the Wimpy Bar in Green Lanes partly because it actually had an alcohol licence.

If you ordered a tea and a Wimpy - never a burger, always a Wimpy - they would bring you the tea first. This was always lukewarm so you drank it quickly. By the time your Wimpy arrived you wanted another tea. Cunning.


12 comments:

  1. In the 80s a McDonald's opened directly across the street from my local Wimpy and soon put it out of business.

    I tried the new place out of curiosity but was put off by the fact that they didn't sell tea (this was England dammit!) and the food wasn't brought to you on a plate by a waiter like at Wimpy.

    I guess the rest of the public didn't mind though.

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  2. Have you seen what is going to replace the Southgate Wimpy? A "Paddy Power" betting shop! sign of the times

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  3. Nothing says 'date movie' like 10 Rillington Place.

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  4. There's a Wimpy Bar in Marlow, the first I've noticed for ages. I'm glad to see they still do those dubiously-named 'bender' frankfurters with the bits cut out. Wonder if they also still have ketchup dispensers shaped like tomatoes? Going for a Wimpy was a big treat when I was growing up in the 60s – I don't want to spoil the memory by going back now.

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  5. I wonder whether, if Wimpy bars were open today, they would be selling a hot dog called a Bender?

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  6. I worked in a Wimpy in the late 60s. We had to stay behind after closing to fill up the plastic tomatoes with ketchup, the new ketchup on top of the old, which was never cleaned out. I left after the manager, who used to drive us girls home, left me till last, and tried to grope me. We had to wear extra short skirts and had hands up them every time we passed a table, Those were the days...

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  7. I dimly remember my Gran taking me to a Wimpy in Bournemouth in the early 1970s - it seemed to me the absolute height of sophistication! ( I must have been about nine). I think the menu included an ice cream sundae called a Brown Derby.
    By the way, Wikipedia says the first McDonalds opened in south London November 1974.

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  8. They still sell Benders. Buy a Bender in a bun. Near you. Except Southgate.

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  9. First ever date I took my wife on was to a Wimpy in Canterbury. She said "I've never been in one before" I thought the relationship doomed at that point she clearly being more of a posh bird than I'd wagered. 32 years later we're still together and still the Wimpy at times Maidstone one is good and Dartford if off to the Orchard Theatre.

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  10. There's still a Wimpy on the front at Margate. The first I'd seen in years.

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  11. The nearest Wimpey to Southgate that's still open is in Cheshunt. My childhood was spent being treated occasionally to a Wimpey at High Barnet, Muswell Hill and (bizarrely) in what's now the Pink Elephant at Elephant & Castle. I can still smell the interiors if I concentrate hard....

    http://www.wimpy.uk.com/restaurants.asp

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  12. Yes, the Cheshunt branch is still going. You can't beat a Wimpy for taste, it's unique. I would drive 100 miles for one.

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