August 29, 2008 by Colin
I had no idea “milk bars” were greeted with such consternation in 1950s Britain. “Milk Bars, Starbucks and the Uses of Literacy,” written by Joe Moran and printed in the November 2006 edition of Cultural Studies, touches upon a number of cultural influences affecting British youth in the 50s. Like jukeboxes:
“… By the end of 1957, 8000 jukeboxes had been imported from America …
Many commentators were … hostile to the jukeboxes, because they offered a cheap, synthetic alternative to live dance bands.
In the 1950s, there were still about three million people a week in Britain frequenting halls licensed solely for dancing …”
Even worse, a transition was underway, as the local milk bar was facing competition from the relatively new espresso bar:
“… The espresso bars were thus different from the milk bars in that they actively encouraged young people to ‘hang around’ talking and playing records, without necessarily spending much on coffee. the average waiting time in a Wimpy Bar, by contrast, was 17 minutes.
The coffee bars influenced youth culture in a way that the earlier milk bars never had, because they allowed customers to linger in a thoroughly sensual environment, the hissing steam from the Gaggia machine, the colourful decor, and the smell of coffee and boiled milk …”