Trolley service with a smile! Remembering the beloved office tea ladies

Tea lady Alice Bond pictured in a news report in 1976. Source: Getty.

They would brighten a morning with a smile and a steaming hot beverage at your desk, so do you miss seeing the office tea lady in your workplace?

Trolley service in major office buildings was a common sight right across the world in the 1950’s, ’60s and ’70s, with servers wheeling around an (often squeaky) stack of shelves on wheels. It would be stacked full of mugs, tea, coffee and sugar, all at the ready for employees.

Whether you worked in offices, or an open-plan building, getting a visit once or twice a day will have been a highlight. Some lucky offices even got a selection of cakes on offer from the trolley, without having to move a muscle from their desks.

But sadly, the tradition has slowly begun to die out as cafes, fast food restaurants and canteens continue to multiply.

Tea lady Jessie Corbyn at the Britannia House office building in Hammersmith, London, in 1980. Source: Getty.

While many people have no doubt welcomed advances in the food industry with open arms, giving you the excuse to leave the building for some fresh air, (and with much more on offer), others are likely to miss the old ways – with that added personal touch.

Sharing a photo of a lady serving drinks in 1976, community Facebook page ‘Australia Remember When’ sparked a discussion among readers, who shared their own memories of the office tea lady.

The owner of the site wrote on the post: “At morning tea time and again in the afternoon, the tea ladies would come by with their trolleys, a nice fresh cuppa and a biscuit (or two) for the workers at their desks.”

The post went on: “Tea trolleys were a great source of knowledge on office politics and scandals and were thought to help boost morale and productivity in the office.”

One user commented: “I was surprised indeed when a woman (not unlike my Mum) appeared as if by magic offering me tea & bickies at 10am. She visited again mid afternoon & again Monday to Friday all the time I worked there. The passing of the tea ladies’ era changed office life forever.”

Another added of their own experience: “Yes and she was lovely, always remembered what biscuits you liked. My Mum was also a tea lady and she came home every Christmas Eve with the most beautiful gifts the staff gave her. Lovely memories of a time gone by.”

What are your memories of the office tea lady? Do you miss them now?

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