When the Bees Knees moved into their new premises in West Acton, one of the features of the new place was an old abandoned cupboard positioned prominently in the main room of the store. Somewhat tatty and frayed at the edges it was in need of some TLC. However, upon seeing the neglected space, the nostalgia in me immediately screamed “Tuck Shop!!” – not that I’m a screamer, but you have to shout loud to get yourself heard with the Bees Knees elite. The success of adding British confectionary to the Bees Knees pantry warranted its own homage in the new digs and luckily the Bees Knees top brass agreed. So, with some new flooring and a bit of wainscoting Tony’s Tuck Shoppe was born!
What’s a tuck shop? I hear our non-Brit friends ask.
For those of you from the UK you most likely will have grown up having tuck shop in your school. For our non-UK friend let me explain the tuck shop.
Basically, it was a small makeshift school store located in the corner of the main hall, that sold a variety of non-healthy treats during the morning and afternoon play times (recess in the US). Side note: I use the term play time, because I only recall the tuck shop being there up to the junior school level, when we still ‘played’ during the break in class – by the time we reached secondary school we were too cool to play and tuck was replaced with a sneaky cigarette behind the bike sheds. But these days I’d take a Curly Wurly from the tuck shop over a recycled Benson & Hedges any time!
Enough about being cool, let’s continue the reminiscing. In my school, the shopkeeper of the tuck shop was a rotated role. Every now and again – maybe a couple of times a term, we’d have to give up our play time to manage the tuck shop. But giving up playing tag or kiss chase was worth it to be the shop keeper for a while! You’d be the master of your domain for at least 15 minutes - distributing sugary sweets to your customers – little people with 5 to 10 pence each to spend and all desperate for a sugar high. The sense of authority and deciding who to serve next was a power rush that no sticky spangle could provide. It was also a good way of learning Maths – (sorry spellchecker I spelt Maths correctly), calculating the change from 10p for two Drumsticks and a Dip Dab was a tough job when you’re under pressure!
(The photo to the right is and old photo from the Westminster School where adults manned the tuck shop. Photo by MacGregor/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
The shopkeeper role also required a certain amount of discipline that I have to say of which I had more back then than I can say I have today – as a penniless kid, surrounded by all those chocolates, crisps and sweets I bravely contained the temptation to take the opportunity to pocket a sneaky Refresher. Whereas, these days Lucinda is constantly wondering why her Mars bar stock is so low!
So, what could you buy from the magnificent tuck shop? Well, from my recollection there were of course the staples – some of which you’ll find today in Tony’s Tuck shoppe – Mars bars, Marathons, Flakes, Milky bars and Crunchies. But to be honest that’s not where we spent our pennies, so to speak. We would buy the chewy sugary stuff more often than not. Refreshers, Sherbet Dip Dabs, Pacers, Spangles, Tooty Frooties, Bazooka gum, Fruit Salads and any other jaw jamming chews we could get our mitts on. Although I must say I also had a taste for the crisps – Monster Munch was always a winner, but then there were the Chipsticks, Smith crisps, Barbecue puffs and bacon flavor Frazzles. Yummm-oh!
Finally, to wash it all down we’d sell the plastic cups filled with Vimto – orange red and my personal favorite, purple flavor!!
I should mention that there was real fruit on sale as well – I seem to recall seeing a tangerine once.
These days, I’m led to believe that the Tuck shop still exists in primary schools across the UK, although I’m guessing that the merchandise now is somewhat healthier than back in my day – as it jolly well should be!
But if you want to be naughty and treat yourself to a Curly Wurly or a Fruit Pastel or even just fancy a Ginger Nut! Then come and visit Tony’s Tuck Shoppe at the Bees Knees store in West Acton – you won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately, they don’t have Monster Munch or Vimto…. YET!
Visit Tony's Tuck Shop at The Bee's Knees, 562 Mass Ave, Acton, MA.
Shop online for treats too!