The Park Cafe

The Park Cafe

The Park Cafe was formerly an antique shop until Angelina Bonici purchased the property in 1946 – https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/17/ .  The family lived above the cafe and eventually it became home for Albert Bonici and wife Betty who resided there the rest of their lives. For a tour of the flat, visit https://bonici.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/bonici-house-and-stage-door/

Park Cafe in the '50s

Park Cafe in the ’50s

 

Park Cafe staff 1960 [Helen Russell far left]

Park Cafe staff 1960 [Helen Russell far left]

Happy Days at the Park Cafe:

The Park Cafe brings back memories for those who spent time at the popular cafe at the top of High Street in Elgin. Besides the great location with a view of Cooper park and ancient Elgin cathedral – often refered to as the “lantern of the north”, the Cafe entertained young music fans with a juke box and live music (before the Two Red Shoes was built behind it). It continued to gain in popularity through the ’60s and ’70s with its fun atmosphere and great concessions. People also remember antidotes regarding musicians who made their appearances to the delight of diners. Besides performances by local greats like Alex. Sutherland and Henry Robertson, and violinist Peter Zandre http://www.moraystringquartet.com/about.html jumping on a table top for a spontaneous recital in the crowded room, some of the Elgin girls remember being chatted up by some of the musicians coming through to play gigs in Elgin, Nairn, Buckie, and Aberdeen and small villages along the way. One memory related to me was  the day the Who came to town. An Elgin woman recalls a young Keith Moon coming over and sitting on her knee. Though a good laugh with the young drummer’s behavior, Keith took it a bit further when he decided to throw a “stick bomb” which got him 86’s from the Cafe…

The Bonici family opened the Park Cafe in 1946 and founded PC Holding Co which was the umbrella for several businesses including those operated by Albert Bonici. Inspired by Soho coffee bars in London including the 2 i’s Coffee Bar where he met with business associates, the cafe was enlarged to include a small stage in the mid 1950s. One of the regular acts was Henry Robertson [aka Harry Robinson] who was music director for the first British pop music show which did their first broadcast in Soho at the 2 i’s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_2i’s_Coffee_Bar

http://www.nickelinthemachine.com/2008/07/soho-and-the-2-is-coffee-bar/comment-page-1/

 

Elgin, Moray, Scotland: “I worked in a variety show put on by Albert bonici in 1969, we played Elgin, and many venues in the area, and the company was to be found every afternoon, at the Park cafe, i and the dancers were from london, (although i was Scottish), believe me,they had never seen anything quite like elgin. Albert bonici was a very fat and very astute businessman, and i did more dates for him for a couple of years. I have never forgotten Elgin or albert bonici, and a time when I brought glamour to the moray firth.” Jennifer Scott.

“The Park Café… looked out onto the Cooper Park at the end of north College Street near to the Museum. This was a very “posh” and rather exciting place for us. It had booths with fixed plastic topped tables about 8 could sit around in each booth. There was a jukebox with latest top of the pops records. THE place to be to meet and be seen. It was run by Albert Bonici who was very popular with all of us. He later went on to open The Two Red Shoes Dance Hall and brought big names to Elgin. Again No alcohol” https://wrvsmorayheritagememories.wordpress.com/tag/red-shoes-ballroom/. By the mid ’50s, Albert, inspired by Soho’s 2 i’s Coffee Bar [http://2iscoffeebar5670.blogspot.co.uk/], built a small stage area and brought in plush vinyl seating, modern wall paintings, a jute box, etc.

Albert Bonici’s father served ice cream from a vendor’s cart before the family [including mama Bonici, Albert, wife Betty, and his sisters and their spouses] became involved with the Park Café originally started by a cousin. When Mr. Whippy was introduced in the UK by Dominic Facchino  in 1958 [having seen the “Mr Softee” ice cream trucks in operation on a trip to the US], the Bonici family bought one of their machines, and began selling the ice cream. Soon they were making their own version of the soft ice cream and distributing it throughout the north of Scotland including the islands.

“A chemical research team in Britain (of which a young Margaret Thatcher was a member) discovered a method of doubling the amount of air in ice cream, which allowed manufacturers to use less of the actual ingredients, thereby reducing costs. This ice cream was also very popular amongst consumers who preferred the lighter texture, and most major ice cream brands now use this manufacturing process. It also made possible the soft ice cream machine in which a cone is filled beneath a spigot on order.” http://mrwhippy.co.nz/history/

The café was also a place where people came for chips, sandwiches, home made meals with a cola, ice cream drink, or fresh roasted cup of coffee. The café was also popular as a place to go before a music happening at the Two Red Shoes or Elgin Town Hall. The café had a juke box, vinyl booths, modern paintings [several from local artist Graeme Nairn] and was regularly filled with teenagers and young adults meeting up with friends. Albert met his brother-n-law Ugo Ruggeri there in mid-morning for a coffee before spending long hours at his desk at the corner building of LCB Agency concerns. He was also seen with various musicians coming through to go over contracts and itinerates on a Thursday before touring small communities in the north of Scotland. Though much was settled from the desk of Mr. Bonici, he would also introduce bands to some of the young music goers at the café to generate excitement at venues from Nairn to Aberdeen.  Bonici family business  https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/17/

 

Stuart Harris [left] with friends behind Elgin Museum. Red phone box was used by many musicians calling home was across from Park Cafe and back stage entrance to Two Red Shoes.

Stuart Harris [left] with friends behind Elgin Museum. Red phone box was used by many musicians calling home was across from Park Cafe and back stage entrance to Two Red Shoes in the 1960s/70s.

Park Café on google: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/11+N+College+St,+Elgin,+Moray+IV30+1EL/@57.649187,-3.309361,3a,52.5y,148h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s2aTduwfad9Pk2Ekb3E9jRg!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x48850bb257692ea9:0x84618317c98a909e!6m1!1e1 Note: If you navigate screen to the right, you will see several buildings that housed LCB [Little Cross Buildings] Agency businesses. At the corner, look up to see where Albert worked with his team. Whilst Betty managed The Park Café, Albert worked closely with his staff [by 1968 Bill Dalgarno became the LCB booking agent whilst Neil Patterson organized/facilitated the programs until John Ruggeri came on board]. Albert and Betty Bonici who lived above the café, used the restaurant as a meeting place where they met and tended to the musicians and entertainers who came to Elgin. It was where The Beatles regrouped and had a meal after performing at the Two Red Shoes and where Brian Jones signed a contract with Albert when the Rolling Stones played in Aberdeen [1964] https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/rolling-stones-contract/

Other posts including the Park Café: https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/bonici-business-sense/ https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/two-red-shoes-ballroom/  https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/mr-albert-bonici/

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About

In the early 1950s, Albert Bonici began promoting dances though it had been an ambition since his teenage years. When he and Henry Robertson co-organized a string of jazz dances in the north Scotland, they could not have predicted the enormous success of the venture. Albert Bonici became one of the most respected promoters in the UK having arranged a high volumn of music venues throughout the north of Scotland which delighted music lovers during the height of the jazz and beat music era. Whilst known for booking the Beatles at the beginning of their 1963 tours, Albert Bonici brought most of the top British acts to north-east Scotland besides working with Scottish musicians to boost their careers. SCOTBEAT was created to share a bit of history about the BEAT years in Scotland and also a tribute to a man with a vision who, with the help of his family and staff, created a happening that is still fondly remembered by those who attended dances and concerts. Albert A Bonici hosted many up and coming bands who went on to gain international acclaim for their contributions. Besides other local resources and interviews, SCOTBEAT presents exclusive photos, adverts, and documents from the A Bonici Archives [circa 1960s]. Unless otherwise agreed, materials are not to be used for financial gain and ask that you respect the terms below. Materials presented are not to be used for financial gain without consent. © 2014-2019 SCOTBEAT.wordpress.com. All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be copied, redistributed, broadcast or published in any form without crediting this blog and/or copyright websites mentioned. All correspondence, flyers, programs, and photos from the Bonici Archives are not to appear in print other than through the propietor of SCOTBEAT. Use of the site signifies your agreement to all of these terms without condition. Please reference https://scotbeat.wordpress.com when sharing materials found here as the site is continuously updated to present the subject matter accurately and as a historical resource. Thank you.

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Posted in 1960's pop music
4 comments on “The Park Cafe
  1. Jennifer Scott. says:

    I worked in a variety show put on by albert bonici in 1969, we played elgin, and many venues in the area, and the company was to be found every afternoon, at the Park cafe, i and the dancers were from london, (although i was scottish), believe me,they had never seen anything quite like elgin. Albert bonici was a very fat and very astute businessman, and i did more dates for him for a couple of years. I have never forgotten elgin or albert bonici, and a time when i brought glamour to the moray firth,
    Jennifer Scott.

  2. scotbeat says:

    Thanks Jennifer for this interesting bit of history. How many dancers performed in Elgin and north of Scotland and were the dancers hired through Cana Variety? If you would like to expand on other experiences and/or photos, flyers, etc. please use contact email david.dills@yahoo.com.

  3. paul arbuthnot says:

    Betty Bonici was my grandad ,s sister.

    • scotbeat says:

      Paul, are you also related to Myrtle “Ziki” Arbuthnot? I know that she visited Albert and Betty Bonici as well as Albert’s sister Rosanna after she married composer and Bonici family friend, Harry Robinson [Robertson]. Anyway, glad to hear from you. Cheers, David

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