NOSTALGIA: Cliff Gray (centre) was the original owner of Mecca cafe in when it opened in Lismore in 1928. Picture: GEMMA-ROSE T
NOSTALGIA: Cliff Gray (centre) was the original owner of Mecca cafe in when it opened in Lismore in 1928. Picture: GEMMA-ROSE T

Its still Lismores mecca

By HELEN JACK

BEFORE Lismore's Mecca Cafe became the mecca of Lismore's cafe society, it was known as the Forrester and Gray Cafe.

Cliff Gray was only 16 years old with 100 pounds in his pocket when he partnered with his mate Tommy Forrester, who matched him pound for pound.

The year was 1928 and when Tommy left Cliff decided to rename it.

He chose The Mecca Cafe because in Greek, mecca means meeting place; and that is what the cafe has become.

Now 93 years of age, Cliff returned yesterday with his two sons Neil, his wife Marlene, and Geoff, along with other members of St Joseph's Aged Care Facility, to take a nostalgic trip and have morning tea.

Speaking for their father, Neil and Geoff said Cliff owned the cafe for 60 years before choosing to sell the cafe in 1988, retiring at age 77.

"In its heyday and during the weekly cattle sales there were people lined up down the street waiting to have lunch at the Mecca," said Geoff.

"There were more tables in here back then and we had 17 girls working in the cafe, with five girls working in the bakehouse behind the cafe."

Back then the Mecca had its own bakehouse where Cliff and his staff would begin preparing all the cafe's cakes, pies, buns and bread at 3am.

"In the cafe we had a cake bar and a milk bar as well as a kitchen," said Geoff.

"Warren manned the milk bar and was good at making cappuccinos, desserts, sodas and the like; it was very busy.

"We served mainly family-style food; roasts, pie and peas, steak and chips, hamburgers, that style of thing.

"At Easter we would bake up to 1200 dozen hot cross buns which we would have to sit on the cafe booths to cool.

"Before school canteens were established, all the kids from nearby schools would come here for lunch and then again after school.

"It was the top place in town." For Cliff and his family, it still is.



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