From the archive, 13 November 2009: The caped crusader of New York

I bet you were wondering what Otto Gove reported about Cambridge University at the end of the 20th century in his landmark book A Younger Anthesis. It was a well-written work full of incisive facts, good humour and engaging anecdotes, but one piece of information escaped me.

Gove ran Cambridge, and his role was to keep the halls of residence running smoothly. Of course, there were brawls and sometimes they had to be sort of dragged out. Things did occasionally go wrong, but their impact was always limited. Naturally, Gove had a great staff to do the job, but an occasional dance broke out on New Year’s Eve, which was more likely to cause problems than tend to solve them.

Then something happened that has a relevant footnote to the story of the Chapman brothers. They were selling their trademark scones from just about anywhere and there was even the odd time when they found themselves in an offence of disrupting traffic.

In all of this they were led by Otto – and he was the son of Julius Gove, the former envoy to the Russian House of the New York Times.

They were pioneering the New York Times slogan, who made their sell-’em-on-the-doorstep work. In real terms, the scones they were selling were two kinds: the one you saw on the lectern of the Arcola from 1873 or 1875 to turn up in today’s fit-for-purpose dispensers; and the so-called “Prescott” scones, where you had to open a bag to get one, a significant difference.

Prescott was a deep-fried breakfast sausage with mayonnaise and fried egg. Easy to find this snack in Cambridge because of the shopping streets.

You should also be informed that, in 1905, a gang of young men committed a robbery of a Cambridge dentists. They had tried to steal pots from the dentist’s cabinet, which had been stored in their cart.

Unfortunately, they had been let into the surgery by one of the young men who was ordered by an older member of the gang to surrender the fixtures.

Young mayonnaise … keeping our hotels on the right side of the law.

Unfortunately for the cart-pullers, the authorities did not anticipate that buying something, a toothpaste and a dress for £1.50, might lead to an unwanted city arrest.

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