|The Owosso Argus-Press, August 27, 1930 (enlarge)|
By the 1930s tea shops featuring free readings were numerous and coming under attack by law enforcement. So popular were the renderings that the theatrical production of Tea for Two had live readings during its dates at the Paramount.
The top article above by William H. Beatty focuses on the area east of Woodward in Detroit on Broadway in the early 1930s which encompassed seven tea shops in one block dubbed "Tea Leaf Lane".
Several of these are anonymously profiled. They entail some interesting facts and characters. One such person was "a turbaned, dark-skinned gentleman" from Ann Arbor who graduated from the University of Michigan and set up shop in Detroit to start his business career. Catering to intellectuals his shop floundered. Bring on the tea leaf readers and voila! his enterprise became a hit and more importantly, financially tenable.
Who were these readers and willing specimens of his fortune-telling? The best seers were Scottish bred. Far outweighing the stereotypical gypsy these Scots answered to mainly women thrill and curiosity-seekers and sob sisters with the earnestly-inclined accounting for a small portion of their business. Of course, these were only gratis side-amusements that accompanied a ham on rye or a cup of tea and surely not a serious portent of the future. At least that's what the proprietor's right hand man was claiming to the fourth estate.