longwhitekid

Neverbland

In Desserts, Fonterra, Ice Cream, Peter Pan ice cream, Tip-Top on April 11, 2011 at 10.46

From an original photo of a tin sign courtesy of Cheryl Kelly.

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This is one of my more recent purchases from Trademe – unused Peter Pan “Captain Hook” iceblock wrappers. (nothing to do with the ConAgra products “Peter Pan” brand which was involved in that nasty Salmonella scandal a while back).
The Peter Pan brand was started by the Denne brothers, Haden and Tom. Peter Pan products were once broad and included Icecream (cones, slices, pints and quarts); Novelty ice confections (such as the lurid post 1969 “Hello Dolly” with a doll shaped candy impregnated in the middle); Puff pastry and pastry products; Spring Rolls, Cobs, and croquettes masquerading as a range of “exotic Chinese foods”, and syrups for milk and thick shakes and sodas.

Both this and the cherry label below are from my personal collection.I’m guessing earl-mid 1970s, for these ones.

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There are records dating back to the late 1940’s, and the company prospered well into the late 1970’s when it seems to have hit some problems and many staff were handed redundancy packages. With a slightly revamped name, “Peter Pan Frozen Foods Ltd.” it seems to have continued on in some form until the late 1980’s.

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I would take an educated guess these were salvaged from the factory some time in the late 1970s-early 1980s. Cherry was a fairly unusual flavour then, it was considered more of an “American” thing along with others like blueberry and watermelon.

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To be honest I don’t remember Peter Pan products being around myself (it was probably more or less a geographical thingso didn’t make it to the upper reaches of the North Island), but obviously the company was well established and popular in it’s time with Barry Pulford remembering “…at 909 Heretaunga Street East, about 1966, there was a dairy next door to the Family Foodmarket Ltd where I worked after leaving Karamu High School. And next door to the dairy was the Blue Moon ice cream factory which later moved to Havelock North. Sadly the Blue Moon and Peter Pan brands of ice cream are no longer available but they were delicious“. From this we can assume that the Peter Pan factory was also in Hastings not that far away, indicated by Barry adding it into the description of the local area.

I still can’t track down the location (or figure out the purpose) of this Peter Pan parlour.

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Here is a photo of a building commemorating the factory and brand, although, probably a parlour and outlet in Hastings, as mentioned above. Now a Trompe L’oeil vignette rather than an open business, this apparently is not the original location, which was in Waipukurau and was still running, as we can see from this photo, in 1970 at that location.

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The No. 1 factory outside of Waipkurau on Takapu Road (it was then called Ruataniwha Street) and Cook Streets.This photo taken in 1970, and courtesy of Kete Central Hawkes Bay / the Central Hawkes Bay District Libraries Millenium Project and the  CHB District Settlers Museum.

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Unfortunately, apart from entries at the NZ Intellectual Property Office for the brand (Country Gold, Fudgsicle, Peter-Cream and Softee ) there is not much available information. However again like the “Buttermaid” brand (I posted on this in March), Fonterra aquired it as part of their purchase of Tip Top Investments Limited, where it has become “abandoned”, probably forever. So not much remains, except for a series of wonderfully kitsch and gimmicky 1960s posters someone sold off recently, which I’ll clean up and post later in the year when I revisit the Denne Brothers. Often I just can’t understand why, when something has been enjoyed by so many people for so many decades, it so quickly slips into obscurity.

Addendum: After writing twenty or more letters to individuals, in January of 2011 I finally tracked the Peter Pan “memorial” parlour to a small town of 300 or so people named “Norsewood” south of Waipukurau. Although not that far away in the scheme of things from the town where the factory was, it remains a mystery of firstly – who made it? And more to the point,why? Given that so far my research shows that the Dennes never had anything to do with Norsewood, I can only speculate that perhaps it was created by an ex-factory employee in memory of a much-enjoyed job?  I am sure I’ll be able to get to the bottom of this conundrum. 

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  1. Not long after completing this article I realised that I indeed DO remember Peter Pan product. I was wondering why it seemed so familiar. In late 1972 my parents embarked on an extensive sight-seeing trip by station wagon, of the South Island, visiting just about everywhere. They took me with them, I was around 18 months, as my mother is pregnant in the photos I know it was before I was two years old. there are many memories I have of this trip, that were not in photographs and my Mum has confirmed that they are not imagination. Some people can remember their formative years well, some can’t. I can. I can remember things from probably a year old onwards. Anyway, I remember being in Christchurch or Dunedin and being in a small cafe with quite high stools; chrome with black vinyl on them. I remember a pebble finish perhaps on the floor; one of those horrid ones that were all the rage in the 1960s. I recall I was feeling very sick with a sore stomach and having one of those loud crying jags that toddlers have that seem like they are never going to stop. I remember my father buying for me a Peter Pan ice block, in order to pacify me. It was one of these Cherry “Captain Hook” ones. It didn’t work and I kept up my hollering. That kind of gives a general date that this product was being produced.

  2. […] the way the WordPress system operates. In the meantime go here for the previous Peter Pan article https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/neverbland/) LikeBe the first to like this post.▶ No Responses /* 0) { jQuery('#comments').show('', […]

  3. Hi,

    The Peter Pan factory was located in Waipukurau until it closed in the late 70’s early 80’s. The ice cream was available thoughout Hawkes Bay at diaries and supermarkets.

  4. Thanks for that…I am still waiting for anyone to tell me about the “commemorative” building in the photo, which upon closer inspection, seems to have heritage signage off to the side. Nobody seems to know where it is.

  5. My grandad worked for 12 years for the Denne brothers late 40’s to mid 50;s at the ice cream factory in Waipuk.
    Funny thing I ended up living by chance to one of the Denne brothers son’s in 1999 who knew grandad.

  6. Thanks Andy. Is your Grandad still alive, did he ever keep any memorabilia from his time there? I hear one of the Denne brothers is still with us and lives quite near where the the original factory was, not the bigger one further out of town – that came later. I have had a lot more information come in since this about the history of the Denne brand which goes way back even before your Grandad’s time and I am way overdue for an update story which answers a lot of my own questions outlined here.

    • Pretty sure I lived next door to John Denne son of Tom Denne. This was the strange thing as grandad Cliff May had a heart attack and died in thePeter Pan factory 1957 after 12 years working for the Denne’s.I never met Cliff as I was born in 62.
      It was only by casual conversation with John over the fence one day that we found the connection .Remember John suddenly saying I knew your grandad and dashed inside to produce a picture of Cliff with his father Tom

  7. If you happen to have John Denne’s details I would like to try contacting him and see if he would be willing to talk to me and add to the story. He has one photo, maybe he kept some other memorabilia. I approach people and they either respond positively or not. If not, I leave them be…

  8. Hi I grew up in waipuk and remember the Peter Pan ‘Pink Elephant ‘ ice block .Every year the circus came to town and one year there was an elephant race through the main st and Peter Pan made extra large pink elephant ice blocks for the elephants ..do you have any photos or info on that ??? No one believes me !!! But I might check out that norsewood place

  9. LOL! Well if you pretend you don’t know yourself, and read the comment objectively, it does sound pretty nuts! Maybe the clowns put acid in the town water tthe night before. If you go to my post “How It All Pans Out” (just click on the Peter Pan category at the top of the post) the Pink Elephant wrapper I have recreated is there. Thanks for visiting!

  10. I now have a photo of the Peter Pan elephant float in the parade. Can you remember what year or decade it was? It looks like the early-mid 1960s…?

  11. I used to work at the Peter Pan factory in 1958 zI remember working on the “Bonton” line where my job was to make sure all the icecream slices were up the right way before being dipped in chocolate and frozen to be bagged at the other end ready for resale.One day I let my cloth go through and it came out the other end covered in chocolate and frozen stiff .We also had to break up large cartons of solid chocolate ready for melting down also cartons of Hokey Pokey had to be broken own wih a sledge hammer.We also made”Popsies”frozen ice blocks whereas Tip Top called theirs “TT2’s”

    • Thanks for that good story, Michael. I did not know about Popsies. I hear there is a Peter Pan reunion coming up shortly. I checked the Old Friends site yesterday, and no mention of it yet – although it is definitely happening. I need to make sure that I post my new and complete version of the Peter Pan story soon as it seems there are now a lot of people are now reminiscing about it and looking on the web for all things “Peter Pan”. Cheers

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