longwhitekid

Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Self-Sourcing Pudding: Sutherland’s Success

In Custard, Desserts, Fuller Fulton Stores, Jellies, Jelly Crystals, Poplar Stores, Self Help Stores, Sutherland Trust on May 27, 2012 at 10.46

A reproduction I have created of a custard powder can label.  This was in use between 1938-1943 that I know of.

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I’m just going to keep this story of Self Help brief , so I can do a longer, detailed one later in the year with more images. I’m going to focus on the Self Help brand of custard and jelly; I have recreated the box design of their 1936 jelly crystals from a newspaper ad, and also the label from the late 1930s-early 1940s custard powder tin.

This custard container came up on Trademe as part of a larger lot a few months ago and someone else got it. They probably only wanted the variety of Edmonds tins with it, and had no interest in this one or even knew what it was – however I’ve been able to reconstruct the design from the picture. I’ve never seen another one before since.

Evening Post , March 1942 

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I do own a couple of 1930s Self Help cook books which are fairly hard to get hold of. They are quite recent purchases of mine – and as such I haven’t really gone through them yet to see what’s in there regarding ads and stuff; Apart from that examples of the early packaging are amazingly far and few between, for what was once one of New Zealand’s biggest and longest running chain food Stores – and spanning nearly half a century. Occasionally a 1949 board game called “Rugger”, which they issued for the All Blacks tour of South Africa,  pops up for auction – but they didn’t have a wide variety of promotional items to the extent of Four Square stores.

A reproduction I have created of a 1938 jelly crystal box. I have based the colours on the custard can label. The packaging was different in 1935, and had changed again in 1936. 

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Self Help was started in 1922 and by the early 1940s there were around 200 stores dotted about the country; but yet again it’s another brand that is unbelievably almost forgotten today. Apart from their own brand stores they had many more that didn’t go under the Self Help name such as Poplar Stores and Fuller-Fulton’s which I covered here mid- last year :

https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/fuller-surprises/

Self Help custard and De-Luxe fruit extract. De-Luxe was another Self Help brand of the 1930s-1940s which also included jelly crystals, culinary essences, coffee, biscuits, coffee essence, and chocolate bars. Evening Post, January 1941. 

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The business was founded by Ben Sutherland who attempted to create a food co-op for the workers at New Zealand Railways where he worked. After decades with the organisation he was near retirement and his concept was a bit of a gamble to say the least. He found there was little support for his idea and scant interest in the shares that were being offered.

Nine flavours of jelly crystals, Evening Post, January 1938. 

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Apparently in some sort of conflict with Railways management of over this issue, he ended up leaving not long after – and branched out on his own. In just over a year later he had seven stores and more on the way. The philosophy of the Self Help stores was to sell goods to the public for as little profit as possible, which sounds pretty ridiculous now in a world of corporate fat cats that only care for high margins. As a result the brand was embraced immediately, outside of his former organisation, and became hugely successful.

 Self Help store on the west side of Main Street, Upper Hutt, circa 1950. Courtesy of  Upper Hutt  City Library collection ref P2-162-274

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Eventually Self Help was one of the biggest chain stores in New Zealand, just behind Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd’s Four Square stores. Not long after Woolworths launched their first dedicated food store at New Lynn’s Lynnmall in 1963 and were in the process of taking over the country, they purchased the Self Help chain in 1971 and quickly phased it out – replacing all the stores with their own brand.

Five flavours of Self Help  Custard , Evening Post, September 1937.

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The legacy lives on today in the Sutherland Trust which has distributed the equivalent of around sixty five million dollars to various charities. Although their endeavours quickly made the Sutherland family wealthy themselves – it’s a rare “feelgood story” of people that just wanted to help others have a better quality life. And it was successful in all respects and continues to be so. Thankfully every once in a while even today there are still people that have that idea in mind; instead of corporate profit margins- a better world for all.

Addendum mid-June 2012: I acquired two Self Help custard ads in the meantime, which I am adding here below. The colour ad dates from 1939, and clearly shows the packaging I recreated above, in use. The second one dates from 1932 and shows an older version of the can.


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Brotherly Confection

In Chocolate, Collins Bros, Collins' Lolly Shop, confectionery, cordial, Ice Cream, jam, tomato sauce on May 20, 2012 at 10.46

A few months ago I picked up this lovely label on Trademe; you can’t see in the image but it’s also printed with gold over the rich design. I’ve seen similar labels made for jars for the St. George jams range under Irvine and Stevenson‘s in the early-mid 1920s; but this appears to be a bit older than that. This actually ended up being a bit of a disaster because it was yet another lost package courtesy of ever-unreliable New Zealand Post, but the seller was kind enough to look for the other one that she knew she had stashed away somewhere – and although it was quite stained she was happy to send it to me as a replacement free of charge in a paid envelope I provided. After quite a few emails exchanged, a lot of back and forthing to the bank and post office, scanning and some retouching to the damage – and here we are finally.

Collins’ Lolly Shop, Thames Star, 24 December 1912

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There is not much to be known about Collins Bros.  From experience this may be because not only were they a small concern; but also perhaps they didn’t last very long. Based in Pollen Street, Thames they were in competition with at least two other sweet shops including Palmer’s which had been established for over  forty years by the time Collins’  arrived on the scene.  They are apparently registered as “J. Collins, confectioner” (singular)  in the pre-1930 catalogue of The Treasury – which is an archive catalogue compiled by the Coromandel Heritage Trust.

Collins’ new soda fountain, Thames Star, 20 December 1916

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I can’t actually find in any record that they manufactured jam; but clearly they did, as fruit is featured in the design with a tomato as the central motif. They were in fact manufacturing tomato sauce in the early 1910s – but whether this was sold in a jar or bottles is unknown. This multi-purpose label would be applicable to either, I imagine – and may have even been pasted on boxes for other products as well.

Collins’ new chocolates, Thames Star, 8 January, 1914

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As demonstrated by the ads that I found featured here, “Collins’ Lolly Shop” as it was called locally according to the papers, were best known for their confectionery though – sweets, chocolates, ice cream, as well as a range of cordials – over their sauce and jam. They must have been one of the earlier ice cream manufacturers in the country with their locally popular Vanilla Ices – pioneering the way for the boom of the 1930s; another business I can think of is Dustin’s (later Southern Cross biscuits), which I wrote on last year here,  and which much like Collins’ store, had an American-style soda fountain. One has to wonder if the parents’ tenure in the U.S. had any bearing on this, at the time, novel idea.

Seafood store for sale, Thames Star, 24 September, 1908

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However food business seems to have been the consistent thing in the lead-up to this enterprise; I found an advertisement for a certain J. Collins of Pollen Street trying to offload a fish shop in 1908 – No doubt the same person.
Any further information about the mysterious “J” is unknown – with fairly common names it’s just too difficult to tease any information out – devoid of clues like a first name, or anything else that would lead me in some kind of direction.

 Thames Star, 17 May, 1913

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There’s quite likely a Parawai-Morrinsville-Thames connection; I find a Selina Delbridge (born 1849) married James Collins (born 1845)  in 1869 at Gunnislake, Cornwall and they soon emigrated to America, where they had a daughter, Minnie Maud Collins (I also found a record for an Annie Collins, born in Chicago, and a Joseph Collins, also native of the U.S. – interred in the same cemetery).

Collins Brothers’ confectionery and fruit – Thames Star,  22 December, 1916

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They then settled in the gold area of Thames, New Zealand (going by Wise’s Directory I’m estimating around 1886) where James Collins is on record of being in the profession of mining first in Mount Pleasant then later in  in Parawai where the family settled. It seems he also ran cattle on his property “Reservoir Road” there  by the late 1890s, where they were residing. They had a total of six children according to Minnie Adams’ great-granddaughter. I think this is somewhat of an underestimation – as there were at least five siblings that didn’t make it past 6 years. however I can only verify aforementioned Minnie, as well as Selina, Rosie, Fred and Ernest.

 Thames Star, 20 December 1916

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Interestingly, Later on in the Thames Directory of 1909-1912 Ernest Collins is listed in a seemingly relative profession of fruiterer in Pollen Street. So if the descendant’s information is accurate – then who was the missing child? Let’s see – who is the odd one out? Seemingly a J. Collins working as a storeman in Paeroa is a logical choice, because he’s the only J, Jas, or James Collins over three decades who isn’t in the profession of mining in the area. I’m guessing a James Collins jnr – or the aforementioned Joseph born before they arrived in Aotearoa. I speculate that he and Ernest, by this time ex fruit and seafood respectively, set up together as “Collins Brothers”. It seems that they may have been open for business together from 1912 until Ernest died early, in his mid thirties in 1918. After that the trail fizzles out. This is conjecture of course, and I could keep going until it makes more sense – but I’m a little short of time lately and so we will leave our investigation there. Perhaps I’ll find some more pieces of the story in the future to make sense of it.

The Collins brothers, circa the mid-late 1900s, from left: Frederick, Joseph, Ernest, and James. image courtesy of Cherie Hamlin.

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Addendum, late May 2012: It seems quite a lot of my guesswork was correct. This information came in later from Cherie Hamlin, a Collins descendant: I pegged the right family; but slightly wrong on the brothers who ran the shop. 

Between 1869 and 1871 James and Selina Collins emigrated to the USA, where they had four children: Rose Jane (1871), Annie (1875), Joseph (1878) and Minnie Maud (1879).  Between 1879 and 1881 the family moved to New Zealand and had another five children: Frederick James (1881), Ernest (1884), James Edgar (1888), Jessie (1890),and Selina May (1891).

Joseph was the proponent of the brand and  along with James E made up the “Bros.” Ernest – although he had his fruit shop in Pollen Street – was not involved (but probably helped procure ingredient supplies).  Joseph died in 1948  listed as a “Retired Confectioner”, and James E in 1960, as a “retired gardener”. He is also recorded as having a previous career as a copper-smith prior to enlistment in WWI (he spent a year in service while Collins Bros. was operating) and is remembered by the family as “helping” Joseph with the business.  

Iris Parkes, niece of Joseph, is still alive and can remember Joseph Collins making pastry and sweets and says he could  “could turn his hand to any delight”. Iris recalls Joseph and James as being “great mates as well as brothers, and were always together” – the fish shop, however, she is unsure of. How Joseph got into the trade is also unknown, but she speculates that since the family grew fruit and vegetables it may have been a natural progression to then use the produce. I think that although he may have had a brilliant natural talent – he undoubtedly must have trained under someone else; and it’s likely that he did so under one of the two other local established confectioners such as Palmer’s, before going out on his own.

Ernest Collins probably started his shop to utilise some of the harvests from the Reservoir Road farm and Joseph would have used the fruits in pastries and sweets, preserves, syrups and sauces.  In 1898 Joseph wins a prize in the Kidney potato category in the local flower show; and Ernest and  Fred win for lettuce, cabbage and cauliflower in 1898 – both instances  recorded in the Thames Star, demonstrating a long history and knowledge of fruit and vegetable growing. 

Bite Size: Refreshments Repackaged

In Desserts, Jellies, Jelly Crystals, Sunshine, Tucker, W F Tucker & Co Ltd on May 13, 2012 at 10.46

I’ve recreated these Sunshine jelly crystal boxes in all six flavours that were in the range of the time (with a small amount of artistic license on a couple of the colour schemes) from images a couple of collectors have uploaded to Flickr over the last  year or so.

Once the second lot had appeared online, I became interested to know how more than two enthusiasts managed to get mint condition flat boxes for the same product, seemingly around the same time. Although it should be noted that the premium cards were cut out of the packaging and collected – the boxes were still retained by someone. For what reason they, presumably a child -would have kept them afterwards, if not for scrap-booking – I can’t imagine. Anyway what were the chances that a whole bunch of them should turn up at the same time? Unlikely.

Apparently these were for sale on Ebay Australia around five to six years ago, as far as one of the buyers remembers. Apart from that I don’t really know anything of the provenance, and why items from a New Zealand brand were being offered outside of the country. Having that background information can tell you a lot about a company and its products over time, such as was the previous owner an employee? Or maybe just a pack rat? Either way, it’s usually worth trying to follow up and see what one can find out because you never know where it will lead you next.

They may look like they date from the late 1950s-early 1960s era; but apparently these actually date from the early seventies, around 1971 (noting imperial is still used in the design, they would definitely be from before 1972). I’ve already previously discussed my thoughts on this very subject and how The Land of the Long White Shroud, as I like to call it,  was lagging behind in the post WWII years.

Things were a bit old-fashioned to say the least and the Kiwis remained very much tied to Mother England’s apron strings, whereas Australia embraced US-style popular culture in a much bigger way. That said, this design was very “American” in its approach, I think.

Kiwiana enthusiast Steve Williams says: “They were a bit behind the times as most of these pictures on the cards are from Project Gemini, and they even include a picture of Ed White who spacewalked in 1965 and died in the Apollo 1 fire of 1967″.

That gives a nice five year window at the most – but the packaging was definitely revised post 1964 anyway – as I’ve seen the set from that year, and posted a recreation  here when I previously wrote on the Sunshine brand and Auckland company W.F. Tucker and Co Ltd in June last year:

https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/aint-no-sunshine/

And here, an even earlier 1950s version of their box :

https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/a-product-shines-again/

In the meantime I’ve gathered a lot more information as well as images but they will have to be for the future post, when I recap on the brand.