Archive for the ‘Gregg’s’ Category

Popularity Contested

In AB Consolidated, Aulsebrook's, Ballins Breweries, board games, Bournville Cocoa, Cadbury Confectionery Ltd, Cadbury Fry Hudson, Cadbury Schweppes Hudson Ltd, Caley's chocolate, Chelsea Sugar Refinery, Coca-Cola Co., Coca-Cola Company of New Zealand, Crown Lynn, Cuesenaire rods, Doughnuts, Edmonds, Fanta soft drink, Fresca diet soft drink, Fresh-Up juices, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Gregg's Instant Pudding, Gregg's jelly crystals, Griffin’s, Hi-C juice, Holdsons games, Jaytee Patty Pans, Kaiapoi blankets, Kelston Potteries, Leed soft drink, Mackintosh Caley Phoenix, Mackintosh Caley Phoenix (MCP), Mackintosh's, McAlpine, Milk delivery, Milkshakes, N.Z. Apple & Pear Marketing Board, New Zealand School Journal, Old Spice, Phoenix biscuits, Po Ha crackers, Ready To Read books, Rowntree's, Rowntree's Smarties, Sewing stuff, Sodastream soft drink, The Ministry of Education, Tip-Top, Topsy, Tourism art, Tourist souvenirs, Uncategorized on February 2, 2014 at 10.46

1  85   likes and 49 shares  The Farmers' children's playground, Auckland - this one taken in the 1970s.

The number one most popular image I’ve posted of all time, was this picture of the whimsical playground on top of the Farmers’ department store, which was next to the cafeteria to keep the kids occupied. It was shared around Facebook dozens of times. The recall of playing on the pedal cars and trikes – as well as who took ownership of the toadstool -really struck a cord with everyone. 


One day not so long ago, I decided to look at the stats on my History Always Repeats page, and, out of curiosity – find out the impact what I’ve posted has had on my readership.
Certainly with this blog, I was really surprised to find that it wasn’t the short, snappy and visual bites people were reading the most – but the longest posts. Which I actually thought people would have less time and patience for…not at all, it seems.

The nature of Facebook is different; it’s pretty much throwaway in comparison. You post, mostly pictures in my case, add a few lines of text maybe, the reaction is pretty much immediate. It starts moving down the feed where it quickly disappears, basically to be forgotten.

Stats on pictures aren’t provided by Facebook -so I had to manually trawl through every single image (which is over 1500 pictures) and rank them in order of “likes” to each image from page members.
I’ve long criticised the unofficial list of Kiwiana icons, and I wrote an article on this topic for “In Search of the Vernacular” which was published last July in New Zealand by The Cultural Mapping Project. I have my own ideas about what is wrong and right in this respect, but even I don’t really know what is “popular” per se. Really,  the only way to really tell is to give over to the public and see what they have to say with their votes – that’s you, my readers and page members.

OK, so have you got your own mental picture of what you think are the most popular items that Kiwi Boomers, X and Y reminisce on? Is it full of Fred Dagg, ice cream cones, Pohutukawas, gumboots, kiwis, pavs and tikis? Well – wrong, wrong, and WRONG (for the most part).

So, below are the top fifty most popular images based on what I have posted since October 2012. The results were actually quite surprising. What was more surprising is what didn’t make it in. Where was Wattie’s, Cookie Bear, and Spaceman drinks? Didn’t score much with the punters, it seems. Forget beer, Beehive matches and those squeezy sauce bottles shaped like tomatoes. Not even close! Lamingtons? Forget it.

It’s quite interesting to see what really butters people’s proverbial scones when it comes to Kiwi nostalgia – and it’s certainly not the typical list of Buzzy Bees, kiwifruits, Tip-Tops and flip flops!
What does this selection tell us? It certainly indicates the way we view ourselves and culture and how very different it is from what we are fed about our own popular “image” as Kiwis.
I suppose a major factor in image ranking is that in the first few months I had an incredibly low level of members – I started with around 30 on the first day, and nothing happened for months. And people don’t often go back and check through old stuff.

It wasn’t until I posted the picture of the cafeteria playground at the flagship Farmers’ Store in Hobson Street, Auckland (ranked number one over all) that it started blowing up as the image went viral. Within a very short time I had suddenly reached 700 members.

Certainly I come from the point of view of an ex-designer and there’s always going to be a focus on the visually appealing in my edit – and thus what ends up in my final selection. To me it was interesting, that what people preferenced did generally have aesthetic appeal – but they weren’t really what I would have hand-picked as the most eye-popping items. In some ways it’s a bit of a motley selection (I mean, the Alf novelty ice cream? Really, people? Really).
I never know what people want to read or look at and try not to care too much about it, but maybe even if it’s subconsciously – I am starting to get a better idea of what content is desired and it’s not all about what I personally think or prefer. Should I change anything about the way I go about things? Probably not, otherwise it would just end up being the same as what everyone else is doing.

It seems clear the image we’ve had forced upon us is a rather false assumption – and the genre is far more subjective with a focus on childish comforts. So is it just a “popularity contest” after all? I have to say I disagree, announced while snugly wrapped in a cosy wool blanket, with a sweet bun, and a hot cup of Bournvita in a nightcap novelty mug.

2  71  likes 22 shares Little Black Sambo

2. Second  most popular on the list is the classic Helen Bannerman children’s book about the tigers that turn into butter and are used to fry pancakes. This book is still in print and back on the market today, but apparently went through a period where it was banned.


3 46 likes Ready to Read series, collection of Waterview School. Image courtesy of the Waterview Heritage Project

3. Any time I post a picture of the Ready To Read series from The Ministry of Education, including The Hungry Lambs (not pictured), it gets a very warm reception. Collection of Waterview School. Image © Carla Martell and  courtesy of the Waterview Heritage Project.


4 44 likes Spirograph

4.  I remember this being around in the 1970s, and certainly was heavily advertised on television. But clearly at number four, much more popular than I recall. 


5 39 Griffin's broken biscuits

5.  Now I knew this would be a hit. Who doesn’t remember and love broken biscuits? They hold fond memories for many, for various reasons. I remember cardboard boxes with plastic bags full of broken iced animals at the end of the aisles at Gubay’s, and also going with my grandmother and her fellow staff to the Hudson’s factory in Rosebank as a toddler to get tins of  chocolate cookie and confectionery seconds.


6 36 likes Cadbury Bournvita bakelite Nightcap mug

6. Cadbury’s issued this novelty promo “Nightcap” mug for Bournvita in 1957. It’s not something I’m really familiar with – but apparently a lot of Baby Boomers are as it caused a bit of excitement to see it again. It was still featured on the Bournvita boxes well into 1967 so they must have kept making them for that long.


8 29 New Zealand Hardie banknote for ten dollars

7.  Something seen by everyone just about every day for years – the Hardie banknote for New Zealand  ten dollars. Now obviously out of circulation and quite collectible.


7 36  like Milk Deliver s

8. Red top, green top, silver top and juice. Don’t forget to put out your empties, and the right tokens. The days of milk home deliveries, long-lost  to deregulation – something people have a romantic yearning for as it’s just one of a few milk and milk-related entries in this list.


9 29 likes chinese checkers  1 EDIT

9. The classic game of Chinese Checkers was found in the homes of most, although in my more recent day it looked a little bit different. I guess this one dates from the 1950s.


10 29 gregg's lime jelly

10.  Gregg’s jellies were around from the 1920s, rivaling Edmonds “Sure To Set”  line, as well as about two hundred other brands over the decades. But it held its own in the marketplace and is still going strong today. Through the 1960s to the 1980s and beyond they issued albums to collect cards – and birds were a trademark theme of the brand. This one dates from around 1981. Image courtesy of Steve Williams collection.


11 28 likes Topsy Ice Cream Wrapper, mid 1980s

11. Tip-Top’s classic Topsy is purported to be the company’s first novelty, named after one of the founder’s treasured pet cows. This is possible, however Choc Bombs and Eskimo Pies made their appearance in the same decade. This resonates with me because I definitely remember this wrapper well and it didn’t change much for quite a while.  Image courtesy of Steve Williams collection.


12 26 likes Vintage New Zealand wool blankets.

12. Whenever I post pictures of blankets and labels they always rate highly. We have three blanket-related entries in this top fifty. These are now quite desirable, second hand and bidding at auction can be surprisingly competitive.


13 26 likes The classic Kiwi cream bun

13. The classic Kiwi  cream doughnut – very different to the American donut – must be filled with cream, a small dollop of raspberry jam, and a dusting of sweet icing sugar over the top to be the real deal. We usually got these at the corner dairy along with a Zap flavoured milk for a Sunday morning treat. These ones seem to have currants in them which isn’t how, I think most people, consider a genuine one.


14 26 likes milkshalke makers

14. All the ingredients from the milk bar or dairy of yesteryear that you need to make a refreshing and frothy milkshake. It makes me want a cold spearmint one from Uncle’s right now!


15 26 likes Gregg’s instant pudding

15. The prize for earliest instant milk puddings probably goes to W. F. Tucker’s brand “Sunshine” in the 1910s. It took Gregg’s a good twenty years after that to get their version on the shelves. However, Gregg’s instant pudding is still around today, and Sunshine is long gone! These boxes from a 1972 advert.


16 25 The camp, the cook, and the cabbage, circa 1890s.

16. This is one of the “go figure” entries that  I guess really appealed to people. I have to admit, it’s one of my very favourites too. “The camp, the cook and the cabbage, Wairarapa”. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial collection,  Ref  1/2-022483-F .


17   25 likes Poha Fire Crackers label, image courtesy of Owain Morris Collection

17. The most popular item before and on Guy Fawkes night, was traditionally these crackers, which were available for a few cents at local dairies (milk bars).  The meaner kids would throw them at others to frighten them after school.  Image courtesy of Owain Morris collection.


18 18 23 likes Leed lemonade by the Coca-Cola Company of New Zealand, early 1970s

18. Testament to its popularity, Leed, by the Coca-Cola Co., appears in this list twice. Ironically  their namesake drink didn’t even rank in the top 100 – but Fanta – also by this company – does as well.


19  19 23 likes Gregg Pudding late 1970s-early 1980s

19. Appearing twice in this top fifty list means the humble pud from Gregg’s is something held dear by Kiwis. Personally I don’t get it. This range from the late 1970s, which by this time had ten flavours. I remember the orange one was particularly horrid. And I don’t much like the look of this one either. Oh well, no accounting for taste. 


20 23 likes Crown Lynn Book Cover - Valerie Ringer Monk

20. More lurid patterns stick out for me than soft, tasteful Martha Stewart-type pastels as pictured here. Crown Lynn has come a long way since Rice Owen Clark wrapped logs in clay and burned them to fire his own pipes in Hobsonville, Auckland way back in the 1850s, then started filling orders for neighbours who liked what they saw. The rest is history. Image courtesy of Valerie Monk and  Penguin Books.


21 22 likes the sound of the milk truck and the rattle of coins in the bottle elizabethjconz

21. Milk again, this time bottles in the classic plasticized wire holder that would nestle six in it – whether full or empty. Image courtesy of and © Elizabeth J Photography http://www.elizabethj.co.nza

22 22 likes Fanta bottles with original contents 1 EDIT copy

22. Full, unopened Fanta bottles of the 1970s.  Maybe people wouldn’t be so keen on it if they knew it had literally been invented for the Nazis by Coca-Cola. Don’t believe me? Look it up.


23 21 likes Auckland Zoo Dragon 1970s

23. This picture was taken in 1980-1981 for a promotional postcard as reader Wendy Snookes (Tisdall) remembers posing for it; that’s her in the yellow dress on the left. The Auckland Zoo’s big concrete dragon has been around since I was little, and who knows how long before that. There’s a photo of me somewhere sitting on one of the toadstools they used to have nearby, in an orange, green and purple crochet jumpsuit. You can’t get more Seventies than that. 


24 21 Kelston Potteries Daisydesign teacup and plate, with Alfred Meakin mustard  saucer late 1960s to early 1970s

24. This Kelston Potteries (a subsidiary of Crown Lynn, this makes it the second entry) Daisy design teacup and plate, with  an Alfred Meakin “Mustard” design  saucer dates from the late 1960s to early 1970s.


25 21 Inside Mum's sewing kit

25. Stuffed with Tui rick-rack, Sylko or Dewey wood reels, Dorcas pins, and random beads, hat pins and ribbons – the classic contents of a sewing kit or drawer, often stashed in one of those old wood and cast iron Singer sewing machine stands, is always a big hit with my readers. Image courtesy of and  ©  Bronwyn Lloyd  at Mosehouse Studio.


26  19 likes Old Spice aftershave bottle, 1970s-1980s

26. Old Spice by Shulton Ltd appeared on the market as an aftershave in the Sixties – and by the 1970s  the range had extended to Original, Lime and Burley each with shaving sticks and several types of deodorants. I remember my father wearing this when I was a child and his whole morning “ritual” with the aftershave, cuff-links and knotting the tie – so I can understand why it brings back fond memories for so many. It pretty much had the market locked up for a long time but I  think it lost it’s monopolyin the 1980s with the advent of designer fragrances flooding the market fell out of favour.


27 19 likes A variety of labels from wool blankets

27. Our second blanket entry is a collage of labels from various brands. I guess they bring back comforting memories for people in a number of ways – cosy winter nights, drowsily listening to parents talk, in another room, the sound of late night TV shows in the distance, sleepovers, visiting relatives, holidays, and other special occasions. It’s no surprise they resonate so much.


28  19 Have a Coke - Kia Ora was painted between 1943 and 1945 for the Coca-Cola Company of New Zealand

28. Much of the Coke advertising was always a run-on off from American campaigns – but this one named  “Have a Coke – Kia Ora” – was a Kiwi creation and specifically painted between 1943-1945  for the Coca-Cola Company of New Zealand, not long after the product went domestic.a

29 18 likes Toltoys Bug Catcher, 1970s

29. Along with other popular toys, just about everyone had one of these bug catchers in the 1970s. The dying days of manual fun. Not long after this small hand-held consoles like Donkey Kong were the rage and it was imperative to have one. That was the beginning of the end as toys entered the digital age, and imagination started to atrophy.


30  18 likes School Journal Album

30. First the School Journal was wrapping up. Then maybe it wasn’t. Now I’m not sure what’s true. It seems like it is done though,  and state-owned Learning Media is closing its doors, bringing to the end possibly the longest-running magazine in Kiwi history – having had it’s first issue published in 1907, the first instance that any kind of school book was published domestically. Cover artwork by Jill McDonald, image courtesy of the Auckland Museum Collection


31 18 likes Rowntrees Smarties box, mid 1970s.

31. Rowntree’s Smarties box, mid 1970s. Rowntree’s products were produced under licence first by Mackintosh Caley Phoenix (MCP) whose Dunedin factory as acquired along with the Bycroft business in 1961 and became known as AB Consolidated  -until it wound down in the late Seventies, and reverted to Aulsebrook’s. Image courtesy of Steve Williams collection.


32 18 likes Leed bottle, unopened and with original contents, late 1970s-early 1980s

32. Leed, a softly lemon-flavoured fizzy drink that arrived on the scene in the 1970s to great success, and was phased out in 1984 to be replaced by the more American-style Sprite. The second entry in this top fifty list for this drink, that has proven to be very popular even in retrospect – and is still pined over to this day.


33 18 likes kitchen stuff

33. The classic line-up from the New Zealand kitchen cupboard for baking: Cadbury’s Bournville cocoa powder, golden syrup from CSR, cake cups from Jaytee, and good old Edmonds “Sure To Rise” baking powder which has been around since 1879 and is still one of the few most successful brands today (although the range is now in the dozens of products).


34 18 likes cuisinere rods

34. Cuesenaire rods were invented in the early 1950s in Belgium – it’s not a Kiwi creation. They were meant to help educate in matters of elementary maths using different lengths and colours from one centimetre (white) to ten (orange). Fun to play with, but the plastic material they were made from had a really nasty smell I recall. Kind of like crayons, rotten oranges and shoe polish. Gag!


35 17 Visit New Zealand, Maori Wonderland, travel Poster, circa 1930s

35. A lovely Maori maiden features in this travel Poster, circa 1930s, by Carl Thorwald Laugesen, probably done for the New Zealand  Government Tourist Office. This is what I was talking about, when I’ve come to understand what people want. To me this is predictable. It’s a nice piece, and as exemplified in it’s ranking it has popular appeal, but generally I try to stay away from showcasing this stuff as I feel it’s territory that has been well and truly gone over a number of times by others. To the detriment of other areas of New Zealand design which have in my opinion been neglected. 


36 17 likes Sodastream bottles from the early 1980s

36. SodaStream bottles from a plastic machine that made soft drinks at home. The carbonated bullets and syrups came separately, and no water filters back then – it was filled up straight from the taps. We used to sip the highly sugary cordial straight out of the bottles, which when I think of now is disgusting. Actually, it was disgusting, then, too!


37 17 likes Maori souvenir doll

37. There were a variety of these souvenir Maori dolls over the years, all slightly differing and often seen in glass china cabinets along with other tacky but sentimental knick-knacks. Now often seen in junk shops and garage sales instead, they still have sentimental appeal but just not in today’s home, apparently.


38 17 likes Classic Aeroplanes, often seen in the five, ten or twenty cent mixture bag

38. Jet Planes were popularised by Griffin’s, but soon became generic in those little glass dairy compartments along with cent lollies, wine gums and pineapple lumps. Griffin’s was established  in the 1880s  with biscuits, and in 1885 started offering confectionery. It survived several ownership changes through the Nineties and Noughties and is still going strong today.


39 17 likes BANANA BASKET - Plastic Coated Woven Cane EDIT

39. “Banana Baskets” were around in the 1950s-1960s,  useful to hold a variety of goods for those smaller trips to the corner store, when something like this would suffice. In time they just weren’t in any way big enough to cope with the volume of goods bought for consumption from those new-fangled supermarkets – and were pretty much retired by the 1970s. I think a lot of them ended up as wool baskets. Or hanging in the garage with trowels and seeds in them.


40 17 likes A variety of steel soft drink and juice cans, of the early 1980s

40. A variety of late 1970s steel cans – Long-running Ballins (established in Auckland prior to 1876, no matter what the official company history says about Christchurch). Like American imports such as Tab, Fresca was one of the early, popular diet drinks that was introduced onto the New Zealand market. Leed we have covered, and Fresh-Up was still a small range of three or four varieties at this time but exploded into quite a large line by the mid 1980s. Hi-C juice, I don’t think lasted very long. 


41 17 Kaiapoi blanket label

41. The classic Kaiapoi blanket’s label.  Think of all the hours you spent examining them as you tried to fall asleep, or waited for everyone else to wake up. They are pretty much ingrained in all of our memories indelibly.


42  16 likes The pocket version of Simon was issued in New Zealand by Milton Bradley in 1983.

42. Simon Says was a futuristic (well, it was then) electronic game that was heavily advertised on the box. It was extremely popular for a short time with it’s disco dance floor slash Buck Rogers inspired light-up panels, honks and bleeps. They now sell for a lot in working order. This is an even rarer pocket version. It sold on Trade Me for two or three hundred dollars.


43 16 LIKES jump suits for the 1974 Commonwealth Games held in New Zealand

43. New Zealand’s snazzy uniform for the  Commonwealth Games held in our country in 1974. I think they got high jump confused with high pants.


44 16 like Air New Zealand plastic Tiki, a common promo gift to all passengers from circa 1970

44. Ah, the complimentary plastic tiki once gifted to every passenger from Air New Zealand. Once fairly common, these are now kind of collectible. I think this one is from the 1970s.


45 15 likes Tip-Top's Alf novelty ice cream box front, based on the wildly popular TV series of course.Issued around 1988

45. Was ALF really that popular? For those that don’t know, it was a TV series that ran until  from 1986-1990 about an extraterrestrial creature that crash-lands from space into a suburban family’s garage. This was a period when Tip-Top were releasing fairly sophisticated licensed novelties like Pink Panther and Mickey Mouse, amongst some. Image courtesy of Steve Williams collection.


46 15 likes The Longest Drink In Town

46. Once handed to you at every takeaway across the land – there has been a  retro revival of this ubiquitous milkshake cup design of the 1970s-1980s  recently – thanks to renewed recognition of it’s cool and unique design. It can now be found on everything from tee shirts to plastic tumbler sets and cushions (and back in a lot of takeaways of course). Image courtesy of  and © Lucinda McConnon on Flickr.  


47 15 likes Griffin's Sampler biscuit tin, circa late 1970s-early 1980s

47. Griffin’s biscuit samplers – ubiquitous at Christmas with their pink iced wafers and Cameo Cremes through the 1970s and 1980s. This brand  has remained one of the most successful in the country for more than 130 years for their biscuits and also classic confectioneries such as Deck, Minties, Sparkles, Pebbles and Snifters  among some (none of which, amazingly, made it onto the list…and Jaffas just missed out). This tin from the mid-late Eighties.


48  15 likes Fresh-Up large apple juice and orange tin, late 1970s

48. A bulk size Fresh-Up can of the late 1970s. The drink was introduced in 1961 by the Apple and Pear Marketing board in two varieties of juice to immediate success and remained a popular brand over the decades, branching out into canned fruit, pulps, and pie fillings.


49 likes A really nice pair of jugs

49. The classic McAlpine jug which was a promotional giveaway in the 1950s with refrigerators of the same name. Now highly collectible, they can sell into the hundreds depending on colour, like this rarer green example. I think the popularity of this image had more to do with the subtitle I gave it – ” showing you my lovely pair of jugs”.


50  likes  Holdson's Tiddly Winks

50. And finally, the classic Tiddly Winks from Holden – an entertainment staple of every games cupboard  at the batch or for rainy days.


All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2014. All rights reserved.


A Match Made In Kitchens: Gregg’s and Holst

In Alison Holst, Alison's Choice Wholefoods, Cookery books, Diamond Pasta, Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Gee Oh Gee drink, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Gregg's jelly crystals, Instant Desserts, Instant Drinks, Jellies, Jelly Crystals, Seameal pudding, Timaru Milling Co, Trigon oven bags on October 2, 2013 at 10.46

Gregg's - Alison Holst - Meals In Minutes recipe pamphlet late 1960s - instant pudding EDIT more copy

One of six colour product/recipe DLs that comprised Alison Holst’s “Meals In a Minute”, all featuring a Gregg’s product of the early 1970s.


Here we have two of New Zealand’s greatest food icons together; Gregg’s instant pudding and Alison Holst. Well actually, it’s debatable whether the pudding is actual food, come to think of it. I’ve already elucidated on my family’s opinions on the former here; my grandmother highly disapproved, and my mother insisted on making her own bizarre version – yet both kept the Gregg’s one in the cupboard for occasional use (why, I don’t know).

Gregg's instant pudding five pairs LIME CHOCOLATE wm copy

Note: Due to repetitive theft by those who take my intellectual property from this blog without my permission, and reproduce it as merchandise for sale on sites such as Ebay, Redbubble and Trade Me,  I have now watermarked this image. If you are interested in purchasing merch of this image you can head to my personal Redbubble store.

Anyway, let’s call it as it is – they were disgusting, in particular I remember the orange one was gross. Maybe they’ve improved now since they are still being produced today with the (pretension to) more gourmet-style flavours like Dark chocolate mousse, Banoffee, Choc-a -lot with choc chips, Strawberry swirl smoothie, Choco-fudge, and Vanilla creme.

Gregg's instant pudding five pairs CARAMEL RASPBERRY wm copy

All of these Gregg’s instant pudding boxes date from the late 1970s and were digitally recreated from just one jaffa flavour box (below left).


Gregg's instant pudding five pairs JAFFA LEMON wmj copy

It is ironic that a product designed to be so cursory in its creation has stood longer than so many others. The earliest record I have for this Gregg’s product is “instant milk puddings” of the 1930s, being produced in tandem with that eighty year old classic Seameal, a dessert that has also truly stood the test of time – as I was amazed recently to find out is still being produced today (rather like Bushell’s essence of coffee and chicory, I am not really sure who buys it, or why – but someone must). And they went from strength to strength; the range of flavours growing every decade from there and probably peaking in the 1980s. Now the range is pretty small in comparison to times gone by and definitely reflects changing tastes, or rather – those dictated.

Gregg's instant pudding five pairs ORANGE COCONUT wm copy

Like the lifespan of the Gregg’s product under discussion here, the other topic of this post has also gone the distance and more. In a career that has lasted nearly fifty years as a celebrity chef in New Zealand, Alison Holst (now Dame, thank you very much) has issued about 100 cookbooks, her first was the best-selling “Cooking with Alison Holst: Here’s How” published in 1966 a year after she started appearing on her own television show. Probably the fact that TV was pretty much in its infancy and she didn’t have a lot of competition bar Graham Kerr, had something to do with her astounding success.

Gregg's instant pudding five pairs VANILLA STRAWBERRY wm copy

That said, she may have been around for half a century – but except that I know she had some kind of pikelet mix in the 1980s and 90s, I’ve never really paid that much attention to her to be honest. All I know is that she’s tall, affable and not very drunk on television. So basically a sober Julia Child, which is kind of boring. In her article here, Aimie Cronin makes it out a number of times, to be extraordinary that Holst, for all her success and bigcheesery (yes, that is a word, because I say) is just so…pedestrian. When in fact, as well all know – in reality there’s nothing exciting about being dull and humble .

Woman's Weekly Dec 3 1973 - TRIGON GIANT ROASTIN' BAGS ALISON HOLST    (6)

One of Alison Holst’s adverts from her Trigon endorsement, Woman’s Weekly magazine, December 1973.


On the up side, it can be respected that at least she’s not some vapid attention seeking fiend who got famous and built her brand off a reality show. Holst has a solid academic grounding having graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Home Science, then studied teaching before she began lecturing in the Foods Department at the School of Home Science; all of this before stardom came around. Finally in 1997 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science from Otago University.

Meals With The Family 1967 - Here's How 1966 - by Alison Holst  copy

Alison Holst’s first best-seller “Here’s How” (1966) at left, and her second book on the right “Meals With the Family” (1967). She has since published almost one hundred titles.


At this point in time – she’s now 75 years old – her cookbook sales have surpassed four and a half million units and her business continues to thrive with her Alison’s Choice line of wholefoods – a range she has had on the market through Foodstuffs NZ Ltd (Four Square, PAK’nSAVE, Pam’s, etc) since 1994. In addition she now has a mail order business , Alison Holst Online selling her books, knife sets, cookware and accessories with son Simon (whom she has co-authored several tomes with).

Woman's Weekly Dec 3 1973 - - GREGG'S JELLY CRYSTALS - ALISON HOLST edit copy

One of Alison Holst’s adverts from her W. Gregg & Co endorsement, also from Woman’s Weekly magazine, December 1973.


These boxes are from the 1970s, and in fact I only had the Jaffa one – and made the rest following the list of flavours in my database as a guide to recreate the whole range (if anything is missing, please let me know). The pudding recipe ephemera was part a set of six glossy DL-shaped slips in bright colours that were issued in a paper sheath as “Meals in Minutes” compliments of Gregg’s, and featured six different products they were producing at the time – including a drink called Gee Oh Gee which I don’t recall at all but apparently was around at least ten years. It’s an unusual format and was perhaps slipped in a magazine like Woman’s Weekly as a giveaway promo, or maybe into one of Alison’s cookbooks – it’s hard to tell what it’s exact purpose was. During this period Holst also endorsed Diamond products (pasta by the Timaru Milling Co.) and Trigon range of oven bags and the like. The same publicity shots were used for other Gregg’s ads in 1973 so that and the swingin’ fonts used are a pretty good indication of date.




All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.

Perfitly Preserved

In "K" Brand, Agee, Alex Harvey Industries (AHI), Australian Glass Manufacturers Co. Ltd (AGM), Bond & Bond, Choysa Tea, Don and Marjorie Symonds, Finch and Company, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Gunn Gollin Ltd, Home Preserving, Irvine & Stevenson, L D Nathan & Co Ltd, LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd, Lion Nathan Limited, National Can Industries (NCI), Oak, Perfit, Preserves, Professor Helen Leach, Pyrex, Q-P baking powder, Quality Packers Ltd, Roma tea, S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, St. George, Susan Baker, Thompson & Hill, Unilever, Wiltshire NZ Ltd on April 20, 2013 at 10.46

1 Susan Baker Warhol  copy

The eternally cheerful and supremely confident preserving wiz Susan Baker, Warhol-style.


For a long period of history, bottling was the main method of preservation of foods – and there doesn’t seem to be much “specific” history of it in New Zealand since it is obviously not endemic; and therefore didn’t have much of a separate development geographically. It is what it is; stuff in jars, found the world over – even the earlier traditions of potting, drying and smoking of Maori culture weren’t that different from any other parts of the world.

2 Perfit Seal Large D1 Dome Perfit Seals - edit QUALITY PACKERS owned by LEVER   liquidation by 1993 these are probably 1980s

Perfit dome lid box, by Quality Packers (Q-P), probably produced in the late 1970s-late  1980s. The booklet price is listed as fifty cents at this time.


Although, Professor Helen Leach, a food anthropologist and historian from the University of Otago, reckons the history of it is, inexplicably, far more enduring in Aotearoa than that of the U.K. or U.S. She does have her suspicions as to why, though. I listened to an interesting broadcast on the topic where she skirted around the obvious economic issue; we’ll get to that in a moment.

Ritchie’s preserving supplies, Otago Daily Times, February 1920.


It was a given that the accomplished housewife would have a skilled knowledge of cooking and preserving. Sometimes hundreds of pounds of produce were ‘put down’ while it was in season. Anything that could be saved for later, was – even pickled eggs, which sound kind of revolting now – were quite popular for a number of decades, as anyone who watches Boardwalk Empire would have observed.

Preserved Plums about 1899 or 1900 - Puke Ariki collection New Plymouth, Taranaki

Preserved Plums c 1899-1900, courtesy of Puke Ariki  Museum collection New Plymouth. Accession No A92.979


Anyway, there is likely a lot more to it than sheer financial reasons, but I know my mum did an awful lot of bottling for that very reason – we could “pick-our-own” produce locally in the semi-rural area where we lived for very little – the kids would be put to work coring, peeling and chopping in preparation – and we’d have a greater variety of food for later in the year at a low cost. I can say as far as our family, it certainly was not done for any sense of accomplishment or sheer joy as the alternatives suggested.

PRESERVING SEASON 1902  - Ashburton Guardian - 13 February 1902 - Page 3 EDIT  copy

Fletcher’s preserving supplies, Ashburton Guardian, 13 February 1902.


NZ History online states New Zealanders had an “obsession with bottling (and) good housewives were expected to know…”  This is a bit like saying fruit grows on trees under a blue sky, since in those days it was more a given necessity than a pastime of any sort. Also – thrift, or even the exhibition of it – through perceived activities such as home arts in the culinary manner, was seen as virtuous. Ergo, there was hardly an exception when it came to cookbooks including extensive sections on this prudent approach; as well as a plethora of them completely devoted to the topic.

4A1 100_4099 edit  smaller probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Back of small orange G dome box with the booklet price  listed as 30 cents. This indicates it probably dates from the  late 1960s – early 70s. 


Domestically-based commercial canning and bottling of foodstuffs was beginning to become prevalent in the late C19th (Kirkpatrick’s “K”, Thompson and Hills‘ “OAK” , Irvine & Stevenson‘s “St George” to name some ) – however this did little to dull the ardour for home preserving – which flourished, although the technique probably may have had a significant downtime in recent decades with a notable nosedive in the 1960s (yet, Perfit claimed that in the mid 1960s Kiwi women were still squirreling away twenty million bottles per annum collectively).

4AB 100_4104 edit smaller probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Front  of small orange G dome box above. Manufacturer is Finch & Co.


The drop-off was due to a number of factors. The advent of easy accessibility to home refrigeration and new-fangled methods of freezing food meant perishables, where possible, were chucked in the ice chest to use as needed. Mass advertising of goods that became more prevalent in the 1950s began to capture an audience to branded product; and the corporatisation of just about everything possible seemed to be on the rise from the early 1960s (what big business wants people doing it themselves? There’s no money in that). By the time these factors were combined with a marked rise in time poverty – especially because of women entering the workforce full time in droves – there was no real chance of recovering the decline and ever going back to those halcyon days.

4A perfit1large booklet edit

The Perfit home preserving book was published in at least four editions through the 1960s and 1970s, and was available for a nominal price by writing to the company.


However that has not at all stopped enjoyment of the same products over time – whether home or factory made. And it has certainly had a hobby revival in the last few years with the re-trending of vintage Kiwiana and home cooking – as people have a yearning to get back to old-fashioned ways, signifying simpler times and other unfounded romantic ideas that enter their heads. “It did have a bit of a lull for a while, but it’s never really gone away”, says Marjorie Symonds, one of the current owners of Perfit.

100_4109 edit sml probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Back of large blue dome box. This probably early 70s as booklet price is now five cents up from around 1968.


Preserving memorabilia is in a little category of its own, not quite lumped in with food and drink products, but associated kitchen ephemera – “cooking stuff”. Brands of bottling gear were imported (Atlas, Mason, Fowler, Ball, Mason to name some) and a lot of companies got in on the lucrative preserve seal/ cover act like Reidrubber, KB (by IGA ), Deeko, and Jet Set (by Lane Latimer who were well known for their King brand of foodstuffs). There was Four Square and Pam’s (by Foodstuffs NZ Ltd) as well, but the two most popular were domestically produced brands Agee, and of course Perfit – which is in the oeuvre of an iconic NZ brand remembered by a number of generations.

100_4112 edit sml probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Front of large blue dome box. Manufacturer is Finch & Co.


Perfit is an old French /British surname which originally stems from “Parfait” although the name of the brand seemingly has nothing to do with that and is simply an amalgamation of two words – “perfect” and “fit” referring to their function as a superior method of sealing preserved goods.

Perfit Screw Bands 12  Green copy copy

Perfit screw bands during the period they were sold in plastic rather than the classic box.


For decades Ms. Susan Baker, Perfit‘s ”home preserving consultant” has beamed beatifically from the cartons, with a confident glow that says “of COURSE you can do it, and all your efforts will turn out perfectly, so I’m not expecting a letter from you.” However if you ran into problems, she was at your service ; you could write to her, and she would do her best to answer. Oh – and also, for the nominal fee of a few cents, send you a home preserving handbook ( which was being produced in the 1960s and 1970s that I know of, and also L D Nathan & Co Ltd. had produced an earlier one, thought to be from the 1940s that is in the MLNZ ephemera collection). I always imagined her sitting on a spindly, high stool at her little wooden desk in the high-ceilinged Perfit warehouse somewhere in a 1950s-looking industrial division in South Auckland, with a few reference recipe tomes book-ended, and a soft lamp at her elbow, earnestly answering letters from housewives as storemen bustled around in the background preparing orders. So who was this Susan Baker, that, if you were like me – was gazing back at me every time I opened the cupboard that held the Edmonds jelly crystals, Gregg’s spices, Maggi stocks, cake decorations, and bits of preserving gear? She became an unwitting icon of our childhoods. Yet, we knew nothing about her.

Perfit Seal 12 Green Screw Bands (B2) EDIT  copy

Perfit screw band box showing contents. This looks like a recent revived version of the box.


As it turns out – Susan Baker was not a real person – she was invented by the marketing department of the time. “She was a fictitious character, made up when Unilever had it. They just picked out a name and put the picture of some lady on the box. There was no such person as Susan Baker”, says Marjorie Symonds, who with her husband Don acquired both the Agee (in the late 1990s) and the Perfit brand in 2000. In reality, it would have been employees like Diane Horne , who, working at L.D. Nathan‘s Fort Street building in the 1960s – who answered the inquiries during her tenure working for Ray Lowe in the Perfit Seal Division.

42 Home Preserving by Susan Baker of Perfit - Nelson Photo News - No 75 February 4, 1967

Home Preserving article by Susan Baker (apparently) for the Nelson Photo News, No 75, February 4, 1967.


I can’t say for sure but the brand was likely created by Nathan ( today the international behemoth based in Australia –Lion Nathan Limited ); when it was known more formally as “The Perfit Seal” – the earliest ads I can find mentioning the Perfit product are 1944-1945. Museum collections show preserving jar seals by that company from the 1950s but do not mention an actual brand name.

perfit seal auto preserver and box Kauri House Auctions 2012 cropped

An early version of the Perfit auto preserver with original box, waiting to be auctioned in Havelock North last year. This one is probably from the late 1950s-early 1960s. Image courtesy of Kauri Auction House.


Don Symonds has had a long history with brands prior to that – spanning thirty years or so with agents Gunn Gollin Ltd who handled the Agee product. Belinda Cimino, a former employee, recalls that GGL dealt also in “half of New Zealand’s tea”, as well as pineapple, herbs and spices, seeds, frozen seafoods, steel and cast iron kitchenware, wine and spirits. ”

“I started with Gunn Gollin (GGL) in 1981 as national sales manager, and in this role I looked after the Agee brand along with several other brands – for many years. GGL was the distributor for Agee. This came about because GGL imported and supplied the compounds to make the rubber seal, to what was then named Alex Harvey Industries (AHI), manufacturers of the metal components. AHI did not have the expertise to market the product – hence we at GGL assumed that role. “

Perfit Seal Electric Home Preserver (M EDIT  copy

A late 1960s version of the Perfit auto preserver.


Marjorie seems to think that both Perfit and Agee stemmed from the same original business, which could be true, however the sealing components for the jars (domes, rings, seals) were both made in the same factory in Mount Wellington. I have two boxes that state “manufactured by Finch & Company Ltd.” Don Symonds says: ” I think that Finch were taken over by AHI later on. Agee and Perfit were manufactured side by side – the only difference was the colour of the compound and the outer packaging. These were both made in AHI‘s Mount Wellington factory which later became National Can Industries (NCI). Packing of the product was originally done by the Blind Institute, and later contracted out.”

100_4071 edit to blue B1 box  copy

The recent revived version of the classic blue Perfit screw band box. Most of these items are from my own personal collection.


Eventually like everything domestic that was hanging on, the factory could no longer compete with foreign manufacture and the new owners of the brands had to look overseas for another component fabricator . “Eventually they closed manufacture of the line down, hence why we now import them”, says Don. These days the product comes from Canada.

41  Ellesmere Guardian Volume 66 Issue 12 16 February 1945 Page 6 Advertisements Column 2 ORMANDYS

An early mention of Perfit in the  Ellesmere Guardian, February 1945. I’m not sure when Perfit was on the market but I am assuming that it was at the end of WWII.


The actual Agee bottles themselves were first made by Australian Glass Manufacturers Co. Ltd (AGM, established in 1915 ), their logo commonly found on many New Zealand bottles and handy for dating. The company were later famous of course for Agee Pyrex cookware – as well as insulators and baby feeders also under the Agee brand. “I believe that originally the jars were made in Australia but it could have been in the 1970s – I’m not sure of the exact date – that New Zealand changed the lid size to the US measurements – and Australia did not. hence our lids do not fit Australian jars. From then on all our jars were made domestically by a manufacturer named NZ Glass in Penrose. The jars were never sold by either Perfit or Gunn Gollin, NZ Glass sold them direct to retailers themselves. We never handled them.”

Perfit Seal - Gregg's coffee jar promo box EDIT copy

This  smaller screw bands box was a tie in product with W. Gregg & Co is probably around 1967-68 as the stamped price  shows both decimal and imperial currency – indicating it was produced when the conversion was recent enough for people to still be confused.


Perfit Seals New Zealand Weekly News  Jan 1966 - Perfit and Gregg's promotion box - prob circa 1968 as it shows price decimal and imperial

An advert of January 1966 explaining that special edition screw bands are now available to recycle 4 ounce Gregg’s instant coffee jars to use for preserves. The box indicates the Perfit preserving book is now in its fourth edition. This is the earliest reference I can find for it, though – at 25 cents.


The Perfit brand name its self wasn’t registered until 1960 by L D Nathan & Co according to IPONZ records, and interestingly, it doesn’t seem that “Susan Baker” was ever registered.

An early box of Perfit G Dome Seals made for L D Nathan sold recently on Trade Me and showed that the instruction book price had risen to fifty cents. This indicates it was produced post 1967 decimal currency introduction, and so that information tells us it was after that time Nathan on-sold the business to Unilever. A trademark registration, with no party named, shows up for the product in 1972; this seems to match up with the year of some acquisitions and changes at L D Nathan who may have decided to divest their interest in – what they likely considered at the time – a  waning brand with limited future.

5 perfit stuff 1 EDIT copy probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

A look at the design for the metal domes – early-mid 1970s.


It now seemingly stayed with Unilever through to 2000, although one box I have is marked “Quality Packers Ltd”  Nielsen Street, Onehunga ( a company founded in the 1930s who were well-known for their “Q-P” baking powder, and later also produced a serious Kiwi foodstuffs icon – Choysa tea, as well as Roma).Choysa (established in 1905) came from Bond & Bond, whose company became “LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd” after it was purchased by them around 1972, as Christine Cox, a former employee, remembers happening while she worked in the L D Nathan offices in Auckland central.

perfit jar holder copy edit

Box for the Perfit jar holder – it was a rubber-sheathed loop used for lifting bottles in and out of the auto preserver.


Eventually, the Choysa brand was moved over from LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd to Quality Packers, (which Nathan had also snapped up around the same time) to handle. Clearly Perfit was eventually slotted in under the QP division in the 1970s-1980s for reasons we don’t really know. Perhaps it seemed to be in marketplace competition with another of the numerous brands Unilever owned – or perhaps QP were just better equipped in some way to handle such a product. It could have been a myriad of reasons. So that’s how Perfit ended up being “produced” by QP. Quality Packers were liquidated in 1993 and then struck off the following year (it turns out 100% of the shares were owned by Unilever at the time) and yet they decided to retain the Perfit brand for a few more years until they finally decided they’d had enough of it.

Agee Preserving Jars and pint preserving jar box perfit seal box EDIT  copy

A variety of Agee and Perfit preserving products.


Don and Marjorie Symonds took over Agee first (Unilever had acquired it from Wiltshire NZ Ltd at some point – who had registered it around 1957), and “then Unilever…came to us and said would you like to have Perfit too? and we did. In 2003 we ceased production of Agee because it turns out there wasn’t really room for two brands in the market at that time, and Perfit was more popular”, says Marjorie. Don recallsPerfit was sold to us in 2000, as Unilever had decided to shed lines that were no longer classed as core business.”

6A 100_4079 edit  copy

An original version of the red screw bands box, probably early 1970s.


I’ve got quite a collection of the various boxes that have been issued over the years – including one that is specifically marketed for its ability to fit on a certain size of Gregg’s coffee jar that people were taking it upon themselves to recycle and use for preserving. I’d noticed that recently a lot of the older style boxes were cropping up – but in fact seemed to be a recent product. “We’ve gone back to the two older boxes, the ones that originally came out the forties or fifties. So the ones that are on the shelves now are the original box designs they used many years ago”.

6B 100_4082 edit  copy

An original version of the red screw bands box, probably early 1970s.


I ask if it was a deliberate decision to go back to that to give it a more traditional feel and honour that long history of preserving.“Well, yes – the product was only in plastic bags with a card label and they’re no good sitting on supermarket shelves” says Marjorie.” It doesn’t look good. So I said – let’s put them back into the original boxes. So we had them redone.” 

It’s good to see that every once in a while a company is upholding its own history and celebrating it, even if it’s in small ways.

Ellesmere Guardian Volume 66 Issue 13 20 February 1945 Page 3 Adverts column 1 FARMERS

An early mention of Perfit amongst the preserving range on offer at Farmers”. Ellesmere Guardian, February 1945.



Addendum, early Aug 2013: I had been trying to save up some good images for years for this article, and then of course just the week after I posted this article, someone immediately came up with a couple of much better ones, including some of the Perfit auto preserver and the jar holder with a good shot of the box it came in.

Perfit Seal Jar Holder - For Bottling copy sml

I’m not sure what to make of this seal box. I’ve never seen this version before. Presumably it’s a little older than the others I’ve featured – probably early 1960s, maybe even late 1950s. But who knows for sure. Also, who knows why exactly they needed so many different boxes for what was essentially the same basic product!

older Perfit seal box front and back 200 dpi copy sml
Addendum  mid Jan 2014: A Dunedin collector and reader of this blog kindly sent these images to me as a contribution the article. These arrived some months ago and I haven’t had time for quite a while to do all the updates I need to get around to. I’d say these pages come from two different editions of the Perfit Seal Home Preserving booklet: early 1960s and another from the mid 1960s. Unfortunately all are undated so it’s pretty difficult to tell bar the use of imperial versus decimal currency, which gives a general clue. I’ve never seen either of these versions before – just what I think of as the “regular” version that I posted in the article above, which seems to crop up on a regular basis. Anyway, for the most part they are interesting pages with some colour. All following images are courtesy of Owain Morris collection.

Perfit Seal a  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal  Preserving Items  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal b  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal large booklet  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal Susan Baker - Owain Morris Collection





All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.


A Dated Pastime

In Bliss detergent, Card games, Coopers Fresh Aire, Crest Fine Foods, D H Brown & Son Ltd, Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Four Square, Four Square Supermarkets, Games, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Grocery Archaeology, Lushus Jelly, Marmite, Mono wax paper, N W Stevens, Nugget shoe polish, Rawakelle tea, Reckitt and Colman, Red Band Biscottes, Sanitarium Health Foods, The Kiwi Polish Co Ltd, Vi-Max cereal, Vita-Brits cereal on March 20, 2013 at 10.46

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - FOUR SQUARE copy WM copy

Note: Due to repetitive theft by those who take my intellectual property from this blog without my permission, and reproduce it as merchandise for sale on sites such as Ebay, Redbubble and Trade Me,  I have now watermarked some images. If you are interested in purchasing merch of my designs you can head to my personal Redbubble store.


Trying to date items can be a difficult prospect but I am quite good at it – I have a sort of “sixth sense” when it comes to this task. I set myself to it by “zooming in”- I kind of squint my eyes, and really focus hard. It takes a while but I can usually get an item down to a three year period, and sometimes even down to the correct year without knowing much about it. I guess it is just being a highly visual person with an almost photographic memory who has been collecting for decades. It goes in and pretty much just lodges there forever. Apparently I have “a mind like a steel trap”. Which can be a great thing – but on the other hand, there are events you’d probably rather forget. Anyway, moving right along…

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s -MARMITE copy WM copy

As much as I have a vast storehouse in my cranium (although I still think I know very little and have a lot to learn) and a huge collection of images and books to draw on – sometimes it is just no help.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - VITA-BRITS copy WM copy

Point in case is this snap set that Foodstuffs (N.Z. ) Ltd , owner of many brands which I previously covered here, issued as a (presumably) give-away promotional item – something they did a lot of to promote their business over the years (I cover all that in the linked article). Back in the day all kinds of card games were a very popular pastime. I’m not sure when they started to fall out of favour, but I’m taking a guess at the early 1980s – coincidentally around the time that computer games popularised – small hand-held consoles like Donkey Kong were a “must have” for us kids and probably the death knell of more manual entertainment.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - MONO copy WM copy

This particular set was issued for Four Square supermarkets – but this is not the only promotional card set they did – there were two happy families sets over the years – one which I think was done in the late 1950s (I’ll get to that further on) and another one around 1981 (which I have posted on a few times over the last couple of years as I make my way through restoring and exploring each set).

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - BLISS copy WM copy

Anyway, with the one I showcase here – I am really not sure on exactly when it was produced – you would think with over ten different products it would not be so hard to work out with their combined company histories. Not the case.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - VI-MAX copy WM copy

Many of these products had already been around for decades and had changed little – subtle adjustments to packaging can be a good indicator of dates. However the design of Nugget polish featured, for instance – is of little help when it comes to narrowing the date as the design was barely modified over decades and was in use through the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and into the early 1960s.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - RAWAKELLE copy WM copy

One telling point which helps me “arrange” the timeline is that Foodstuffs issued one of the happy families game sets around this time – I believe for a number reasons just previous to the snap set coming out.

4 square happy families cards early 1960s 1961-1967 (2) copy

Some of the cards from the slightly earlier happy families set issued by foodstuffs in the late 1950s, but featuring many of the same products.


four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - RED BAND copy WM copy

Why do I think that? Because unlike the snap set – it features three products that have some clues that help me date it as such – and those are Crest canned foods, Jojo jelly crystals, and Rawakelle tea.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - GREGG'S copy WM copy

I know that Crest Fine Foods was sold in 1959 and the logo was being changed very shortly before that date. In fact I have some of the labels where the art department for Butland Industries has painted out the old logo and pasted a new one over it – so “in transition” at this point. The happy families set shows the old logo . A photo of a Woolworths store of 1964 shows the logo fully changed over. The snap set shows the new logo as well as a completely new can design for tinned peaches.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - CREST copy WM copy

Also, Rawakelle tea, which is also featured, was like Pam’s a Four Square/ Foodstuffs (New Zealand) Limited brand that was launched in 1957 . Jojo jelly, also featured, was launched in 1958 by N W Stevens/The Kiwi Polish Co Ltd that also produced Lushus (many baby boomers will remember this very popular jelly crystal brand) as well as a number of other desserts.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - COOPER FRESHAIRE copy WM copy

So the happy family set was produced after 1957 and likely before 1960.

And where does that put me with dating the snap set?

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - NUGGET copy WM copy

The snap set features a new design for Crest peaches so that’s my cut-off date on the lower end of the scale. It’s also worth noting that in the meantime since the happy families set had been issued – the Rawakelle packet had been the recipient of a makeover – but not wildly different. the only 1960s image I have seen of Cooper’s Fresh Aire is a  January 1962 ad  in which the can design seems to have been revised from what appears on the snap card. The product was definitely available by 1961 as exemplified by an ad in the New Zealand Film archive. This was still quite early days for television and the fact that they went to the effort to make an ad in this medium indicates it was a new product on the market and they wanted to make a splash.

snap box  copy

Outside of the early 1960s snap set box, a bit worse for wear.


four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - SNAP WM copy

So in summary, I would date the snap set at some time between 1960 and January 1962. That gives us the answer – probably 1961. If you asked me on first glance to pick an era, I would have said 1950s. If you showed me the two together, I would say that the snap set was issued before the other. But it goes to show if you really concentrate and try to figure it out with some information that has been gathered to help – the facts don’t lie!

All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.

The Baron of Britomart: John McKail Geddes and Brown Barrett

In Albert Brewery, Anchor coffee, Annabella Mary Geddes, Arthur Cleave & Co, Barrett and Co, Barrett Ltd, Britomart precinct, Brown Barrett, Brown Barrett (Picton) Limited, Browno for gravy, Buckland’s Building, Butterfly tea and coffee, C. H. Furness & Company, coffee, Colombo Garden tea, Colonel Wynyard, Couldrey House, Crown coffee, Dominion Breweries, Ehrenfried Brothers, Elam School of Art, Excelsior brand, Geddes Terrace, Golden Butterfly coffee, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, H.P. Sauce, Hazelbank mansion, Hazelwood House, Hermann Brown, J. Nimmo & Co., J. Wiseman & Sons saddlery, John McKail Geddes, Judge Thomas Bannantyne Gillies, Kempthorne Prosser & Co, Lion tea, Mary Geddes, Newton Meat company, Olympic swimming pool, Rangiwai House, Sinclair Geddes Estate, Sir Frederic Truby King, Standard tea, Tea, The Excelsior building, The Masonic building, The New Zealand Plunket Society, The Perano Brothers whalers, The Stanbeth building, tomato sauce, UNXLD, Wenderholm House, Whittome & Stevenson, William Webster, XLCR brand, YWCA on December 29, 2012 at 10.46

BROWN BARRETT'S RANGE 1948 edit copy

An advert featuring the Brown Barrett range from a Four Square (Foodstuffs NZ Ltd) Christmas brochure, 1948. Image courtesy Mike Davidson collection.


Brown, Barrett and Co was a longstanding foodstuffs company that was present in New Zealand from the late 1860s until the mid- 1950s.
Their biggest trade hands down for many decades was tea and coffee; but of course like all the ubiquitous “coffee and spice merchants” of the era – also dealt in a variety of peppers and sundry other taste bud- ticklers that were utilized to dress up dreary (and no doubt often slightly stale) meals.
So, how did John McKail Geddes become involved in the industry? Through a very early Gregg’s, as it turns out.
He was born in Malta in 1844 to Alexander Geddes and Janet Stevenson, but obtained his education in Scotland. He was by accounts a much liked man – who “bubbled over with good spirits”, and is described as “exhaling a wealth of good nature and camaraderie.” It is nice to have those personal descriptions – as they are far and few between of my subjects in usual circumstances – given that the focus is often on success, notoriety and finance.

Golden Butterfly Coffee - Brown Barrett - Observer 8 August 1908 Page 11 copy

Observer, August 1908. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


His first foray into the workforce in the U.K. was for a Solicitor; at this time he is known to have been residing in Perth Burgh, Perthshire. In 1862 he decided to emigrate to New Zealand aboard the ship Nelson, where he promptly went to Dunedin and began working at W. Gregg & Co., where he learned how to roast coffee, says his grandson, also named John McKail Geddes (now in his eighties, I’ll refer to him just as John Geddes for this article to avoid confusion).
With some years of experience in the industry now under his belt – in 1870 he moved to Auckland and joined the company of Brown, Barrett and Co, which had been founded two years previously.

Brown Barrett's Baking Powder label  copy

A recreation I have made of the Brown Barrett Baking Powder label, in a photo further down,  likely from the 1930s.


Hermann Brown (b 1836) was a German who started the business in1868 with his partner of the time in Thames, in the heady days of the first big gold rush there – upon which the company built its early and quick success. It wasn’t the first boom in this “new” country – so smart guys who wanted to make a pound knew how to capitalize on the communities that quickly grew up around any industry explosion, no matter how brief. I found a reference to him being an early, yet short-lived, settler in the Pahi-Paparoa area in the mid 1860s. He claims to have farmed for the first 18 months or so before starting the concern and then making his way “to town” to establish himself there.
Little is known (nor have I been able to find anything) of the other half of the original equation, Mr. Barrett, except that he is described in the news as a “co-religionist” – which must mean he, like Brown, was also Jewish. By 1869 the partners had removed to Auckland from Thames and established the Brown Barrett and Co’s Steam Coffee Mills in High Street, Auckland. In a December advert the partners, calling themselves Brown & Barrett, claim to have had 15 years experience in the trade (I don’t know what kind of maths they were using – perhaps it was different then). Actually, they purchased an already established set-up from J. Nimmo & Co. Brown is quoted as recalling “only six or seven buildings in Customs Street, and Quay Street – it was practically non-existent “ – very early days for the town, but never too early for coffee. Barrett departed at some point, most likely in the mid 1880s – leaving Brown and Geddes – of which the latter quickly progressed to partner. Hermann Brown, who seemed to also have been the Imperial German Consul to Auckland for quite a number of years, was still partner in 1888, but had left the country by 1891, returning to Sondershausen, Germany for the rest of his life.

Butterfly Tea - Lion Brand Tea - Brown Barrett Ltd - Auckland Star  19 April 1923  Page 13 copy

Auckland Star, April 1923. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


Records of the 1880s-1890s also show imports such as tobacco, soap, refined sugar, potted fish (sandwich pastes), wax candles, acetic acid (used as a food additive – mostly for the pickling of vegetables and other foods), cocoa, preserved oysters, methylated spirits, confectionery, as well as embroidery machines and patterns. And in the 1900s-1910s – Californian Syrup of Figs and lime juice, preserved fish and ginger, sauce, writing ink, culinary essences, canned apples, milk and fish, mustard, canned and preserved pineapple, pocket vestas, and nuts.
Brown Barrett also seemed to have some sort of arrangement up until the mid-late 1890s with Dominion to use beer for something brewed (vinegar starter perhaps? ), a partnership which ceased when Dominion merged with Ehrenfried Brothers and incorporated operations at the Albert Brewery, Queen Street.
Geddes was sole owner by 1892 – now the rich and successful man he had always dreamed of being. Like many of his ilk who were winners in the foodstuffs industry he wasn’t quite as bold as to step into politics and the like (he left that field to his wife); but he certainly played his part as a civic-minded individual – being the captain of the A Battery of the Auckland Artillery, prominent in the Masons, and president of the Auckland Bowling Club amongst other endeavours.

Brown Barrett & Co - The Drink Question - Bay Of Plenty Times, Volume XXIV, Issue 3630, 29 November 1897, Page 6

Bay Of Plenty Times, November 1897. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


He married Annabella Webster (b 1864, Mangungu, Hokianga, NZ,) in 1887 in Devonport. Geddes was already well-known as a wealthy merchant when he wed the quarter -Maori Mary, as she liked to be known – who was 21 years his junior. It should be noted that Mary had a fairly interesting family history herself, as daughter of noted pioneer and organ builder William Webster. Mary Geddes is often quoted as being half-caste, but in fact this is not true; it was her mother, Annabella or (Anne) Gillies.

coffee and chicory ads  copy

All from the Evening Post, January 1925, excepting the periwigged gentleman who was advertised in  January 1927. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


They had seven offspring: Mary Annabella (b 1887), Alexander (b 1890, later chairman of anthropology at Auckland Museum, a proponent of the Polynesian arts there), Jessie (b 1891), William (b 1893-1950, known as Bill, later Lt. and MC, and All Black for a split second), John (also known as Jack, 1895-1903), Robert (b 1898), and Hermann (b 1901, no doubt named in honour of Geddes’ late business partner, known as Mac, later Waitemata City Councilor).
Alexander, William and Hermann are known to have entered the family business, William as managing director and Hermann as factory manager after WWII.

Self Help cook book 1939 - Brown Barrett's tomato sauce copy

Advert from the Self Help Cookbook, 1939.


The first two children were born at “Wairere”, a  house  in Alfred St, Auckland central. The family recalls it was quite near Greys Avenue, overlooking a gully. However they were well-known for their  two story mansion, “Hazelbank”, which Geddes purchased in 1892 (NA 63/119, LINZ records), the year he became owner of the company and had begun to make his fortune.  It was once a seven acre estate at 56 Wynyard Street in Auckland central (the stables were situated where Carlaw Park offices and car park are now). Another source claims that McKail Geddes was residing in Manukau, Auckland, in 1890, which may be possible.  Another vague relative of the family, (who felt no need to give me further explanation), claimed that all of the children were born at Wairere, which also happens to be the name of an area over and north-west of the Waitakere ranges. This led me to the assumption (and a bit of a goose chase) that it was a homestead and/or country retreat for between 1924-1928 Brown Barrett is advertising for a farmer and farmhands, and handyman with knowledge of gardening to “take charge of a small farm at a seaside residence, about fifty miles from Auckland”. As it turned out this wass more likely to be in regards to “Wenderholm” (now known as Couldrey House) the seaside home of Major Whitney which Mary McKail Geddes purchased in 1919 as a country residence (she also ran cattle and pigs on the property). It was sold off in 1928  to Captain Thomas Caradoc Kerry. But as Lisa Truttman points out, in his time “McKail Geddes owned swathes – central Avondale, parts of the Wolverton area (Blockhouse Bay side), and some land in the Bay.”

Looking west along Customs Street East from the corner of Commerce Street showing the Excelsior Building George Grey Collection

Before it was cut in half: “Looking west along Customs Street East from the corner of Commerce Street, showing the Excelsior Building.” Note Kempthorne Prosser signage. Courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W106.


More on Hazelbank later, but for now, back to the main topic. Through the late C19th to the early twentieth century, Brown Barrett had several brands of tea such as UNXLD, Colombo Garden, Standard, and Excelsior (sometimes referred to as XLCR). but the most popular were Butterfly and Lion, lasting well into the 1920s and 30s (in an Auckland Star advert for Butterfly of October 1915, the company claimed the brand was over fifty years old which cannot be true given that it would pre-date formation of the company).
Coffee was on offer under at least eight different labels over time from the 1870s on including Anchor, Golden Butterfly, Lion and Crown brands (Gregg’s also had an Anchor Brand, Lion Brand  and Crown Brand coffee at the same time just to confuse the issue) – and the Brown Barrett brand was still being produced until at least the end of the 1940s in a can.
A brand launched in the 1890s, UNXLD – which comprised of baking powder, self raising flour, egg powder, cornflour, coffee essence, pepper and spices, as well as coffee and tea.
Coffee/Chicory essence or combinations thereof, were issued under the Excelsior and UNXLD brands with their self-named label also hanging on into the early 1950s.

BUTTERFLY COFFEE BROWN BARRETT AND CO - Poverty Bay Herald10 December 1910 Page 3 copy

Poverty Bay Herald, December 1910. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


However by the late 1920s they had pretty much dropped all the superfluous, frilly names which were likely created to give the impression of variety, and thus less of an appearance of monopoly in the marketplace. The self-named named Brown Barrett brand emerged as the lasting and triumphant, if predictable, one – and had a fairly broad range of products in its heyday of the mid 1920s to mid 1950s: Tomato sauce, peanut butter, Worcestershire, mustard, cocoa, coffee essence, cordial (orange and lemon, lemon barley water, grapefruit), coffee and chicory, “Browno” for gravy, fruit juice, curry powder, pepper, custard, baking powder, jelly crystals, “H.P”. sauce (it’s unclear whether they actually had a license from the British manufacturer Garton, at some point to make it domestically, or were just agents), and canned goods included tomato soup, sausages and beans, spaghetti, whitebait and coffee.

BROWN, BARRETT AND CO. (John Mckail Geddes)

John McKail Geddes, from the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902. Courtesy of the NZ Electronic Text Centre.


Like a few other companies over time such as Nelson Moates and Fuller-Fulton, they advertised often and plenty with a variety of highly illustrative, amusing adverts for their products some of which I have posted here further down.

Brown Barrrett sign outside H and J Binsted Avondale where they later owned the land 1880s

A general store, later extended in the early 20th Century to become Atkinson’s drapery, Avondale, Auckland 1880-1889, showing a Brown Barrett sign painted on the building side. Courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A9460.


Geddes retired from the company in 1908, and died 1910 in Auckland of complications from Diabetes. A newspaper article of 1906 reports him being run over by a car but this does not seem to have had anything to do with his rapid decline. In a weird coincidence, his former partner Brown also had a transport-oriented accident the same year upon his visit to Auckland – where he gave a lengthy interview to the paper about his life in pioneer times and the founding of the company. Before he left, he ended up falling foul of a tram, ending up in critical condition with three broken ribs amongst other injuries .

brown barret baking powder of the 1940s and probably 1950s copy

Various vintage pantry items. The Brown Barrett tin on left dates from the mid 1940s-early 1950s and appears in the 1948 ad at the top of the post, the one on right likely late 1930s and I recreated the label – three images down from the top of the post. 


Mary died much later than her husband in Remuera, lasting until the ripe old age of 91 in 1955 . But her finances were likely somewhat reduced in comparison to former times. She had been left a rich widow both from company profits as well as shrewd land and building investments by both her husband and Brown together, who were in a position to take advantage of the late 1880s financial depression that ravaged others. As such, by 1899 they owned the entire block in Customs Street, Britomart, with the exception of “Buckland’s Building” at number 34 on the corner of Gore Street. Geddes Terrace, which was named after one of the number of tracts of land he owned- this one in Avondale – still exists today. Lisa Truttman from Timespanner covered his property doings here in “Binsted’s Corner”, and more about Geddes, including his bronze medal for rescue, in “The Man Who Named a Terrace”

Butterfly Tea - Brown Barrett Ltd - Auckland StarPage 12 copy

The brand was sometimes separately advertised as “Blue Butterfly”. Auckland Star, October 1924. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


Mary Geddes is well remembered in her own right (ironically far more so than her husband now) as an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and welfare – as well as an early champion of Maori culture – long before it was fashionable or even particularly acceptable, especially in the upper echelons of the “society” she was part of. She was, in fact, as a good friend of Sir Frederic Truby King, and became one of the founding committee members of Plunket, amongst other organizations. She played a significant role in the YWCA for many years and was president for six. “They were pretty predominant people in Auckland”, opines Andrew Geddes, “they paid for the frontage of the Saint Andrew’s church in Symonds street, including the tower.” However according to the history books, it was not until 1882 that the tower and portico were added, long before the couple even met. Perhaps they made some contribution to church hall or the new organ, during 1904-1907. However Mary was the proponent of the building of the William Gummer-designed YWCA headquarters in Queen Street. Quite a fearless and extraordinary lady, it seems.

HP Sauce - Brown Barrett Ltd - Auckland Star  24 June 1926 Page 20 edit copy

 Auckland Star, June 1926. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


While things were very comfortable with just over 100,000 pounds banked upon her spouse’s passing (that’s roughly eleven million bucks today, not including the various properties, and the profits that continued to roll in), she utilized her wealth to further these philanthropic concerns and was throwing open the grand family home and grounds for parties and fundraisers well into the early 1930s. “Oh yes, I spent some time at Hazelbank as a child. So we grew up with all those people, marvelous parties there. Christmas with a tree and real candles (on it)…. I think once they set fire to the tree and the fire brigade had to come and put it out!”, says John Geddes.

Self-Help Co-op recipes and household hints 1932 - Brown Barrett's tomato sauce   (1)

Advert from the Self-Help Co-op recipes and household hints cookbook, 1932.


The depression hit Brown, Barrett & Co hard and the business apparently “went under” according to one source. I haven’t found any evidence of this, and since they didn’t seem to close their doors – exactly how far under is a question. Certainly Hazelbank had to eventually be dispensed with and was acquired by the government in late 1939, along with the adjacent Sinclair Estate property – no doubt at a cut-rate price. It was immediately earmarked for demolition but this was not done until much later. A university map of the grounds dated 1959 shows the site marked “Sinclair Geddes” clear, bar one odd building to the south end which is clearly Hazelbank.

Butterfly Lion XLCR Standard Teas - Baking egg powder pepper spices coffee - Brown Barrett - Auckland Star, Volume LII, Issue 164, 12 July 1921, Page 10

Auckland Star, December 1898. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


However demolition did eventually happen, and it’s a shame – since at the time, it was one of the older grand houses left in Central Auckland city – and significant as well, having belonged to Auckland colonial figures Judge Thomas Bannantyne Gillies (who served as Attorney-General amongst other posts, and apparently drew up the country’s first code of law) and later Colonel Wynyard (also quite a talented artist who did many sketches of early Auckland city, but oddly – not one of his own house that I have seen). An article mentions numerous military items of archaeological interest having been found on the grounds.

BROWN BARRETT WORCESTERSHIRE Evening Post, Volume CXI, Issue 12, 15 January 1926, Page 4

 Evening Post,  January 1926. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


Up until this time it was known as “Hazelwood“, but the McKail Geddes family sought to slightly rename it to truly claim it as their own and the “bank” obviously refers to the steep grade of the property down towards Grafton Gully. The mansion eventually became part of the Auckland University; and housed Elam School of Art, probably sometime after 1949 when the Grammar School Building burnt to the ground.

Garden party at Hezelbank Auckland Star, Volume LVIII, Issue 281, 28 November 1927, Page 10

Fundraiser for Young Women’s Christian Association at Hazelbank, Auckland Star, November 1927, with a demonstration of YWCA exercises. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


Eventually it was replaced with more practical buildings around the early 1960s, and a reference to it in an article about the new Elam building of 1963 states “apart from a lot of scrub and rubbish, some magnificent trees were left as legacies from the old Geddes house, long since vanished with the exception of the picturesque old bakehouse wall of brick…The condition and location of the wall made its retention undesirable… the building was very deliberately sited as to enable the retention of as many trees as possible.”

Auckland city alongside the harbour in 1906 Signs advertising the business and Brown Barrett & Co EDIT

“Auckland city alongside the harbour in 1906”, Showing signage advertising Brown Barrett & Co. Courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial Collection, Ref: 1/2-008338-G


These must have included some of the Hazel trees after which the property was originally named. John Geddes remembers as a child the big old Pohutakawa trees being quite impressive in size, even then. I suspect this part was facilitated by Hermann “Mac” McKail Geddes, since in a news article of the time he was 69 and he says he was born in Hazelbank. Hermann “Mac” McKail Geddes and his wife removed to Titirangi where they bought the heritage-listed “Rangiwai” house and gardens behind Lopdell House, the remainder of the 2000 acre Atkinson Estate. He became well-known as a proponent of flora protection and associated zoning issues, while his wife Ethelyn started up Titirangi Theatre in 1935. All round they were an active and interesting family. In this case he had a personal interest to retain some of the historic garden of the Sinclair Geddes block.

half of excelsior building L and Stanbeth House middle 2009

Customs Street East: The Stanbeth Building in the middle, Excelsior building to the left, and part of the Masonic building to the right. © and courtesy of geoff-inOZ on flickr.


An overlay of the 1959 map with current satellite imagery shows the new Elam building laid out exactly on the site of the mansion. I would say that the building was demolished between 1959 and 1963.
I am not sure what the remaining land was used for but there were plans to build state housing flats there from the outset of the acquisition – which was still being discussed five years after the purchase, into the mid 1940s. This scheme never came to pass. Says John Geddes: “No, that never happened. They were very careless actually and they just shut the place up. They didn’t even use it for the war. The family always thought it was a bit of a failure that they didn’t keep it for something.” Unfortunately I was unable to find any images of the mansion at all, but surely a noted building with a series of remarkable occupants would have had to have been the subject of a photographer’s lens, and stashed somewhere? I had no luck.

The Masonic 30-32 Customs Street East, Brown Barret McKail Geddes

Masonic House, with Buckland House – the only building in the block not owned by Brown Barret & Co – distinguished by the last three rows and square street front windows on the Gore Street end. Courtesy of the Britomart website, © Cooper and Company 2012.


All that said, somehow the actual “Brown Barrett” brand lasted well into the 1950s. There is mention of it, now with the name slightly adjusted to Brown Barrett Ltd, with premises at 79 Carlton (later Carlton Gore) Road, Newmarket – a building was auctioned in 1930 (possibly the Stanbeth, but maybe the Excelsior since soon after that was halved to widen the streets) and the company moved. It was likely here that the factory was victim of a serious blaze, one of the worst of the year it was said – in 1940. Andrew Geddes recalls “… a kauri four storey building. It was a great big wooden building right next door to Whittome & Stevenson’s. They were in total opposition to each other, both producing similar products.” That must have made for some interesting times. John Geddes remembers : “I was a kid at that stage and I would go and help pack the  Butterfly tea, which before the days of plastics each box had a fancy little painted lead toy in it – soldiers, ducks sheep, cows. We would try to collect a set. Growing up at the factory was part of my childhood. It had a lovely view of the playground and the Olympic Pool nearby which my father had a hand in helping build.” In the 1940s, Butterfly was sold off to L.D. Nathan who were keen to have the total market.  The last adverts I find for the brand are in 1938, presumably it was only purchased for its market share and then subsumed.

C H Furness sign on the back of Stanbeth House EDIT  copy

Furness & Company signage seen from the Britomart car park, on the back of the Stanbeth building. They were the major lease-holder from the 1920s to the 1970s.


Government records show that the company applied for a fish canner’s license for the Auckland branch in 1942, and then in 1943 for Picton, demonstrating that, the financial difficulties of the 1930s aside – the company had grown enough to open a South Island production set-up . John Geddes remembers his father “Mac” (Hermann “Mac” McKail) Geddes “got interested (in the possibility of tinning seafood) and he started running around in the war time (looking for opportunity) . He moved to Picton and set up a very efficient factory. I think it came about mostly because of their own initiative, but they had the advantage of being part of the scheme of providing food to the Brits on convoy. It was a bit of a picnic really.” He remembers “Dad was an expert on fish canning”, starting with pilchards out of Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds, for the British market. Then after that they moved on to canning can eels in Christchurch in Lake Ellesmere. They were “big nine footers”, recalls John. “Those too were put into cans and sent off to London. That was a seasonal thing because the catching of eels was done with the great rise and fall of the lake and the immigration of eels to sea – when it rose to such a height it would break through the sandbanks and somehow the eels knew and would swarm out. That was the principal time when father was there catching them. He used to anticipate this by getting bulldozers and dredging channels before the big high tide so the salt water would come pouring through and all the eels, thinking the banks had been broken , would come charging up and they would come up these channels and be gaffed.” (a gaff is a large iron hook attached to a pole or handle and used to land large fish). Later, there was whale meat production which we will get to further on in the story.

lift accident in city warehouse  copy

 A lift crashed in the Stanbeth building, after the teeth on a cog wheel broke and a rope unwound, and falling forty feet with five passengers in it  – including one of the daughters Mary Geddes. John Geddes says “…as she sailed to the bottom she had the presence of mind of counting the floors she passed!” Although most passengers broke their ankles, she got off with a sprain and went on to  undertake significant social work throughout Australasia, like her mother. Auckland Star, 31 January 1929. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


The canner’s license seems to have been filed for cancellation by 1953, and this is that last official mention of a date I can find directly associated with the company.
By 1946 Brown Barrett (Picton) Limited also obtained a license for tinning fruit and vegetables. Throughout they were constantly advertising situations vacant (one requiring “splendid girls”, another “intelligent men, no experience essential”) – for food packers, manufacturing assistants, washers, labelers, bottlers and other staff. It goes unsaid – war time meant short labour and they did have a contract to supply tomato-based products and whale meat for the troops, whilst continuing to make “non-essentials”, right up until the end of the war. My favourite ad insisted that the prospective employees “apply in their own handwriting.” I don’t know whose else they would use.

Mary (Annabella Mary Geddes) (centre back) and her family, 1890s

Anabella Mary Geddes (centre back) and John McKail Geddes (right) and their family, 1890s. The man to the left is likely Mary’s father William Webster. Private collection, courtesy of the Te Ara website. 


Of course the most famous building now associated with Brown, Barrett & Co is “The Excelsior”. It opened around 1897 at 22-24 Customs Street East, Britomart.
It was actually one of four warehouse buildings that the company requisitioned or built on in the vicinity and it was never actually used by Brown Barrett for the business – they had another premises at 30-32 Customs Street East, two doors down from The Excelsior, “The Masonic” – where they operated the coffee roasting house. (Previous to this they had roast or mill premises around the corner in Wyndham Street, and before that a very well-established set-up in Elliott Street near the entrance of Darby, from 1876 to the early 1890s; High Street previously mentioned was the very first, before that).

Instead, The Excelsior was the long term home of many other businesses. The first to hold a lease were Kempthorne, Prosser & Co (drugs and medicines, beauty and health products, manures and fertilizers, cleaners, culinary essences). Later, J. Wiseman & Sons saddlery, and Arthur Cleave & Co, printers. In the 1940s  it was a Bank of New Zealand. The western portion was removed in the 1930s to widen Commerce Street so it is today half its size, which sounds rather forlorn – but only looks narrow.

uni map copy copy

A map of the Auckland University grounds of  1959, showing Hazelbank marked in red on the Sinclair Geddes block. At this time it was being used as Elam School of Art. Published in “UOA Main Campus Development”, 1987. Courtesy of the Fine Arts Library, The University of Auckland Library.


The Masonic was acquired in the late 1880s and remained in the Geddes family until 1945. Today Buckland’s Building at number 34 is almost indistinguishable from The Masonic, appearing as one large building – however the last three vertical rows of windows and the square street front windows define it on the Gore Street end.

Next door , between The Excelsior and The Masonic, is Stanbeth House at numbers 26- 28. The front half of this four-storey building, on Customs Street East, was built in 1885 as a warehouse for Coupland & Company. The rear half, facing Galway Street, was added by McKail Geddes in 1908. A number of Kauri gum merchants in the early 1900s,  the Old Age Pensions Office, the New Women’s Club, in the forties the Auckland Wool Stores and British General Electric, and also some eateries  – grill rooms and cafés – were some of the occupants over the decades.
Today the backs of the buildings are fairly unremarkable, facing on to the car park area. However, I did spot a painted sign that remained up on the wall in a corner – “C. H. Furness & Company” . They were the major leaseholder from the 1920s to the 1970s in the Stanbeth building. Who knows how old it is, but it’s nice it has been left – maybe not deliberately.

Excelsior Coffee and Butterfly Tea ads 1905-1921 VARIETY copy

A variety of Excelsior Coffee and Butterfly Tea ads from between  1905-1921. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


The Excelsior, Stanbeth, and Masonic were recently refurbished with attention to heritage detail, as part of the recent rejuvenation on the Britomart precinct.

Post-war, a number of events happened one after the other that knocked the company down and every time it became a little more difficult to stand back up.

From the mid to late 1940s, the end came for many Government ration contracts that had been set up with many businesses to supply the troops. They were extremely busy, stressful and distracting times, with a lack of manpower to boot. But with all that going on, some like Wattie’s didn’t take their rise in fortunes for granted: they saw this obvious change as inevitable in coming and made moves to get around the sudden massive dip in profits by looking to development of other products . For others succession planning to cope was not so successful.

Butterfly tea - UNXLD baking powder flour coffee essence coffee pepper Brown Barrett co Observer  2 December 1907 Page 20

Observer, 2 December 1907. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


In 1950 another serious blaze at the Carlton Gore Road site almost completely destroyed the business with damage estimated at over £50,000. Most of the two main floors, with equipment and stock, were lost but the front portion of the (two-storey, not four, the article states) building and basement was saved. Six fire engines were engaged and water was pumped from the Olympic swimming pool nearby. John Geddes recalls : “a dramatic fire, at night time caused by an electrical fault – and two stocks of coffee and sugar being in close proximity to each other. One caught fire then it moved to the other. It happened when I was getting ready for a stage two exam for my BA in economics. I wasn’t even allowed to go and watch it because I had to get organized for the next day! “ says Andrew Geddes: “It happened when I was at school, Kings Prep. I remember I looked out through the dormitory windows and I could see the whole side of the building on fire and then it blew up. The whole shebang burnt down. They rebuilt, but that consumed a lot of the company capital”. Andrew Geddes thinks it was mainly the fire that started the downhill run of the company’s deterioration. John Geddes remembers that “it didn’t end the company; the company have insurance and if anything had improved it!”

Brown Barrett's coffee and chicory essence Advertisement in The Mirror early 1930s

Brown Barrett Advertisement 1930-1935. Kenneth Magill collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. Ref: C-105-015.


Meanwhile in the South Island, after Brown Barrett Ltd moved on from Lake Ellesmere, they got into a very successful business of canning whale meat – “tasty and nourishing, cooked ready to serve with salt added, immerse in boiling water for 15 minutes to serve hot, ideal for pies and stews” read the can labels. “Thousands of tins were sent away to famine-stricken Europe”, says John. One contract alone was for the equivalent 304 tons. The Perano Brothers’  business was established in 1911, and Joseph and Gilbert Perano carried it on until 1964 when whaling was brought to an end. However while it lasted it was a very lucrative partnership indeed. “They cut the meat up into three ton steaks, carted them into Picton to the factory and then as they did with the pilchards , they would salt it in barrels to store it. Eventually it went to Britain canned”, recalls John Geddes. Things were going well, apparently until the Agricultural Department intervened and according to John “this is where the problem came in – the content of a shipment went bad because it hadn’t been properly cooked, which it would have been if they had been allowed to stay with fisheries department. But they were directed to do what was required by the agricultural department instead. It went off as the ship was coming in to Southampton so that meant that the whole consignment had to be tossed. It was government bureaucracy” that caused the problems.

Brown Barrett's coffee and chicory essence, Advertisement in The Mirror 1 January 1933

Advertisement from The Mirror,early 1930s. Courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and Pictorial Collection, Ref: 1/2-137416-F


On top of that, In the early 1950s William (Bill) McKail Geddes fell ill. “My uncle Bill had cancer of the brain and died” – remembers John Geddes, “So dad had to come back to Auckland to run the Newmarket operation, there was nobody else”.
Subsequently he got involved with Newton Meat company, and Brown Barrett Ltd procured a contract for tinned pork. John Geddes says: “Father made more profit in one year that had ever been made before – and he invested the whole lot back in. As the machinery arrived, Suddenly the pork market collapsed and Mr. Breeze* canceled his entire contract – Dad didn’t have any follow on. He was buggered, so that coincided with having to go back to the banks .”

BUTTERFLY TEA FREE TOYS Auckland Star, Volume LXIX, Issue 36, 12 February 1938, Page 11

John Geddes remembers helping pack the free painted lead toys in with the boxes of tea at the Carlton Gore Road factory, as a youngster. This advert  from the Auckland Star, February 1938. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


At that moment new policies had just been introduced that restricted ready overdrafts that many companies like Brown, Barrett Ltd regularly needed access to in order to be able to acquire bulk raw ingredients , at crucial times, for later production. Says John Geddes: “The firm survived by virtue of getting overdrafts – particularly for tomatoes – which they used to buy in vast amounts in the prime season when they couldn’t process them for the market – and they would be condensed and put it in kerosene-style four gallon tins. They were used whenever Brown Barrett wanted to manufacture soup, baked beans or spaghetti; they would crack open the big cans. In those days it was a matter of sorting out a exactly what was needed and what would be purchased (in advance, taking into consideration what was wanted) by Four Square and other customers. The marketplace was highly competitive – if Wattie’s dropped the price on something they’d be stuck with all the stuff so they were pretty critical about everything that they did. It was highly sensitive but it worked. I think it was just a case of the monetary policies, it was just coincidental bad luck that the bank said at the time “you can go somewhere else and find it”. So you’re quite right to question – “it was an old company – how could it collapse?” Well , for a number of reasons. They did extremely well up until the crisis of the whale and then the pork. Looking at the old balance sheet it was just awful, but you know, they had managed to survive (until then).
Then the family put my father out of commission because he was getting a bit distraught in sole charge. In one incident he went to see the manager and threw a live cartridge on to the table and said “that’s what you’re doing to us!” and that was enough for the rest of the family to say “let’s put this company into liquidation because there’s not going to be much future.” They really railroaded my father – and it was the best thing that could have happened to him because he lived for another 20 years and went on to have a successful career in council”.

UNXLD baking powder - Poverty Bay Herald 18 February 1911 Page 3

UNXLD was a brand Brown Barrett & Co launched in the 1890s. Poverty Bay Herald, February 1911. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


Taking the entire company history into consideration, the end is a movie-worthy saga in its own right. Around the time Mary McKail Geddes passed away, the business was dismantled. “The ownership was spread all over the family, but grandmother was the major shareholder. The business finished in 1955 and that’s because the company was no longer going to be sustainable. It wasn’t forced by debt or anything like that”, says John. I did find reference to the Excelsior Buildings and Investments Limited company offices being “gutted” in 1959. Whether it was still even in the family by then – I don’t know, but it would have been the last one in the block left.
So as it turns out – it was the result of a number of different events that compounded and thus resulted in the closure of one of New Zealand’s longest-running and most successful foodstuffs businesses. In the end it was a difficult and sad, but entirely voluntary decision of the family to close the doors for good.

Excelsior half removed for Commerce Street  Sir George Grey Special CollectionsAuckland Libraries 580-515

The Excelsior Building 1940-1949, after half has been removed to make way for the widening of Commerce Street in the 1930s. BNZ are in occupation, and Stanbeth House next to it has British General Electric and Auckland Wool Stores residing. I just had a flashback to sitting in the pokey little cafe at the front of the bus station, bottom left, drinking tea and smoking ciggies whilst waiting for the school bus on cold winter mornings. All gone now, of course. Courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 580-400.



Special thanks to Victoria Passau at the Fine Arts Library, The University of Auckland Library , Lisa Truttman at Timespanner, and also Joanne Graves, at Central Auckland Library Research Centre, for research assistance on the University grounds and Hazelbank estate. Also thanks to Bevis England at Fringe Media, and members of the McKail Geddes family – Andrew and Janet Geddes, John and Claire McKail Geddes.


All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2012. All rights reserved.


aMcKAIL GEDDES Hazelbank

Addendum Feb 2013:  Finally! A part image of the Hazelbank house. Courtesy of descendants of John McKail and Mary Geddes, who dug this up for me eventually from an old family album. Although somewhat cropped, you can *sort of * get an idea of what it looked like, with the house seemingly facing north-east, with the front facing away from Symonds Street looking down to the gully, according to the 1959 map. Or fronting more towards  the (now missing part of) Wynyard street, which would make more sense. That is presuming that the building shown in the grounds drawing is  Hazelbank, it’s unlikely it had been replaced just yet.

*Addendum Nov 2021:Reading this story back many years later, and having done a ton more research in the interim years, I realise that the ‘Mr. Breeze’ John Geddes phonetically refers to of the Newton Meat Co is actually Frank Briess. This company, NMC, later branched into 2 businesses that launched respective successful national brands; Metzler’s smallgoods and also Premier Food Distributors. PFD was responsible for Gourmette spices and sauces, well remembered for their brightly coloured plastic canisters which didn’t change for a quarter century and were found in most kitchens.


The Shopping Cart Cartel: IGA Stores

In Anchor, Choysa Tea, Creemee Icecream, Davids Metcash Trading Limited, Fielder's Cornflour, Gregg's, IGA Stores, Independent Grocers Alliance NZ Ltd, Kornies cereal, O-Tis oatmeal, Oak, Palm corned beef, Red Band Biscottes, Shreddo cooking suet, St. George, Suntang Tea, Vita-Brits cereal on June 10, 2012 at 10.46

IGA, which stood for Independent Grocers Alliance (NZ Ltd), launched in the Antipodes in 1955. Originally, it was an American concept founded in 1926. IGA was started when a group of 100 independent retailers in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Sharon, Connecticut, led by J. Frank Grimes, organized themselves into a single marketing system. This group quickly expanded, and by the end of the year there were more than 150 IGA retailers in the U.S. In 1930 there were over 8,000 grocery stores using the IGA name. Today IGA is still the world’s largest voluntary supermarket chain with over 4,000 independent stores in 41 different countries.

IGA, Glen Innes. Constructed by The Fletcher Construction Company 1959, Courtesy of the Fletcher Trust Archives, 19599078P-35


IGA was brought to Australia by Davids Holdings in the late 1980s when 10 stores initially became members of IGA. This company is now known as Metcash Trading Limited, which has the rights to use the IGA name in four Aussie states as well as New Zealand – for the wholesale distribution of goods to all IGA stores.

Not much else is known about the history of the original IGA in New Zealand – although it appears that the concept entirely bypassed Australia and made its way straight there.

 Recreation of a  paper grocery bag design from a Dunedin IGA, apparently phased out some time in the 1960s.


Jacqueline Crompton Ottaway writes an interesting story here about her grandfather’s Freeman’s Bay store from the 1950s-1970s:


Although, it doesn’t mention any brands per se, excepting Palm corned beef.

IGA board game circa early 1960s.


IGA seemed to be around until the mid 1970s as promotional tea towels festooned with their wares attest (IGA, like Four Square, had a number of promotional items like calendars, games, and the aforementioned kitchen helpers) . The last reference I can find is a Dunsandel, Canterbury IGA store operating in 1974.

IGA advertisement, circa late 1960s


Some of my recent Trade Me purchases of the last year or so which I have featured here include this board game with a neat ad for their self brand of tea “Suntang“. I’d never heard of it until I saw this (or Instant Toddy for that matter – and I still don’t know who was responsible for manufacturing it, perhaps like Suntang it was an IGA self product, but usually chains stuck to the household basics for their own brands; tea, cornflour, soap, jelly crystals, baking powder, butter, custard, etc ). Also featured are some of their most popular products including Gregg’s, St George, Choysa and Anchor – as well as Red Band biscottes which I wrote about here previously


I’d date this item at around 1961.

IGA advertisement, circa late 1960s


Today IGA in New Zealand stands for Independent Grocers Australia. The Ocker version launched in 1988 – Much like Peter’s Ice cream which was popular in the 1930s and didn’t reappear in the land of the long white cloud until the 1990s – IGA returned in time as a completely new version.

Frontage of E.G. Roberts’  IGA grocery store, Himenoa Street, Birkenhead. Courtesy of Auckland Council, Local History Online, Image ID T7554.


Interior of E.G. Roberts’ IGA grocery store, Himenoa Street, Birkenhead. Courtesy of Auckland Council, North Shore History Online and Takapuna Library, Image ID T7557. Both images are dated as 1952, although this cannot be possible since IGA was not introduced to the country until three years after that.



Addendum September 2012: Somehow I missed a bunch of material whilst researching my IGA story which would have told me, as it turns out, that IGA was launched in New Zealand under by G.U.S. Wholesaling (G.U.S, UNA, and Target brands) and later re-branded to SuperValue amongst other banners. See the article here: 



Big Cheese: The Dormer-Beck Agency

In Anacin, Biscuits, Butland Industries, Campaign Advertising, Carlton Carruthers Du Chateau agency, Charles Haines agency, Chesdale Cheese, Clifton Firth, Dick Frizzell, Dormer-Beck, Four Square Supermarkets, Gregg's, Griffin’s, J. Ilott Agency, J. Inglis Wright Agency, John Wyeth NZ Ltd, Kolynos toothpaste, Pam's Products, Reckitt and Colman, Saatchi & Saatchi, Television Advertisement, The Harvey Cameron Agency, Waikato Ales on December 24, 2011 at 10.46

Still from a Chesdale TV advertisement by Dormer-Beck in 1966

It was generally agreed there were three main  firms who ruled NZ advertising in the earlier part of the 20th century ; J. Ilott , Charles Haines, and J. Inglis Wright. (Carlton Carruthers Du Chateau also deserves inclusion in the top agencies, and by the early 1970s CC du C was out and Dobbs-Wiggins-McCann-Erickson was considered one of the “big five”).

However by the late 1950s, Dormer-Beck (who had been around nearly as long, but was perhaps considered the runt of the quintuplets), had become strong enough to be not just a rival – but a real threat to all, eventually with offices in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. Author Maurice Duggan, who worked as a copywriter at D-B in the early Sixties remembers “The agency had a solid reputation; its presence in the city was considerable”.

Dormer-Beck created some of the most memorable Australasian media campaigns of all time.

courtesy of the Auckland Council heritage images collection  34-D270P-12

I was able to obtain a history of Dormer-Beck from the daughter of a former managing director Alec G. Robson, who started in 1936 as an office junior and by 1964 was chairman and managing director of the company. Jill Rowdon was kind enough to send me a copy of his notes for my research. It is a bio history as opposed to a memoir, and as such is focused on structural and financial business matters rather than the creative grind or the amusing bon mots you would expect of those crazy ad types; and unfortunately barely skips over important accounts and iconic brands with no more than a passing mention.

The New Zealand operations of International John Wyeth NZ Ltd, that produced health and cosmetic products like Anacin, were a client in the 1940s.

Dormer-Beck was borne of T. L. Hathaway Ltd., An Auckland agency with a number of retail advert writing contracts. L. M. (Case) Beck had worked as a “writer-visualiser” there for two years. An account they held with the Auckland Star newspaper, where R.C. Dormer was building a reputation as a sales representative, is how the two met. Hathaway commenced operations for a new business venture in Australia, after a radical product/coupon scheme was scuttled by introduced government laws, (The Coupon Trading Act took effect in 1932, making it illegal to redeem coupons for anything but cash or discount), leaving a bankrupt company in the charge of Beck – because he was the largest preferential creditor in terms of owed wages. The two scraped up sum capital of £50.00 each, and well into The Depression, the business had literally nowhere to go but up. Ray Trenchard Smith, who had both newspaper and advertising agency experience, became the third shareholder, and Dormer- Beck Advertising Ltd., was “officially” formed in May 1932.
I stumbled upon the Dormer-Beck story whilst researching “Pam’s” which was launched by Four Square Stores in 1937 to offer lower price, quality goods to the New Zealand public under a strong brand image. Yes – it really does go back that far. Although there were several “self” brands from chain stores at the time, “Pam’s” has lasted into the present day as a stand-alone brand, probably the only surviving one – and has a pretty nifty website to boot.


courtesy of the Auckland Council heritage images collection A2338

Four Square was an early client of Dormer-Beck’s along with Aircell (baby blankets) ,  Milne & Choyce (clothing and milinery), Silknit/Slimtex and Iris (lingerie), Berger’s (paint), Dresswell (clothing), Pyradent (toothpaste, mouthwash), Du Maurier (cigarettes), Defiance (men’s clothing and shoes), May and Belle/Slicks (underwear), and N.Z. Wallboards Ltd (Gibraltar Board).

courtesy of the Auckland Libraries Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 34-D270L

In the 1940s there was Kolynos (toothpaste),Neopol (polish), and John Wyeth NZ Ltd, that marketed products like the pain medication Anacin; and in the 1950s Chelsea Sugar (CSR) were an important account. There were of course legions more.
Many of these products are recorded in digital archives as photographed by Clifton Firth, who had a longstanding contract with Dormer-Beck from the early 1930s into the early 1960s. As such he subsequently made an inadvertent record of accounts and the accompanying products they were dealing with on a bread-and-butter basis. The sheer volume of images that survive really denotes that Firth deserves his own stand-alone post covering his career and work.

Dormer-Beck advertising including Pam’s and Pyradent , photographed by Clifton Firth between 1930-1939, courtesy of the Auckland Council heritage images collection 34-D270S

From a photograph of products that Dormer-Beck were handling in the late 1930s I was able to find an early Pam’s baking powder poster (this product launched the brand) and along with a rough newspaper advertisement,

as well as a piece from a A4 square promotional jigsaw puzzle showing packaging and accompanying point-of-sale material,

             A clipping from Four Square Stores promotional jigsaw puzzle cover showing Pam’s baking powder and point-of-sale display material – Likely designed by Dormer-Beck. Dated as 1950s, but I believe it is from a little earlier; the late 1940s. Courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library collection.

I now had all the pieces in place which enabled me to finally reconstruct the paper label for the product – something I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

Recreation of a poster (also used for the can label for many years) for Four Square’s “Pam’s” baking powder, designed by Dormer-Beck in 1937 as a campaign to launch the brand’s first product.

After the labour government came to power in 1935 it immediately introduced commercial radio to New Zealand, and as in later years with the advent of television, Dormer-Beck was amongst the first agencies to develop this new medium. Amongst the earliest TV ads they created were for a major client – Griffin’s biscuits and confectionery- Mallowpuffs, Krispies, and Snax amongst other classic and fondly remembered treats.


According to a company report of the time, 12 months before Channel 2 was due to begin transmission in 1960 – “Dormer-Beck was engaged on the production of the first television commercial to be made in New Zealand”. Further to that, Robson recalled in 1970 “there were in fact quite a number “in the can” and ready for scheduling when Channel 2 opened in June 1960″, but it’s not clearly conveyed whether they were all D-B productions or there were other companies making ads too, which he was referring to in general. Certainly in the first decade, D-B produced more television commercials than any other agency in the country. Apart from legions of ads for Griffin’s – Reckitt and Colman was another major client and Dormer-Beck created ads for everything from hamburger seasoning (French’s), to perfume (Goya, Cedarwood), and Cleaning products (Janola).

Dormer-Beck’s Mini-Magic Hosiery Campaign, 1970

By 1936 D-B were already successful enough to move from Horne’s buildings in Vulcan Lane, Auckland to bigger digs in the National Insurance building in O’Connell street. One contributor to success was a long-term business relationship with the J. Walter Thompson Agency of which Graeme Martin, who worked in the art department in the late 1960s recalls “…the highlight for me was the Creative Director from J. W T, Sydney, a man called Bryce Courtenay (yes the famous author!) came to give us a talk and general jolly up. He praised a little advert that I designed which I thought at the time was awful. Little did I know in those days!”.

It’s highly likely that this 1963 packaging was redesigned for Griffin’s in the Wellington art department several times over the years.

Strong direction and forward planning meant that by the early 1960s Dormer-Beck was a serious force to be reckoned with in the country, and by 1970 owned all the properties and buildings between 52 and 60 Ponsonby Road, however although D-B did construct new offices (as well as requisitioning older buildings on site), it wasn’t all glamorous “cringing under the smell of vinegar from the factory behind, and Creamota from the undertaker next door “ as David Burke-Kennedy, of Communique Publicity, who worked on the creative side at D-B as a teenager around 1964, remembers. Far from bustling with uber-cool hipsters in that time,  Graeme Martin says “I actually found working in Ponsonby Road a little too far from the hub of Auckland in those days. It was a short time for me, and I didn’t really enjoy it”.

Possibly the most famous campaign that Dormer-Beck was responsible for, was the Chesdale Cheese clips of the mid-late 1960s, the ” boys down on the farm ” advertisements featuring “Ches” and “Dale”.


One famous name that was involved in the design and illustration of the two characters for the campaign was of course now famous pop artist Dick Frizzell who was working off site at the time for Sam Harvey Animations, but later did work for Dormer-Beck in their art department. Wayne Senior, one of New Zealand’s top jingle writers- producers throughout the late 60s through to the early eighties (he wrote the “Hip H Panty Hose” introductory jingle that was a big hit) remembers he was “… included in the Art studio staff. I still have the going away card he designed – my personal Dick Frizzell. It must be worth quite a lot now, hailing from Dick’s early period.”

Wayne Senior’s farewell card from Dick Frizzell, late 1960s , photo courtesy W. Senior

Other clients of the 1960s besides Chesdale and Griffin’s and also names well known to Kiwis were Gregg’s, Coca-Cola, Fisher & Paykel, Reidrubber, Kelloggs, Fibremakers, Wrigleys, Hanimex, and IGA Supermarkets.

Dormer-Beck Company Newsletter ON THE CLIPBOARD, 1968, showing recent campaigns.

Dormer-Beck campaign for the Waikato Ales account, 1964

In the 1970s, the account roster included behemoths Choysa Tea, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Pan American airlines.

The Harvey Cameron Agency merged with D-B in 1972, not very long after the last original founding member of the trio had retired for good. In 1980 it merged again, and both the “Dormer” and “Beck” bits were dropped into the propwash of history to become simply “Campaign Advertising”.  Saatchi and Saatchi bought the agency in 1985 and so on, in a series of complicated mergers and buy-outs which I always find fascinating – when nobody else does. Something quite unrecognisable today from the pioneering Antipodean agency of media with many iconic, well-remembered campaigns that won’t be forgotten too quickly – even if people don’t know where they came from.

This was the most complex story research-wise I have worked on to date – yet just about everyone I contacted returned my messages and was willing to talk to me. I have to thank Wayne Kitching, David Burke-Kennedy and Graeme Martin for being patient whilst bombarded with questions, Jill Rowdon from The Nielsen Company for documents and images, Wayne Senior for being interviewed and lending his image of the Dick Frizell artwork. Keith Giles, Photograph Librarian, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Central City Library, Auckland, and Sue de Lange at The Royal Philatelic Society of New Zealand Inc. Without everyone’s participation and contribution I wouldn’t be able to dredge these stories back up. 

My Just Desserts

In Desserts, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Instant Desserts, Pudding on November 14, 2011 at 10.46

Operating since 1861, Gregg’s is one of New Zealand’s oldest food companies and certainly one of the largest.
I have logos that go back to 1895 for canned coffee, The Club brand was one of Gregg’s most enduring products. In the early days they were also manufacturers of pepper and spices, starch, cigarettes and wax vestas.
In the 1920s the operations were moved to Forth street in Dunedin where in part they remain today in the form of coffee manufacturing plant.

Gregg's Instant Pudding Box LEMON copy WM copy

Note: Due to repetitive theft by those who take my intellectual property from this blog without my permission, and reproduce it as merchandise for sale on sites such as Ebay, Redbubble and Trade Me,  I have now watermarked these images. If you are interested in purchasing merch of this image you can head to my personal Redbubble store.

During the 1930s to the 1950s the range expanded dramatically to include a variety of products including Seameal, a type of pudding that irrespective of it’s unattractive name, was extremely popular for many decades. Amongst other products were culinary essences, soup powder, canned fruit and juices, fruit cordials and instant drinks, salad dressing, food colourings, and malt extracts. Instant coffee products followed from the 1950s onwards.
Who from my generation isn’t familiar with Gregg’s jellies and instant puddings? …“full of detergent!” my greenie grandmother announced as a warning against consuming it – well, too often, anyway. Truth be told they weren’t really that appetising and my mother made a much better one herself – with a Gregg’s raspberry flavour jelly whipped with Nestle evaporated milk she had dubbed “Pink Poodle Puff”. It really explains a lot about me, one being the reason why I can blame my parents for so many things.

Gregg's Instant Pudding Box RASPBERRY copy WM copy

These two instant pudding packets are recent Trademe purchases. Well actually I only got the lemon one, and edited it to make it look like the raspberry box (which I missed out on) from a picture. A little more work than it looks like in reality. I am very sure I remember these and I think it probably dates from the early-mid seventies. The inclusion of grams is a solid clue as to a fairly narrow date (metric weight was finalised as law in December1976 but  commenced to be introduced from as early as 1969, and the main change over occurred from 1971 to 1972).

Actually I wasn’t expecting this to turn up at all, since after a month it wasn’t to be seen, my seller had disconnected everything and moved overseas, and I had given in and chalked it up to yet another in a long list of lost Trademe purchases courtesy of New Zealand Post. I was pretty surprised to find it on the doorstep to say the least.

I have heaps of material, and I’ll do a more intensive post or two on the Gregg’s company in the coming months.