Archive for the ‘Hokey Pokey ice cream’ Category

Elbe’s Ice Cream: The Plot Thickens

In A&P Shows, Birds Eye Frozen Foods, Birds Eye NZ Ltd, Bodgies and Widgies, Denne Brothers, Dennis Knight Turner, Desserts, Elbe's Ice Cream, Elbe’s Milk Bar, Fonzies, Fred Elbe, Frozen Foods, Frozen Vegetables, Griffin’s, Happy Days, Heavenly Creatures, Hokey Pokey, Hokey Pokey ice cream, Ice Cream, Ice cream sundaes, John Waters' Cry-Baby, Juvenile delinquency, Laverne and Shirley, Louis Gottfried Christian Elbe, Mazengarb Report, Milk Bar Cowboys, Milkshakes, Moral Panic, Peter Pan Frozen Foods Ltd, Peter Pan ice cream, Rebels with a cause, Rockers and Greasers, soft drink, T.C. Denne, teenage decadence, The Petone Incident, Thomas Clement Denne, Tip-Top, Warren Elbe on January 12, 2015 at 10.46

Elbe's icecream logo 1950s copy

Recreation of an Elbe’s Ice Cream sign, imagined as late 1950s, inspired by their A&P stand logo (photo further down), and the colours of the milk bar interior.


Now, as we know from my previous article here, a lot of people like to mark their territory in hokey pokey history – and quite often that involves claiming they invented it.

Having read my story on New Zealand’s favourite ice cream flavour, an Elbe descendant contacted me. After trading quite a few emails (as well as a bit of cursory snooping by me) it was a done deal that there was more than plenty for a story here – contenders to the hokey pokey crown, scandalous behaviour, and juvenile delinquency!

Elbe’s first opened as just a milk bar at 98 High Street, Lower Hutt, Wellington, “next to Woolworths”. The earliest mention I was able to locate was in a humorous article “On Trial”, in the Hutt News, early July 1936 – in which a mock court case is conducted at the milk bar of Frederick Elbe Esq., as part of a stag party celebration. At that time, apart from milkshakes and sundaes concocted for customers on the spot – the Elbes made their own ice cream on the premises and sold pints, quarts, and ice cream party cakes commercially.

The story begins with Louis Gottfried Christian Elbe – who hailed from Uralla, New South Wales, Australia, born 1887 to Louis (Ludovick Gottfried Elbe, 1858-1936) and Mary Phillipa (nee Goddard, 1864-1953). By the time Louis was on the scene he was already a second generation Aussie; the family had arrived from Erbach, Nassau, Germany in 1855. In 1906 Louis married Ada M. Marshall in Newtown, Sydney. After marriage they resided at 91 Evans Street, in Rozelle.

Elbe's Milk Bar 1950s courtesy of Sherry Elbe

The interior of Elbe’s Milk Bar in its 1950s heyday. The colour scheme was a very modern cream, lime green and black. Image courtesy of the Elbe family.


Apparently quite mismatched – things went south with the union very quickly; in less than two years Ada had been abandoned. She quickly arranged for a court warrant issued in nearby Glebe, for Louis’s arrest – citing desertion. However it seems he had truly flown the coop. In not much more than a year, he reappeared in New Zealand, in 1909, now named Frederick Louis. A few short months had seemingly allowed him enough time to settle, meet, and marry Ann Elizabeth Lowry. Hopefully he was divorced from his initial wife first – but it doesn’t look hopeful right now.

Thus far my researches have been unable to locate any record of Fred arriving to Aotearoa. Running off, he likely switched countries under an assumed name.There’s no evidence that the Elbes ever divorced in Australian records, or that Frederick Elbe ever returned to Australia to sort this situation out before remarrying. The New Zealand Immigration Passenger Lists show no Elbes that even vaguely qualify. At least – not up until the 1930s when several records clearly indicate a Mr. F. Elbe, of the correct age and occupation, returning from Australia to Wellington on a number of occasions, from then on through to the 1950s. Not the kind of thing families really want to discover but that’s how it is – and not that uncommon either.

Why New Zealand? Perhaps he thought it best to get out of the country completely, but in tandem wanted to remain as close as possible to his family. So it was probably the most logical option. The speed with which he remarried indicates he may have already met his future second wife, perhaps in Australia, hence his absconding with no explanation. Either that or he was a very fast mover. It was more likely the latter – but we will probably never know exactly how it played out.

Anyway, now a Kiwi tailor named Fred (records show a registration for Elbe Tailoring Company Ltd in Wellington), his transformation was almost complete. Between at least 1919-1922 Fred Elbe was advertising suit making from 276 Lambton Quay; “fit and style perfection…above H.B.” (which stood for Hallenstein Brothers), and later 262 on the same street where H.B. now stood for “Hannah’s Building”. Grandchildren recall a one-time career as a traveller and a manufactory for belts and men’s suspenders later on.

Frederick Louis (Fred) Elbe- ( government name Louis Gottfried Christian Elbe) courtesy of Sherry Elbe

 Frederick Louis aka Fred Sr. (government name Louis Gottfried Christian Elbe), a tailor, was the first to come to New Zealand; it was his son that founded the ice cream business. Image courtesy of the Elbe family.


The couple eventually had three sons; Rowland Carl (1913-1987), Roy Sheldon (1920-2007) and Louis Frederick Elbe (1910-1982). Their parents both passed away in Hutt in 1966 respectively. However as an interesting aside, the couple seem to have been living separately from at least 1946. Around this time Fred’s mother had arrived from New South Wales and was residing with him. Given how some wives feel about their mothers-in-law, it may be why she moved out!

It was Louis Frederick (who like his father also called himself Fred – we’ll call him Fred Jr. from here on to differentiate), who actually established the Elbe’s brand. How exactly he gained knowledge and training of the  art of ice cream production remains unanswered. It was likely the business was started in the mid 1930s, although it’s now not known exactly what year. One source says “just prior to the war” which almost tallies with the earliest newspaper date. Fred Jr.’s two sons with wife Rewa Ellen, nee August, were Warren William and Maxwell Richard Elbe. However it’s Warren that people mostly seem to associate memories of the Elbe’s Milk bar heyday with. In the mid-late 1940s the Elbe’s takeaway product roster expanded to add “Homepacks’, and ice cream Christmas cakes “frozen extra hard”.

Upon returning from the war it was Roy who became “chief ice cream maker” at the milk bar. As the business and brand became successful, premises were purchased just across the road – and a factory started production under his management. A picture which has been taken of a stand around 1959 at a Bartons Bush A&P specifies some novelties such as vanilla slices and “Rockets” (the full name of the item is partially obscured; it’s either frozen, space or chocolate).

An image of the interior of the shop, taken in the 1950s shows that Elbe’s had expanded into a line of fountain syrups for drinks. Other items they served were soft drinks and fancy concoctions like peach melba, chocolate peanut and date snowball sundaes, the Snowman, the Rainbow Special – as well as individual Dixie-style tubs, vanilla slices, chocolate coated novelties (probably similar to Boms). There was also a full candy counter in the corner and a jukebox for the latest in pop music. Of course (the not-so-ubiquitous) milkshakes, about which Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich recounts in “Keeping a Low Profile: An Oral History of German Immigration to New Zealand”: “I vividly remember in my teenage years Elbe’s. The art of making milkshakes was developed to a very fine pitch.”

Ice Cream Cake box Elbe's Milk Bar 1950s RECREATION copy

Recreation of the Elbe’s ice cream cake box, seen on the top shelf  behind the bar in the 1950s photo of the milk bar interior (above). Gavin Elbe recalls “…these were about ten inches diameter and about three deep, with a glittery paper band around them – sometimes decorated on the top for special occasions. I never got one.” Harsh!


During the first half of this decade Fred Jr. registered a design he cooked up in collaboration with a Roy Butterworth (1904-1978) with the Intellectual Property office. I was unable to find out what exactly that was, but I speculated it was most likely a piece of manufacturing machinery or packaging rather than a recipe. Since Butterworth worked through the 1930s-1950s as an upholsterer, essentially pattern-making, I’d make an educated guess it was the latter.
The family story goes that another invention of Great-Grandpa Fred Jr.’s may have been the Hokey Pokey ice cream recipe which he then sold to Tip-Top, who have of course themselves claimed (falsely, it’s now fairly clear) that they actually invented it during the Forties. Further to this cuckooing of Elbe’s – Fred Jr.’s motorised ice cream cart now sits in MOTAT with a Tip-Top signage emblazoned on it instead of the Elbe’s logo (how it went from the Hutt to Auckland – I’m not sure).

Gavin Elbe, one of Fred Jr.’s nephews, recalls: “I was born in 1947, and I cannot remember a time when we did not make Hokey Pokey ice cream. In my school days I did odd jobs there at the factory during the holidays and weekends. As soon as I was old enough, I had the job of breaking up the slabs to put in the mixture.” He was unsure where the confectionery came from, but thinks that it, along with chocolate for novelty products, may likely have been supplied by Griffin’s – which makes sense since they were based in the local area. Then he tacked on – ” This was years before we were bought out by T.C. Denne…”
Wait, hold up a minute. Did he just say Denne? The same T.C. Denne who founded Peter Pan Ice Cream, that I’ve previously written about on a number of occasions?

Interesting, to say the least, that in all my research on the Dennes and their businesses, and the various interviews I conducted, they never once mentioned they purchased the Elbe’s business! I wonder if that got left out (deliberately) or perhaps just forgot to get a mention (unlikely). It makes one wonder that if Elbe’s were making Hokey Pokey first, then Peter Pan may have acquired the recipe with their purchase – and thus have to forfeit their claim to be front runner – or even one of them at all.

When I pushed Gavin for a little more of a fix on the date he states “the Hokey Pokey smashing definitely began (in my) pre-teens”, putting a definite date before 1960. In comparison to other confirmed dates from Peter Pan and Newjoy Ice Cream Co. this isn’t the earliest, so actually brings me no closer to solving the mystery of who made it first.

Elbe's Ice Cream ads 1943-1945 copy

Various Elbe’s product adverts from the Hutt News, from clockwise top left: April 1944, October 1944, November 1943, and November 1944. Images courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


“After Denne’s purchase of Elbe’s, we continued to make a range of lines in Lower Hutt for distribution. Until one day my father got a phone call from the Dennes to say he was to lay off all staff, and arrange the strip out of our factory. No visit – just a phone call. I still remember that day because I had biked down to the factory after school to do some jobs, as I frequently did, and found all of the staff in a sombre mood.”

Gavin vaguely recalls some kind of connection with ” Levin and Company, (and) with the Birds Eye brand as well – but I am short on detail.” I’ve tried looking into Levin a bit, who made a great deal of their money in Amber Tips tea from the 1890s onwards, and I am not sure where they are at these days – if it even still exists, or in what form. It’s a very old company, founded by some Jewish fellows, and going as far back as the 1850s. Seemingly during the war years one of the things they were handling was sugar – a very precious commodity for confectionery and ice cream makers, obviously. That said, ice cream makers were off the hook a bit more than chocolate companies because there was no rationing restriction on dairy – so sugar was their only problem. Birds Eye was not launched by Unilever in New Zealand until 1947, and Wattie’s as far as I know did all their frozen fruit and vegetables for them, and probably still do.

Levin and Company had both freezing and import-export enterprises so if it wasn’t to do with sugar, then it’s (more) likely the connection was distribution. Many of these companies were connected through distribution deals because they needed to pair up with others, for transport reasons, to make their enterprise profitable. It’s why so many companies that started off with ice cream branched out into frozen vegetables otherwise it wasn’t viable financially to distribute their product. This means many reciprocal deals were done to move product around the country efficiently.

One acquaintance remembers her father being friendly enough with Fred Jr. to “visit…shortly after the opening of the milk bar. We were given a tour of the business, including out the back, where ice cream was made. In a large freezer room were shown a box of peas, still in their shells. He opened one pod to show that the contents were in mint condition. He predicted correctly that this would be a major method of preserving food in the future.”

Although the mention of frozen peas is interesting, there’s no memory of any frozen vegetables ever being produced by the Elbe’s factory. So it is not really relevant to the fact that Peter Pan bought out quite a number of freezing businesses, including ice cream operations, up and down the North Island in a methodical campaign to advance their distribution over the years. However there may have been more of a motive at play here for the acquisition. Is it possible that Peter Pan got it’s Hokey Pokey recipe from its acquisition of the Elbe’s factory?

Elbe's icecream and cola stalls Bartons Bush A&P late 1950s courtesy of Sherry Elbe

aTaken at Hutt Valley A&P show, late 1950s, Bartons Bush. Fred Jr.’s nephew Gavin Elbe remembers: “We had the concession for ice cream and Coca-Cola stalls, also a candy floss machine. My job was refunding the empty bottles, at two pence each – or a packet of chewing gum.”


As it did in every major city, business exploded during WWII due to the influx of R&R servicemen to Wellington; the Elbe’s business did not solely flourish because of this, but later Elbe’s provided supplies for the ice breakers who were part The IGY team ( The International Geophysical Year  was an international scientific project run from July 1957 – Dec 1958).
Gavin recalls “…they loved it (Elbe’s product) because it was much creamier than American ice cream. In those days it was a legal requirement for ice cream in New Zealand to have a minimum percentage of real butter and milk powder to help protect the dairy industry. Very early on I remember real cream was used, also.”
It should be noted  how the advent of a great number of foreign, in this case particularly American servicemen, had great impact on culture and business in large cities; and this in turn had a lasting effect on trends for foodstuffs, clothes, and entertainment that went on for decades – as it is particularly pertinent to the themes here.

By the 1950s the Elbes were, in the words of one of their punny former neighbours “creaming it…with true entrepreneurial skill the Elbes had in no time made a fortune and moved …to a flash two-story house in an up-market suburb.” With the interior of the milk bar decked out in a snazzy contemporary theme of lime, cream and black – Elbe’s had now become the hottest teen hang out in the Wellington area.

It’s recalled that “Friday and Saturday nights were so busy that a staff member would be stationed at the entrance, ensuring that when full, those wishing to enter matched those leaving. It was normal during peak periods for a queue to form outside – waiting patiently for their turn to enter.” Someone else remembers as they “…queued up round the street, (there would be) fighting to get in the front door.” So no doubt a “bouncer” was in place to prevent the scuffles as well.

It was frequented by local kids “at a (nebulous) loose end” – as well as “Bodgies” and their female counterpart “Widgies” – as they were known in Australasia; the monikers given to the down under equivalent of the American movement of “Rockers” and “Greasers”, or the British version – “Teddies.” “Bikers” per se, came later, in the 1960s; not to be confused with “Milk Bar Cowboys” who were basically Bodgies with motorbikes  – and the variation was lumped into this supposed ragtag bundle of various youth subculture groups. I s’pose the inferral is that there were bound to be wars between factions – but given their definitions (not much different from each other it seems), and objectives, it does not seem that it was as likely as expected.

The movement revolved around newfangled rock ‘n’ roll music, and was also influenced by rebellious teen movies like “Rebel Without a Cause.” Fashion icons were James Dean and Elvis, amongst others.There was an obsession with American style – which was to again resurface later on, in the mid-late 1970s with a feast of nostalgia for the period – exemplified in TV shows like “Happy Days”, “Laverne and Shirley”, and “Sha Na Na” (and also resulted in the cheesy retro snack Fonzies).

Elements of the Bodgie/ Widgie/Milk Bar Cowboy style featured pegged trousers and moccasins, Zoot Suits and luminous socks, exaggerated bright shirts, tight white tee-shirts with leather jackets, flannelettes with Adidas boots, or tight jeans and suede brothel creepers, topped off with a greasy “Rack” hairdo, or Brylcreemed quiffs  finished at the back with D.A. (Duck’s Ass).

As throughout history, with the pinpointing and victimization of many a minority, people took umbrage simply because the so-called “Milk Bar Cowboys” looked and acted differently to the plebeian majority. When fraternizing, add motorcycles into the mix and there’s bound to be public pearl-clutching to relish in. It all sounds very much like John Waters’ movie “Cry Baby”:

The Sydney Morning Herald critiqued “…’bodgies’ growing their hair long and getting around in satin shirts, and ‘weegies (sic)’ cutting their hair short and wearing jeans… confusion seems to be arising about the sex of some adolescents.” Apparently not so confused about sex; because then Elbe’s went from popular to notorious overnight.

Somehow an outrageous story got out that teenagers, some under the age of consent, were using Elbe’s Milk Bar as a meeting place to arrange illicit trysts in nearby Strand Park and down by the Hutt river. Their milkshakes were literally bringing boys to the yard. Young patrons were engaging in “sex acts”, and not only that – but somehow were obtaining contraceptives to boot. It quickly came to be known as the “Petone Incident.”

Moral panic was the headline of the day, exacerbated by the untimely incidents of two separate milk bar murders in Auckland (the fact that they could have happened anywhere seemingly irrelevant) and the horrific Parker–Hulme case (later made by Peter Jackson into Heavenly Creatures with its themes of teen perversion, angst, rebellion and tragedy). Sensationalist media reports of course did not help, but sold papers and made coin.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister of the time, Sir Sidney George Holland, attempted to use this simmering unrest to his advantage and called for a thorough investigation into this wanton depravity; a special committee was set up, chaired by a local lawyer, Dr. Oswald Mazengarb, to examine the supposed social factors that was causing “delinquency” and subsequent juvenile immorality. The hearings and investigations took place over a period of eight weeks.

The text of the Mazengarb Report, in full, the “Report of the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents”, was released in late September 1954. It cites the appearance of witnesses Mr L. F. Elbe, of Elbe’s Milk Bar, Lower Hutt, along with employees Mr. W.L. Ellingham, and Mr. A.L. Lummis, who appeared in the hearing line-up and were examined under oath as numbers fifteen to seventeen respectively.

John, aka “Oldrider”, writes on a forum that he was one of those “Milk Bar Cowboys” in the 1950s Hutt. Dubbed so “because we rode bikes, cavorted with the ‘sexually active’ girls from Hutt Valley High school and Petone Tech, and hung around the milk bars in the weekend. I was definitely a member of that group of guys and gals so named…a great bunch of people to associate with. So, yes, I used to frequent Elbe’s Milk Bar among others (it wasn’t only milk bars that were frequented, either) – but I was not responsible for the saga. The girl in question lived just down the road from me.  (In retrospect) it was pretty pathetic press run by the “Truth” newspaper about the behaviour of the so-called ‘juvenile delinquents’ of the day. They made it very big news, (but it was) pretty tame stuff really!”

the Bodgie A E Manning Wellington Reed 1958 Dennis Knight Turner design copy

“The Bodgie” by A. E. Manning , design by Dennis Knight Turner, published by Reed, 1958.  Formula: If you added a motorbike to a Bodgie, Rocker, Teddy or Greaser  – rather like making a shake – you had instant “Milk Bar Cowboy.”


Another member recounts the bounties of the hilariously nicknamed private school “Sacred Tarts”: “I remember well, afternoons in the early Fifties ,when I rode my bike from Naenae College into the Hutt. There, we’d meet up with girls from Sacred Heart College, and do a bit of ‘experimenting’ in the back booths at Elbe’s. But not until I’d scoffed a chocolate peanut sundae first! Their gym frocks always smelled, well, inviting.”

So there was definitely some kinky stuff involved, it’s true. That particular individual who is recalled as being in the middle of it all apparently refers to the fifteen year old girl who decided to blab to the authorities about the sexcapades of what she called the “Milk Bar Gang”, and numerous young people in the area allegedly confessed to police their instances of “sexual misconduct” (probably defined as hickies at that time) – however it’s said some were actually charged with carnal knowledge of minors. It’s all a bit vague, really. Too hazy for my liking – and deliberately, I suspect.

However Elbe’s was hardly the “notorious den of teenage lust” it was made out to be, except maybe lust for sweet treats. Merv Griffith says that rather than rumpy, the goal was to “pick up a bird”, and subsequently “the main aim was to go like hell; the louder the screams from the pillion seat, the more successful the mission. Apart from that it was to sit round and comb your hair and try and look beautiful on your bikes. Then you would go in and have a milkshake.” So more toffee than totty. Not exactly titillating stuff.

Even local member of parliament of the time Michael Moohan called them on it and opined it was the report itself that was internationally stigmatizing, dubbing it sensationalist. “I think it is a terrible thing…to give the impression that there is such a grave problem….when such is really not the case.”

However governments usually aren’t very interested in the facts unless they happen to marry with some kind of desired outcome. One way they use situations like this is basically for crowd control, often by scapegoating. Recurrently Instigating “moral panic ” is the perfect way to regulate a society. If the truth of what was involved in “The Petone Incident” was known  – there probably wouldn’t have been that much fuss, or subsequently a reaction. However, once people start actually looking for reasons to break up the party – they can usually find one if they really want to.
Thus a post-war movement for independence essentially came to be considered a “problem” simply by issuing pamphlets to hundreds of thousands of households regarding this revolting rebellion of unbridled teenage decadence.

cry-baby-clan copy

“The Cry Baby Clan”: Still from pope of trash  John Waters’  hilarious 1990 musical satire on juvenile delinquency and moral panic. Recommended watching.


 The report ultimately laid the blame on a breakdown of dreary urban Nuclear family life; the culprits were teen temptresses, comic books, working mothers, rock ‘n’ roll, and modern cities. Oh, also peace time (because that’s really a bad thing, right?) and generally having too much money (also a terrible burden to anyone). Maybe they should have called it the “Moot Report” since the only astoundingly new thing there was a style of music. Mazengarb, a notorious right wing killjoy and puritanical prude, disapproved wholeheartedly of just about everything as most fundamentalists do – and the list was long. As most fundamentalists also do – I am sure he was hiding something. I like to call it the J. Edgar Hoover Principle, and it’s a pretty reliable rule.

The report resulted in the drafting of new Acts increasing censorship of “obscene and indecent content” in publications, The Child Welfare Amendment Act which made sexual behaviour officially “delinquency”, and the banning of contraceptive sales to minors, because the one thing every parent wants is an underage pregnant daughter to deal with, right? The lack of logic is mind-boggling, and that’s something that hasn’t changed.

The impact had its desired effect, though. Alison Gray discusses in her review of “Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand” by Jarrod Gilbert, that “I was in primary school in Lower Hutt. I can still remember my parents discussing the report behind closed doors and banning us kids from going anywhere near the notorious Elbe’s. We had no idea what they were on about, but we knew it had something to do with people not much older than us, behaving very, very badly. Our minds fairly boggled. It was my first experience of a moral panic and it was a little bit scary. I realise now that it was probably even scarier for my parents. The “juvenile delinquents” looked like us, walking down our streets, and sitting in the very booths where we ate our ice cream sundaes. No wonder my parents were afraid!”

Silver-Tex condoms The Killian MRG Company 1950s Te Papa GH010168 copy

Silver-Tex, by Killian MRG Co., 1950s. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa collection, ref GH010168. Something I never thought I’d ever be writing a caption for on this blog; condoms. The only other example I’ve seen thus far is Durex from the early 1960s. It wasn’t even made common knowledge that they were available, if at all (some businesses like the strictly Catholic Galliens, flatly refused to sell contraceptives) so they weren’t exactly advertised – and the object obviously wasn’t to keep them if you could help it – so few examples survive.


Nevertheless there wasn’t much to worry about because by the beginning of the next decade, the “Milk Bar Cowboys” would be finished – replaced by the British Mersey sound, and all that new movement entailed. It was farewell Jailhouse Rock, and welcome to Carnaby Street. Following that, the Hippie movement. Inevitably ensued by an older generation’s shock and disgust. And so it goes on, generation to generation. Here’s a long overdue idea – maybe it’s easier just to get used to it.
As for Prime Minister Sidney Holland who rehashed this often used “moral panic” tactic to bolster his polls – could he have been less disingenuous? It was, in the end, hardly a boon for him – as he won another term that year anyway. Those in the know say that ultimately it had little effect on that outcome, and it was wasted energy beating up the situation; however the damage it all caused was done and it was deep, destructive and lasting.

According to a 1996 article on Roy and Nola Elbe and the milk bar history, entitled “Elbe Romance Blossomed Over Counter’ by Lee-Anne Edwards for the The Hutt News, it’s said the the ice cream factory ceased manufacturing around 1960 and had at least one ownership change before the Dennes of Peter Pan Frozen Foods came into the picture; but details are now unknown.  I’m not sure when the milk bar its self closed – I know the Elbes still had it in the very late 1950s as Andrea Elbe, Fred Jr.’s granddaughter, recalls an amusing anecdote in which “…the power went off one night, and my dad Warren had to race down there. He reckoned that Mum deliberately caused it because, pregnant with me, she had terrible middle-of-the-night cravings for ice cream. She got her wish!”

It’s not known how much the so-called “scandal” marred the business interests of the Elbes who were unwittingly caught up in it. However the fact that the milk bar apparently changed hands before the decade was out may be telling – except that the new owners must have been trading on the Elbes’ good business name – because that didn’t change. Bill and Betty Lummis acquired the milk bar and ran it through the 1960s. Their son Lox served with his brothers Brian and Kevin, who says that in their day “…bad behaviour never happened inside, my dad would not stand any nonsense like that.” So Elbe’s heyday as a denizen of vice, corruption and commotion was put paid to.

THE MAN IN THE STREET Upper Hutt Leader Number 22 20 June 1946 - Copy 1 copy

I don’t know what they or it says.  Since the riddles hint at matters equestrian, one can assume that as Fred Elbe Jr. accumulated some wealth, he dabbled in the business of racehorses. Upper Hutt Leader Number 22, 20 June, 1946. Image courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


Today Amalgamated Video occupies the original site on the southern end of High Street. However to add a little bit to its iconic status, it has been announced just recently that Artist Tim Barlow is recreating Elbe’s Milk Bar with the three Lummis brothers – as an installation this year – one of 11 artworks that will form “Common Ground’, Hutt City’s inaugural public art programme as part of the Fringe festival.
In that case, I guess that Elbe’s won’t be forgotten any time soon; and the family can in retrospect be pleased that they played a star role in a very interesting and significant piece of New Zealand’s history.

Thanks to the Elbe family -Sherry, Andy and Gavin , and Vicky Ireland for their assistance with information, material and images for this story. Also thanks to several sources for permission to quote their work: Both Andrea O’Neil  and Alex Fensome at Dominion Post as well as Papers Past all on behalf of Fairfax Media; Oldrider and others at Kiwi Biker forum, social historian Alison Gray, and Merv Griffith’s recollections from Ben Schrader’s “City children and youth – Bad behaviour”, published by Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, © Crown copyright 2005–2015 Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which were originally quoted with permission of historian Redmer Yska from his book “All shook up: the flash bodgie and the rise of the New Zealand teenager in the fifties Auckland”: Penguin, 1993, p. 66.


Addendum late Oct 2015: I’ve been meaning to add these for months – pictures of some of the family members mentioned in this article, which were kindly passed to me by Fred Elbe Sr.’s granddaughter Andy Elbe, after the article was published in New Zealand Legacy magazine. 

Elbe family From L Fred Jr Fred Sr Rowland Elizabeth Ann nee Lowry Roy late 1920s edit sml

The Elbe family: From L, Fred Jr., Fred Sr., Rowland, Elizabeth Ann nee Lowry, and Roy, taken in the late 1920s.


Fred Elbe jr and Rewa Ellen marriage edit

Fred Elbe Jr.’s marriage to Rewa Ellen August, 1933.


Marriage of Ernest John August and Mary Adam 1905 Rewa Ellen's parents Ann Elizabeth Lowry knew them edit

The marriage of Ernest John August and Mary nee Adam in 1905. These are the parents of Rewa Ellen August, who became the wife of Fred Elbe Jr. However Ann Elizabeth Lowry, who became Fred Elbe Sr.’s New Zealand wife, knew them as she was part of the wedding party and is third from the right. It’s curious, because did the family forget that they were associated with the Augusts before Fred Elbe was ever in the picture? Or just a weird coincidence? 


Louis Frederick (Fred Jr) Elbe (b1910) and Rowland Carl (b1913) c 1915-1916 edit - Copy - Copy

Louis Frederick (Fred Jr.) Elbe, with Rowland Carl Elbe, circa 1915.




All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2015. All rights reserved.

Hokey Information: Poking at History

In Brian Simon, Cadbury Fry Hudson, Cadbury Schweppes Hudson Ltd, Cadbury's, Cadbury's Crunchie, confectionery, Crystal Ice Cream, Deep South Ice Cream Ltd, Desserts, food historian, Frozen Foods, Hokey Pokey, Hokey Pokey ice cream, Hudsons, Ice Cream, Kraft Foods, Kraft Foods Ltd, MacDuffs stores, Manda Ice Cream Ltd, Meadow Gold Ice Cream Ltd, Newjoy Ice Cream Co, Peter Pan Frozen Foods Ltd, Peter Pan ice cream, Professor Helen Leach, Snowflake Ice Cream Ltd, Tip-Top, William Hatton on October 17, 2012 at 10.46

Newjoy Ice Cream sandwich board from a dairy showing products of the time. Painted by Tyrell & Holmes, 1958, courtesy of  and  © D. R. Murray of Built In Dunedin blog at  http://builtindunedin.com/


Hokey Pokey ice cream. A national icon of foodstuffs, and officially the country’s favourite flavour next to (surprisingly) vanilla, in a land where the citizens have the highest consumption of ice cream per capita globally- sitting at well over twenty litres per annum, per person – even beating out the entire of the U.S. An amazing statistic really.
So who invented it? It’s a very good question, actually. Next to the Pavlova debate, it may be the number one most hotly contested issue of that genre.
Hokey Pokey, the confectionery, was apparently around quite some time as an individual confectionery product before it made it into ice cream form.

A close-up of William Hatton’s 1896 patent paperwork for Hokey Pokey, Archives New Zealand.


Of course the famous fact about Hokey Pokey is that it was patented by a man named William Hatton, a manufacturer and confectioner from Dunedin, in March 1896:
A mixture of about 20 to 30 pounds of sugar and five to ten pounds of glucose is boiled with a little water to a degree not exceeding 400 degrees Fahrenheit; and then from 2 to 3 ounces of Carbonate of Soda is added causing the mixture to froth and become light. It is then poured out and moulded into any desired shape.
The record lies within Archives New Zealand where they consider it one of the jewels in the Kiwiana crown. They did a short piece on it here:


“The invention of Hokey Pokey signifies how food is intimately related to our sense of identity and what it means to be a New Zealander”, says Greg Goulding , the Chief Archivist and General Manager.

Tin sign advertising Papatoetoe concern Meadow Gold which took over Snowflake in 1955. This sign probably early 1960s.


Hatton may have patented the name and method, but he certainly didn’t invent it. I managed to locate records of Hokey Pokey being sold as confectionery new Zealand quite some time earlier than that – it was being offered as early as 1892 – by the Tyrell stores, owned by King and Co. It seems to have been in vogue as a novelty for a decade or so, and then doesn’t start re-appearing as a sweet until the 1920s.

Griffins Hokey Pokey Cream biscuits photographed  by Kniven & Co  for Woolworths N.Z. Ltd., Alexander Turnbull Library collection , Ref: 1/2-210966-F


 None of these references of course show exactly what the product looked like or even describe it, however the earliest descriptions of commercial product refer to hunks, lumps or slabs – and that’s mostly in the late 1920s-early 1930s. The earliest visual I have is 1932 by MacDuffs. It was a chocolate coated bar and what would closely resemble a Crunchie, or Violet Crumble in Australia today; perhaps a bit heftier. Earlier mentions describing it as chocolate-coated hunks or lumps would resemble what’s sold today as “Honeycomb.”

Tip-Top TT-2, courtesy of Fonterra’s Tip-Top archives.


Although Professor Helen Leach, who is a culinary anthropologist at Otago University (and wrote the book “The Pavlova Story” on the famous debate over the dessert) at the time she was quoted (2010) says that the earliest recipe she could find was 1916. However, The Auckland Star newspaper’s confectioner offered a cookbook including a Hokey Pokey recipe in 1895.

A picture of William Hatton’s 1896 patent paperwork for Hokey Pokey, Archives New Zealand.


I don’t doubt that putting candy pieces in ice cream was an old idea. Hokey Pokey ice cream can generally be described as plain vanilla with small lumps of what is commonly known as honeycomb toffee distributed throughout it. Jeri Quinzio, a food historian, says that the origins of Hokey Pokey ice cream are rather simple and consisted of a cake of plain ice cream proffered by street vendors which was sliced to order and served wrapped in a piece of paper. Often the ice cream was layered in three flavours (what is commonly known as Neapolitan today) but this was not a hard and fast rule. It’s also quite likely that variations had small pieces of toffee or candy, and other ingredients mixed in the plain or layered base – a little like Cassata. According to The Encyclopaedia of Food, 1923, which was published in New York, Hokey Pokey is “a term applied to mixed colours and flavours of ice cream in cake form”.

MacDuffs Stores confectionery, Hokey Pokey Tablet, November 1932.


And indeed it is thought that the origins of the name may be Italian and come from one of two phrases – “oh che poco” (oh how little) or “ecco un poco” (here is a little piece). This does make some sense, since that the term Hokey Pokey is also thought to derive from a song that was used by Italian street vendors who used to sing it in order to hawk their wares in 19th century Britain and America – and came to be known as “Hokey Pokey Men” ( and thus, the carts came to be known as Hokey Pokey Barrows). Another theory is that the vendors would yell “Ecce pocce”, which means something similar to “Get it here, it’s cold”, in Italian and this evolved into the name “Hokey Pokey”. After all, it was the Italians (and French) that really started making what we now know as ice cream in the late 1600s.

A recreation of Hokey Pokey in it’s original form; in the C19th it was a simple slice served wrapped in paper, often a tri flavour creation. Courtesy of Ivan Day from a fantatsic blog “Food History Jottings” at  foodhistorjottings.blogspot.com.au


However “The Hokey Pokey” was a song (and dance) was inspired by the sweet treat, not the other way around, , allegedly written by bandleader Al Tabor in 1940, the idea came from an ice cream vendor whom Tabor had heard as a boy, calling out, “Hokey pokey, penny a lump. Have a lick, make you jump”.

Evening Post, December 1927.


Apparently, the story goes that Hokey Pokey in ice cream form was first made by a Papatoetoe company in the 1940s. This alleged fact has been widely quoted by various, but the only source I could find giving credit was Christchurch City library which indicates the information as being from Richard Wolfe and Stephen Barnett’s 2002 book “100 years of Kiwiana.” CCL’s page on Kiwi Classics goes on to say “…peculiar to New Zealand is hokey-pokey (sic), a blend of vanilla base with pieces of toffee. Made famous by Tip Top, it was first sold by the Meadow Gold Ice Cream Company of Papatoetoe, Auckland, in the 1940s. The idea of adding toffee wasn’t new, but the distinctive taste was unique.” Further to that, the “100% New Zealand” website, by Tourism New Zealand, claims that it was “… first sold in 1940 (but doesn’t say by whom), Hokey Pokey became a national favourite when the Tip-Top Ice Cream company began heavily marketing it in the 1950s…” Yet again the source of this information isn’t quoted.

MacDuff’s Stores confectionery, Evening Post, September 1933.


In fact Meadow Gold (which had a logo rather like Borden’s “Elsie the Cow”) didn’t exist until 1955. The Snowflake ice cream factory was once situated just to the south of the block of shops on the corner of Great South Road and Caspar Road, Papatoetoe. The factory was run by W.G. Lunn during the 1940s, then Rita and George Aagard took over the business in 1949, selling it to Meadow Gold after they were done after just six years. So technically, Meadow Gold could not have come out with it in the 1940s.
Of course, everyone wants to stake their claim, be “the person that had the idea” – and take the title of the one who invented this beloved dessert. Tip-Top’s claim is fairly dubious, and there is no information on Meadow Gold let alone anything to back that claim up. The janky dates also don’t fare well at all.

A screen shot of William Hatton’s method description in his patent, 1896, Archives New Zealand


A more detailed explanation comes from descendants of Peter Pan ice cream’s founder T.C. Denne, who claim that they were possibly the first to make Hokey Pokey, not Meadow Gold– and they actually have a written description of how it was first made – “In the early days, The hokey-pokey was manually crushed into large chunks and hand-spooned into the ice cream during the churning process. Later the engineers developed machinery which crushed and blended the hokey pokey into the ice cream”.

 Yvonne Sutton as well as John Denne distinctly remember it already being made by the mid-1950s: “My understanding is, it was Peter Pan that invented the Hokey Pokey ice cream. I’m pretty sure that’s correct. It was a very exacting procedure because you have a porous, soft sugary product inside an ice cream – and to stop the Hokey Pokey from melting was really a technique that was very valuable – and my understanding is that Peter Pan began it”, says JohnYvonne remembers: “I think it was an original Peter Pan product – first made – and superior to all later versions.  Of course I’m somewhat biased. I well remember it  being made by Trevor Franklin in a large steam jacketed ‘kettle,’  and how the golden sugary mix frothed up when the baking soda was put in. It was poured hot into large, shallow, cut down milk powder tins, and chilled. When cold, it  was dropped in big chunks into an ingenious crusher, built by engineer Gordon Brogden, then shovelled generously by hand into the ice cream. Delectable!”

So here we have some verifiable company information, a detailed description, a general date and eyewitnesses.

Modern version of the Tip-Top tub showing the new toffee balls that recently replaced smashed “kibble”.


In the scheme of things they are a contender for the title however here is another, likely better one: Brian Simon, previous owner of both Deep South Ice Cream Ltd and Manda Ice Cream companies in Invercargill. Now in his seventies, he himself claims to have made the first Hokey Pokey ice cream at a Dunedin company in 1953:
“I was 18 and working in my father’s ice cream factory Newjoy Ice Cream Co., and we thought about different flavours (we could do). I was reading in an American magazine about what they were making there and one was candy ice cream, and I thought “well, we’ve never had one like that in New Zealand”. We had two Dutchmen working there during the daytime and then when they knocked off, they walked up the road to Cadbury’s to do the night shift. One day I asked them – “what are you doing there?” and they said “Oh, we’re making Crunchie bars”. So I said “do they have any broken Hokey Pokey?”and they said “yes, they’ve got quite a bit” and I said “well can you put me in touch with the man that I can talk to about buying some?” So we got some and I started sprinkling it into the ice cream. And that’s how we first made ice cream with Hokey Pokey in it and it became quite popular. Our opposition at the time was Crystal Ice Cream in Dunedin and they started doing it too – and it just sort of blossomed from there.

Auckland Star newspaper’s  cook book with Hokey Pokey recipe of January 1895 far predates Prof. Helen Leach’s 1916 find.


But I have seen in a book that somebody showed me, that Tip-Top claim to be the first ones to do it in 1943 or 1944 and I said “oh, that’s bullshit”.  At that time we were on sugar rationing , as well as petrol rationing , because it was World War Two and you just couldn’t get the sugar to do those sort of things. So I don’t think that is what really happened. So it was the broken pieces of Crunchie bars – and eventually Cadbury’s actually made special stuff for us because we were using so much of it, they put it in eleven pound bags and we bought it in pallet lots. When we bring on a new flavour we don’t know how it’s going to go, and so we didn’t get too excited about Hokey Pokey at the time. When the opposition saw that we were selling a lot of it they decided to have a go at it. I haven’t got a message for Tip-Top; they are the market leaders and they seem to have claimed that it was theirs since during the war, well I don’t know where they got their sugar from!”.

Hokey Pokey biscuits from a vintage Edmond’s Sure To Rise cookbook.


It is a fact that during WWII years, that manufacturers were only allowed to use fifty percent of their usual sugar. On top of that, a 25% sales tax was imposed on products so many manufacturers such as Cadbury decided to cancel most of their confectionery lines and put all their sugar into chocolate bars for the war effort.

The earliest verification I have of Tip-Top selling Hokey Pokey are both in the 1950s, both in bulk, and in quart boxes. However the dates further than the general decade are not more specific. Brian Simon is described by a colleague as “a no-nonsense kind of guy”, and his account does sound believable. This could be backed up by Cadbury’s and other witnesses of the time if, indeed, any are still alive. By his account Crunchie Bars were on the market in NZ around in the early fifties, and they were being made from the late 1920’s in the UK first by Fry and then Cadbury Fry when they merged (and then Cadbury Fry merged with NZ’s Hudson in 1930). They were present in Australia by 1929.

Here’s the problem: Ted Barringer, who was sent from Britain in 1952 to work on sales and marketing, and eventually became managing director of Cadbury Fry Hudson for 17 years, specifically remembers working up the almost non-existent  novelty line and sending for the successful Crunchie recipe and process from J S Fry at Somerdale in the U.K., in 1955. By all accounts it was an instant hit in Aotearoa. Although the hand-cut method of production in New Zealand may have accounted for high breakage, they just weren’t being made before then. This probably puts Newjoy and Peter Pan back head-to-head.

It should also be noted, for the record, that Peter Pan first published their company history “Sweet Success” in 1997, a good twelve years before Simon gave his interview.

By the late 1950s to early 1960s Both Hudson’s and Griffin’s had their versions of Hokey Pokey biscuits, and Tip-Top had a Hokey Pokey TT-2, pictured here, exact dates for all are unknown – but it goes unsaid, way after the fact.

Hokey Pokey commemorated in a NZ Post “Kiwiana” stamp set of 1994.


Nobody is going to challenge Tip-Top’s claim – and besides that “Hokey Pokey” is apparently not a registered trademark, to this day. They recently modified the recipe to use uniform honeycomb balls, from what was formerly known as “kibble” in the trade – reason being that the bigger chunks, created by hammering the toffee into pieces, would routinely clog the machinery. Combining two classics, they also released a limited edition Trumpet version – “Creamy Hokey Pokey flavoured ice cream with crunchy hokey pokey pieces, a caramel sauce centre and sprinkled with hokey pokey pieces and choc topping”, celebrating renowned Kiwi team the All Blacks, in 2011. Regardless of what Tip-Top do to it, they will never really make it their own – But besides that – evidence speaks otherwise to Hokey Pokey’s origins. Yet to materialise are dates and details that back up their implication as original creator.

There is at least the good beginnings of a story here, even if it’s one of those “ask more questions than gives answers” type of articles to start with – and hopefully more information will come to light in due course which will settle this mystery once and for all.

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


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