Showing posts with label Jim's Dairy Delite Bar Hamilton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jim's Dairy Delite Bar Hamilton. Show all posts

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Jim's Dairy Delite Bar, Hamilton

The secret ingredient to Blue Heaven milkshakes is one that Mervyn Roberts has kept all his life.

‘And it will die with me’, he chuckles.

Blue Heaven is the flavour that ‘Losties’ on the Lost Newcastle Facebook page mention often – ‘do you remember Blue Heaven?’ ‘what was in it?’

Jim’s Dairy Delite Bar, Hamilton opened in May, 1957 on the corner of Tudor and Webster Streets. Merv, now 87 and fiercely independent despite some recent health scares, is the only survivor of three business partners.

Mervyn Roberts, 2014

Merv grew up on a farm and had trained as a baker in Manilla, in northern New South Wales. However, constant exposure to flour particles affected his health. In Newcastle, Merv found work with Allen’s Sweets. Allen’s distribution centre operated from what had been Pearce’s Premier Bakery in Webster Street, Hamilton. (Read the story of Pearce’s bakery here.)

Driving an Allen’s delivery van all over town, Merv met many customers. One was Jim Jamison, a qualified accountant and retired bank manager who ran a mixed business. When Jim opened his Dairy Delite Bar around the corner from Allen’s, it didn’t take long for him to lure Merv, an energetic 31 year old, into a working partnership. By then, Merv had a wife and 6 year old daughter.

‘That meant a wage, plus commission’, explains Merv.

Ray McLennan was the third working partner, Jim’s brother-in-law.

‘Ray knew a lot about refrigeration,’ says Merv, ‘and over the years, saved us heaps of money. Jim had a head for business; he was the brains.’

Jim Jamison, 1968
The Newcastle Sun, 11/06/1968

Merv and his wife Bonnie became full partners with Jim when he established a Dairy Delite bar on the corner of Maitland Road and Woodstock Street in Mayfield. Bonnie had been running a bar selling freshly crushed pineapple juice, coffee and soups in the Newcastle Arcade. It was sold (for 1600 pounds) to finance the Roberts’ share of the Mayfield shop. That opened in November, 1962, and like the Hamilton one, became something of a legend. Similar shops were later opened at Cardiff and The Junction.

‘Dairy delite wasn’t pure ice cream,’ Merv explains.’ The Health Department was always onto us, making sure we didn’t label it ice cream. It was a kind of soft serve, put out by Dairy Farmers. When McDonalds came to Newcastle, they did a deal with Dairy Farmers and we couldn’t sell it any more. We went to Peter’s.’

Jim’s Dairy Delite Bar on the corner of Tudor and Webster Street, Hamilton stands out in this 1986 photograph by the late Percy Sternbeck, reproduced courtesy of the Coalfields Heritage Group, Sir Edgeworth David Memorial Museum, Kurri Kurri, NSW

Whenever Jim’s is mentioned on the ‘Lost Newcastle’ Facebook page, it attracts a fresh wave of comments. Noel Santleben wrote – ‘They made the best milkshakes in town – almost impossible to suck it up through a straw – you really had to work for it’.

While favourites were spearmint malt, choc malt, doube choc malt (with a dash of vanilla), lime, banana, passionfruit, even pineapple, the stand out winner was Blue Heaven.

Cherie Hinde wrote – ‘Blue Heaven definitely! Still duck into Jim’s Hamilton when I do road trips’.

Susan Watt–Dunne loved Blue Heaven with nutmeg. Marion Kracke exclaimed – ‘it was like you were in heaven when you drank it!’

When Gail Jason told how her mother used to get her warm lime milkshakes – ‘the best ever!’ -  Brian Agland responded:

‘Gail, I’m so glad you mentioned warm milkshakes. No one else remembers them and I was beginning to doubt myself. Mum would send us to Jim’s Hamilton after school on a wet day for a warm milkshake. They would make a milkshake and steam it.

Chris Blatchford, who grew up in the Blatchford family of bakers and is now an executive chef in Sydney, remembers riding his skateboard from the bakehouse on nearby Denison Street. He would have orders for staff like ‘surf thick shakes’ – double everything – ice cream, malt, and flavouring.

As well as milkshakes, thick shakes and bottled drinks, Jim’s at Hamilton sold boxes of chocolates, Easter eggs, and snacks such as hamburgers, salmon patties and hot chips. The side door opening onto Webster Street became the entrance way to the snack bar.

In 1968 the tiny snack bar was expanded into a 60 year old house at 4 Webster Street – the one baker Sydney Pearce had built for his family as he’d become more prosperous. The opening warranted a two page feature in The Newcastle Sun (Tuesday June 11, 1968), with congratulatory advertisements from builders, plumbers, gasfitters, floor sanders and tilers, as well as suppliers of kitchen equipment, signs and lighting, greengroceries, smallgoods and bread.

Feature article on the opening of Jim’s Snack Bar at Hamilton, a model for similar establishments in Newcastle
The Newcastle Sun, 11/06/1968

The new premises had tiled walls and floor, with stainless steel fittings including a fully refrigerated sandwich bar. Tallents deep fryers, griller, hamburger plate and high speed burners were installed.

Advertisement for Jim’s drink and snack bars
The Newcastle Sun, 11/06/1968

 The façade of the old house was transformed with large aluminium windows and ceramic tiles. The Newcastle Sun describes the layout:

‘The ground floor contains the snack bar, complete with tables and stools. Behind this is a cool room, toilets and shower room, and a kitchen and storage area. Upstairs there is a workshop, staff room, office and more store rooms’.

I learned from the article that when it first opened, a choice of more than 80 sandwich fillings were offered! As well as pies, donuts, sausages, rissoles and hamburgers, soft drinks and coffee.

How was it that the snack bar, clearly an impressive venture with leading edge equipment for its time, no longer operates – but the ice cream and milkshakes sold at Jim’s continue to attract customers?

The former snack bar has reverted to a private residence.

Merv Roberts retired in 1992, just before he turned 65. He’d done everything in the shops, from mixing syrups to helping cook on Sundays.

Mementos of Merv’s days at Jim’s, 2014

It was the people he enjoyed most about his work. ‘Johnny Farnham came once,’ he tells me. ‘And then in 1962, when NBN opened, the Dairy Farmers marketing people approached me to appear on the Norman Brown Three Cheers show. At the end, when the credits rolled, all the kids lined up for ice cream. I served.’ Daughter Annette remembers standing beside her dad, handing out ice creams.

Mervyn Roberts and daughter Annette Roberts, 2014

Because the bar was ‘Jim’s’, Merv often got called Jim. A couple of times, I had to catch myself, about to do the same. It is obvious that this easy going farm boy from Manilla would have been a friendly presence in any retail setting.

Brian Agland  remembers Mervyn very well: ‘A distinguished looking man with the patience of Job. We kids were always undecided because having a Jim’s milkshake wasn’t a common occurrence, and we certainly made the most of the experience’.

I can reveal here that the syrup for Blue Heaven milkshakes is flavoured with cola. Of course, there is blue colouring – and a third ingredient. Jim’s used to purchase essences from a wholesaler Alfred Lawrence. When one of the travelling salesmen phoned Merv and asked for the recipe for Blue Heaven, Merv was canny. He told the salesman about the cola and the colouring, but stopped there.

‘Wasn’t there something else?’ the salesman wondered.

Merv hedged, but never told.

Another building in need of someone to love it –
but the customers still come. Jim’s Dairy Delite Bar, 2014
Photograph by Craig Smith

Unattributed photographs by Ruth Cotton.

My thanks  to Mervyn Roberts and Annette Roberts for sharing this story, and to contributors to the ‘Lost Newcastle’ Facebook page for their memories of Jim’s Dairy Delite Bar.



Saturday, 6 July 2013

Who’s Been Sleeping in My House?

The popularity of the television series of this name shows how keen many of us are discover the human dramas that might have played out in the house we now occupy.

One of the quests of this blog is to find out much more about the history and the secrets of the land, the buildings and the people around my home in Hamilton.

The front page article in The Post  about this blog resulted in a surprising flurry of emails and phone calls. One day, as I was enjoying the afternoon sun warming my office, I opened one of those emails. It was quite long, and to be honest, I was a bit drowsy. I began to learn about my correspondent, who had grown up in a house on Denison Street, between Webster and Crompton Streets.

As I read on, an address leapt off the screen. It was mine!

The writer of the email, Brian Agland, was describing how his aunt and uncle, Syd and Val Taylor, had lived “just around the corner” from where he had lived as a young boy from 1952 to 1965. They had become his much loved de facto grandparents, and their place his second home.

Now, it was ours.

I met up with Brian, and his wife Anita, to learn more.

Brian had left Newcastle as a young man, to pursue a career in the Air Force. As he and Anita planned their retirement, Newcastle kept up its persistent call. Irresistibly, they were drawn back. “If we couldn’t live in Hamilton, we weren’t going to come back”, Brian told me.

Brian’s aunt and uncle and their three sons never actually slept in our house. Their two bedroom weatherboard home was demolished in 2006 and the following year, the house that was eventually to become ours, was built.

Front of Val and Syd's home, Crompton Street, Hamilton
Photograph from personal collection of Brian Agland

The only trace of past occupants is a sun-seeking olive tree, squeezed into the tiny back courtyard of the modern house that now stands here.

I fantasised that the tree had been planted by a long gone Greek or Italian resident, yearning for the scrabbly limestone hills where olives flourish in Mediterranean Europe.

Brian tells me his relatives would have owned the block probably from the 1940s, so perhaps it was Val and Syd (as they were known) who planted our solitary tree.

I’m happy to replace my little fantasy with Brian’s memories as a kid, racing down the narrow alley at the side of the house to visit Aunty Val (“we never used the front door”). As soon as she heard their footsteps, she’d put the kettle on and he’d hear its familiar hiss.

This simple home was the family hub on special occasions such as Christmas, with everyone welcome to pack into the lounge room and spill out the back. Although the weatherboards, the cockatoo in its cage and the front brick pillars have all gone, I hope we continue to be blessed by the spirit of those happy times.

Uncle Syd’s claim to fame, says Brian, was his risky sideline as an SP bookie, illegal at that time. He would occupy the same spot in the Hamilton Hotel, and Brian remembers the thrill of being sent to call him for the evening meal – surreptitiously catching his eye from the door, as children were not allowed inside.

For his day job, Uncle Syd worked for Dark’s Ice Works, delivering ice to BHP very early in the morning, and in the afternoon. He must have been a strong, fit man, hefting the huge blocks on his shoulder. Brian remembers the intense excitement of occasionally, being allowed to go with Uncle Syd on his afternoon delivery.

Unloading ice From Dark’s Ice Works
 Maritime Newcastle collection of Ralph Snowball images, courtesy of Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle, Australia

Syd and Val Taylor owned a vacant block of land across the street from their Crompton Street home. Fronted by a long brick wall (loved by the boys to practice balancing), the block was known as “The Stables”. An old horse stable at the back was a favorite play area, no doubt dark and musty. Val grew vegetables on the spare land and Brian’s father used it as a car park. Villas were built there in the 1980s – and so the built landscape changes.

Streetscape Crompton Street, showing villas
that replaced "The Stables"

On the corner of Crompton and Denison Streets, at 102 Denison Street, was Blatchford’s Bakery. We know this sturdy building today as Denison Street Automotive Services. It was badly damaged in the 1989 earthquake.

The warm, yeasty smell of freshly baked bread is apparently one of the most universally loved aromas in the world. Recent research has found it even makes us kinder to strangers! [1] I love the idea that over time, there have been two bakeries so close to where I live.

The mother of Brian’s school friend worked at Blatchford’s. “It was a real treat to have a free cream horn after school”, Brian recalls.

Who else remembers cream horns?

Photograph courtesy

Years later, Susan Henderson remembers Blatchford’s mouth watering pies, bought from this shop.

Brian believes that Susan’s great grandfather’s bakery in Webster Street,  Pearce's Bakery  was sold to Allen’s Sweets (“I can still smell the peppermint!”). Around the corner on Tudor Street, Jim’s Dairy Delites produced HOT milkshakes!

The land on which Brian’s childhood home used to be the grounds of the Sportsman's Arms Hotel .

108 Denison Street, Hamilton (centre)
Photograph from personal collection of Brian Agland

 In the family for over 100 years, the house was finally sold, then demolished in 2006.

Demolition of 108 Denison Street, Hamilton (2006)
Photograph from personal collection of Brian Agland

As shown on the streetscape below, it was replaced with a modern, two story structure.

There are many more fascinating threads to Brian and Anita’s story, which is theirs to tell. But for now, they have helped people the spaces and streets around my home.

I see two little mates, leaving Blatchford’s Bakery, luscious cream horns cradled in hands grubby from a day at school. Later, I hear their voices, taunting each other as, step by careful step, they inch along the high brick wall fencing off “The Stables”.  Then, I imagine Aunty Val, listening for the dash of boyish feet down the side of the house, their small owner bursting in breathless, with his news of the day.

Unattributed photographs by Ruth Cotton.

Updated 8 June 2018.

[2] Early last century, the house numbers were changed – originally it was 100 Denison Street.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Lost Bakery Found in Webster Street, Hamilton

Webster Street yielded up one of its secrets to me after I stumbled across some photographs of Pearce’s Bakery on the Facebook site Lost Newcastle .  From Susan Henderson and her mother, Joan Lean, and later from other descendants, Peter Pearce and William Pearce, I learned about the family that established this bakery in 1899.

Webster Street is a tiny, one way street tucked around the corner from that Newcastle legend, Jim’s Dairy Delite Bar. Walking along Tudor Street from my house nearby, I see adults and kids alike stopped in mid-stride, unable to wait a minute longer to lick the melting swirls of their ice cream cones, or slurp on Jim’s Shakes. But that’s for another post.

Hamilton landmark, Jim's Dairy Delites, Tudor Street, Hamilton (2014)
Photograph by Craig Smith

Below is the first home of Sydney and Ruth Pearce, who began Pearce’s Premier Bakery. Ruth Pearce and four of her six children stand at the front of what was quaintly called 'Ruthville'. The bakehouse was at the side.

Sydney and Ruth Pearce, with four of their six children, at their original Webster Street home, Hamilton
From the collection of Mrs Joan Lean

Five babies were born in this house, including twins Iris and Harry. Harry Benjamin Pearce was father of Peter Pearce and grandfather of William Pearce.

Twins Iris and Harry Pearce c.1920
 Photograph from the collection of Peter Pearce

Pearce's Bakery prospered for about forty years. During the Great Depression (1929 – 1932) a bakery would have been a focal point of food production in the community. Bread and dripping were staples for many in those hungry times.

Joan, Susan’s mother, now in her mid eighties, remembers visiting her grandparents in the bakery in the 1930s with her mother Mercia. Easter visits were a special treat, when high, fluffy hot cross buns were baked. Mercia , daughter of Sydney and Ruth, lived until she was 99 years. The secret of her long life, she told Joan, was eating plenty of malt, and bran.

As well as caring for her large family, Ruth managed the bakery office. Joan remembers that her grandmother had a housekeeper to help in the home.

Only two types of bread were made - white and brown bread. Malt was added to the bread instead of sugar. This added flavour and a touch of sweetness, as well as helping to brown the crust.

Inside the bakery, the set up was austere.

Pearce's Bakery, Webster Street, Hamilton (n.d)
From the collection of Mrs Joan Lean

Bakeries have been around for centuries, with various forms of baking practiced in cultures across the world. While the essentials have remained unchanged, Sydney would have had to stockpile wood for his fire, and make judgements based on experience about how long the loaves needed to come out perfect every time.

Mechanisation did bring some labour saving devices, such as a dough maker.

Sydney Pearce with new dough machine (c.1925)
Photograph from the collection of Peter Pearce

Bread was delivered to homes by the local bakery.

A mix of delivery modes in front of Pearce's Premier Bakery (n.d.)
Sydney Pearce is in the driveway
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library

The long line up of vehicles outside the bakery, seen below, suggests the bakery had become a prosperous business by 1925.

Delivery vans and carts outside Pearce's Bakery c.1920
From the collection of Mrs Joan Lean

To minimise cash handling by the drivers, tokens were once popular – these were purchased in advance, and exchanged for a half loaf or a full loaf. A jar of tokens was a special play thing remembered by many children of this era.

Token from Pearce’s Bakery, for sale on ebay

Brian Jones lived two doors from the bakery, at 10 Webster Street, from 1939 until 1963. He adds to this story:

'I remember well watching from our upstairs balcony the horse drawn bakers' carts that rumbled down the street on their iron clad wheels making things rattle in cupboards and shelves. I loved the horses tied up outside to the telegraph poles resting one rear hoof as horses do and feeding from their nose bags. I played in the stables directly behind the bakery and ate the tasty crumbs from a long table just near the door to the oven room. I remember the flats and Jim's Dairy Delite Bar being built'.

Two of Sydney Pearce’s sons grew up to work in the bakery, and had houses nearby – Horace in Webster Street and Harry in Denison Street. Both houses are still in place.

Sydney worked hard and did well. He was able to build a new family home, a two storey terrace, next to the bakery.

The  Pearce's second home, now remodelled, next to the site of the former bakery and original home (2013)

Above is Webster Street as it is today. The charcoal grey building on the left  has replaced the Pearce's original home and bakery, and is now a business premises. Interestingly, in the 1990s, great grand daughter Susan worked for a time in this building. Next to it is what was Sydney and Ruth's second home, since renovated and updated.

Susan Henderson and Joan Lean (2013)
Visiting Webster Street  to confirm the locations of the bakery and family homes

Harry Pearce was killed in a hit and run accident in near the racecourse Broadmeadow in 1968. He was 60. Horace Pearce ran a general store in Toronto, later retiring to a property out of Rutherford where he bred thoroughbred race horses.  Still later, he bought a home on the Hill, in Newcastle.

Sydney died in 1942 aged 66. In time, both the business and the building were sold.

It is a platitude that family businesses are never easy. It is irrefutable that the long, unsociable hours involved in running businesses like a bakery take their toll on family life and well being.

Nevertheless, the perseverance and hard work of Sydney and Ruth Pearce enabled them to operate a prosperous small business and to raise a large family. 

I am glad to be able to bring to light the contribution of the Pearce family to the commercial and social heritage of Hamilton -  the lost bakery of Webster Street. 

Unattributed photographs by Ruth Cotton.


My thanks to Joan Lean, Susan Henderson, Peter Pearce and William Pearce for sharing information and photographs. Terence Pearce Sjostedt provided some additional details about Horace Pearce (updated 20/9/14). This post was further updated as a result of feedback  from Judy Falcioni (nee Pearce) regarding her father Harry Pearce (6/12/2014).