Ice cream

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Ice cream in Sprowston

When Sprowston Heritage started in 2000, we were looking for images and family stories to put on our archive. We had a stall at Sprowston Fete that summer and many of our mature visitors on that day, mentioned their time at the school on School Lane, and also the schools on Recreation Ground Road (1910-1939). One of their memories was coming out of the schools and buying an ice cream from the famous Italian ice cream makers.

By the 1850`s ice cream machines had been invented and Ice cream sellers roamed the streets of Norfolk. In most cases it was families that originally came from Italy that worked in this new market.

Initially they used their handcarts, which they then moved on to horse carts, then a commercial tricycle and finally to the motorised van version we see on our streets today. Icecream, cornets, wafers, blocks and fruit lollipops were available. If you were lucky the cornets were sometimes sprinkled with or dipped into a tray of hundreds and thousands. Later came the choc-ices and 99`s (Cone, soft ice cream and a chocolate stick).

I was told that the school children bought the ice cream known as the “penny licks”. A dab or scoop of ice cream was placed onto a small glass dish and this cost one half penny, the child then licked the ice cream until the dish was clean, the dish was returned, Of course sometimes the glass dish was dropped or the child would forget to return it! Today this would be considered a health hazard and not the cleanest way to eat ice cream, but in 1902 the edible ice cream cup was invented, but it was still sometime before this came to Norfolk.

Peruzzi Ice Cream

In 1930, Mr Joseph Peruzzi, would go on his usual rounds with his ice cream cart. His family originated in Italy and had a lovely brown and white pony. The ice creams were ½d (0.2np) for a cornet with the option of sarsaparilla on top.

The Peruzzi family were Ice cream makers and Sellers, eventually they became successful Scrap Metal Merchants.

Parravani Ice Cream

The Parravani family has been making Italian ice cream in Norfolk and Suffolk since 1898. The business was started in 1898 by Giuseppe Parravani, who had come over from a small village near Naples in Italy as a teenager to find his older brother Domenico, who had set up an ice cream business in Ber Street in Norwich. In 1909 he married an Italian girl, Caterina, who had come over from Florence and was living with an Italian family in Ipswich. They settled in Southend Road in Bungay, where their first two children were born.

Giuseppe bought two cows for the milk for ice cream, and a plot of land to keep them and the ponies on, and the business continued to grow. After about four years the family moved to Pirnhow Street in Ditchingham, where they had nine further children. As each child left school, they helped in the business, selling ice cream from beautifully painted ice cream carts – often being shown the rounds by an experienced pony! In those days an ice cream would cost ½d. In 1931 the family arranged to move to Dulls Farm in Ellingham, but sadly a week before they moved Giuseppe died at the age of 47. This left Caterina to bring up eleven children, the youngest of whom was a baby of six months, look after the farm and milk the cows. The business carried on from Ellingham, run by Giuseppe's eldest son Augie Parravani, and just before the war the first ice cream van was put on the road. It had been converted by the family from a car, with bigger windows, a higher roof and rear doors being added. It was used until production stopped in 1940 soon after the outbreak of war.

In 1946 manufacture of ice cream started again, and was continued by Augie and his brothers Peter and Domenico until Augie retired in 1985.

Many of these hardworking Italian families came to Norwich and opened businesses, Fish shops, Hairdressers, Cafes and Restaurants.

We would like to thank two ladies with Sprowston connections, Christine and Sarah for delving into their respective Peruzzi and Parravani family albums.

White Owl Ice Cream

Before they went out of business White Owl Ice Cream was sold in the newsagents opposite the Brickmakers PH it was originally the Candy Cabin and was owned by a Mr Reevie. Another shop selling the ice cream was the general stores in Salhouse.

One Sprowston resident remembers being a member of the White Owl Club in the 1950`s and the call sign was “Twit Twoo”. The ice cream was sold from the ice cream van, this travelled around the estates, stopping at various places, a musical chime was played to attract the customers.