Monday, May 08, 2006

East Acton, Ice Cream and 'Little Italy'

There’s a story in today’s papers suggesting that an amendment will be moved to the Education Bill to give powers to ban ice cream vans from parking near schools. Now, I’m the last person to usually oppose either new Council regulatory powers or action against obesity (in both cases I’d be guilty of hypocrisy of a Gallowayesque character.)

However, this does seem a bit heavy handed – I agree with the dietician who is quoted saying that “this is the kind of blanket ban that gives the health lobby a bad name … most choices from an ice cream van would provide fewer calories and fat compared to a free choice from a newsagent”. I’m writing to the Council to see if the’re going to use these new powers to ban ice cream vans, or rather I hope leave ice cream rationing for parents to decide.

That said, I’m biased, given the long East Acton connection with ice cream.

In 1922 the Walls sausage factory at The Friary (on the borders of East Acton and Acton Central wards) started using spare capacity in the summer to produce ice cream. Their ice cream took off in a big way, helped by a famously innovative marketing campaign led by salespeople on tricycles using the slogan “stop me and buy one”. This was so well known as a catchphrase in the inter war years that supposedly condom use was promoted to the armed forces with the line “buy me and stop one”.

By 1956 the whole of The Friary was given over all year to ice cream production - and even in the early eighties Walls still employed hundreds of local people, including many of my schoolmates in holiday jobs. However, by the late eighties the factory was closed, and the site is now the Friary Park social housing estate.

The other ice cream connection in East Acton comes from our status as the ‘Little Italy’ of Acton – and indeed the Borough. Nearly 1% of our residents were born in Italy, and growing up on the East Acton Estate it was not unusual to hear Italian accents – we had a great impromptu street party in Carlisle Avenue when a Paulo Rossi-inspired Italy won the World Cup in 1982.

Many of the East Acton Italian families have made their living from ice cream and the tradition is still kept going locally, particularly by the local Bonito family. Stop them and buy one if you see them around, and tell yourself that you’re celebrating East Acton history rather than just having a treat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and don't forget Tony Bros of Acton and the shiny shop back of the High Street in the 1960's