Looking Back: Nostalgic childhood memories of Sheffield's ice cream vans and their music

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One of my all-abiding memories of childhood is the sound of the ice cream van coming down the road. Themes varied but the one I remember most is Teddy Bears Picnic.

Ice cream van music varied in different parts of the UK, with Greensleeves, Waltzing Matilda, O Sole Mio and Match of the Day themes being particularly popular, and in later years the theme music from Dr.Zhivago.

The distinctive tininess of the music is generally remembered with affection by most older people, although recent chimes have been criticised for being too loud and affecting television viewing which not many of us had in the 1950s.

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Ice cream has been sold on British streets since the 1850s, originally from a horse and cart and with a handbell announcing its arrival.

A 1950s ice cream van belonging to Middlewood Dairy Ices, 474, Middlewood Road. Ref no: v00619A 1950s ice cream van belonging to Middlewood Dairy Ices, 474, Middlewood Road. Ref no: v00619
A 1950s ice cream van belonging to Middlewood Dairy Ices, 474, Middlewood Road. Ref no: v00619

It was another hundred years before Mr Softie and then Mr Whippy became the most famous names on the side of ice cream vans.

Not only did we pester mother for the money to buy a cornet when we heard the chimes, but she would also often take a bowl out to them to fill, especially on Sundays when it made a nice change from Carnation milk to have on your tinned fruit at teatime.

Ice cream was quite a big part of childhood.

No birthday party was complete without jelly and ice cream, and even when you had your tonsils out, which most children seemed to endure in the 1950s, ice cream was your staple diet for as long as you could claim to have a sore throat!

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Granelli's ice cream van at Sheffield's old Sheaf Market in 1958Granelli's ice cream van at Sheffield's old Sheaf Market in 1958
Granelli's ice cream van at Sheffield's old Sheaf Market in 1958

And a visit to the cinema had the ice-cream seller walking up and down the isles when it was the interval and the lights in the cinema went on.

Hulley’s were one of the best-known ice cream manufacturers in Sheffield during the 1950s, although eventually going on to bigger and better things in the frozen foods industry.

One of our favourite afternoons out as a family was walking down to sit in the garden in their fondly remembered factory at Ecclesfield.

Nothing beat the feeling when you sat in the sun with your ice cream cornet or a ‘choc o pop’ which was a choc ice on a stick and a pretty innovative concept at the time!