When Mancini’s ices ruled the roost

TOPPING ... Nicol Mancini whose signed photo appears in the calendar.
TOPPING ... Nicol Mancini whose signed photo appears in the calendar.

THEY’RE increasingly rare these days but it always evokes happy childhood memories when I see those little matchbox-size calendars you used to be able to buy.

They made inexpensive Christmas gifts when stuck on the bottom of a picture, which would then be finished off with a loop of ribbon for hanging.

Similar sized calendars were also useful advertising give-aways in their day, as is demonstrated by a small quantity of such items that I’ve been generously lent by reader Alan Rogers.

They date from before the Second World War and belonged to his late father, Stanley Rogers, who worked in the old South Shields Corporation rate office.

There’s one advertising Black Cat cigarettes, for instance, a packet of 20 for a shilling (5p), and others of local origin, such as some for the old Eligible Building Society in Fowler Street.

But one I especially like recalls a well-known name in Shields in its day, redolent of sunny summer days.

This was Mancini’s ice cream, whose parlour in Ocean Road in the town was next door to The Pier Hotel, just up from what was, in those days, the Picture House cinema.

The calendar in question is for 1931 and has a signed photograph on one side of Nicol Mancini whose family firm had been in Shields since the First World War.

The other side is a not immodest advertisement for the company, whose delicious ices – of course! – had no equal.

As affectionately as Mancini’s is remembered, however, it should be noted that within less than a decade, a troubled cloud descended on this innocent ice cream business.

This was when, in the summer of 1940, Mussolini took his country into the war and thousands of Italians across the country suffered the backlash.

In Ocean Road, Mancini’s shop window was smashed, and a mobile ice cream counter belonging to another well-known firm, Poretta’s, standing on a small plot in Fowler Street, was overturned. Not one of our more edifying moments...

Mancini’s stayed in Ocean Road for some years after the war until, I think, at least the early 1960s.