Its back to ice cream parlours

The first to arrive were Francesco Paulo Ciarella and his wife Maria - and it was they, not Benedetto Notarianni, who brought the first Italian ice cream to Sunderland.Memories of the old ice cream parlours were sparked off by our feature on the Notarianni family - and their parlours at Seaburn, High Street and elsewhere - in the fourth magazine in our Millennium City history series on the making of modern Sunderland. The magazine looks at life on Wearside between the wars and shows rare old photographs of the seaside.Mary Murray, nee Ciarella, tells me her earliest childhood memories are of the family ice cream parlour with its heavy oak counter."It stood on the corner of Burleigh Street and the shop address was 7a Prospect Row, Moor Edge, but the house address behind was 32 Burleigh Street," she says.Her grandparents arrived in Scotland by boat from Italy in the 1870s and sold their wares at the Great World Fair in Scotland in 1881.They moved to Sunderland around 1908-10 and set up in business in Prospect Row, but there were other properties owned by the family in Borough Road, High Street East and around Hendon.Mary says her auntie Philomena Valente also had an ice cream business on the opposite side of Moor Edge to theirs."Further along from the ice cream shop was Maffens Italian warehouse where you bought all the pasta, conserves and everything needed for a slap-up Italian meal."Her parents took over her grandparents business in the 1920s."I can still picture inside that shop as if it was yesterday, with Mam standing behind the counter and the back all mirrored within dark oak panels, and long-stemmed glasses standing along the heavy glass shelves."There were two seating compartments in the same dark oak with colour glass insets along the top. The thing that stands out clear in my minds eye is that we had a Frys chocolate display in the window missing the letter C and T and I dont think it was ever put right."The only thing that separated the shop from the living quarters was a heavy beaded curtain and each time I picture it, I can almost hear the swish it made when someone passed through. "My bed was against the other side of the ice house wall and I was woken by the drone of the machines and the heady aroma of custard."I never left the house in the morning without a bowl of this wonderful nectar inside me before setting out to attend St Patricks School."I can remember Mam pushing the heavy ice cream barrow around the Barracks, Vine Street and Silver Street. "She wore knee-length black boots under an ankle-length black skirt, black high-necked blouse and a heavily starched white apron. Women dressed very sombrely in those days," says Mary.She remembers children used to buy big brown bags of assorted broken wafers for a halfpenny and workmen going to and fro to the docks would buy packets of five Woodbines, clay pipes and plug tobacco, and sometimes chewing baccy.There were always steaming mugs of Bovril or Horlicks as well as the long-stemmed glasses of ice cream covered with "monkeys blood" and crushed chocolate.Mary says the small family concern seemed to stay open as long as there was a customer to be served. "Dad loved it when the bands played on the Moor Edge. "People swarmed in from everywhere, making more business for him and he would stay open till the last person disappeared off the streets."I think we will never see again anything to match the East End parties."Tables reached from the top to the bottom of Burleigh Street and everyone took a hand in providing something. They used any excuse they could find to have a party."Mary also remembers the heyday of the East End Carnival and the many endearing characters of the area.One of them was Uncle Giles the rat-catcher, who lived in The Barracks and always wore a long black topcoat in military style with a slit up the back and epaulettes on the shoulders.Another was her Auntie Alice who was known as the Ginger Beer Lady. She lived in Trinity Place along Church Walk."She made her own ginger beer and if you took your own bottle you got it cheaper. Everyone in those days did something to help their income. Most were on the Parish but they wouldnt be beaten. That was the East End spirit."