Ice cream wars of the 60s and 70s

These days when you pop up to your local convenience store, you’ll find various brands of ice creams – mostly Peters or Streets – happily nestled side by side. But that was not always the case – certainly not in Victoria, where I grew up.

When I was a kid, our local convenience store was not a 7-Eleven. It was a milk bar – or, as we called it, “the corner shop”. On a weekday afternoon after school, it wasn’t uncommon to hear one of us kids say: “I’m going to the corner shop. Does anyone want anything?”

I was one of six kids so, more often than not, there were multiple voices replying. “A packet of chips, please.” “Can I have a Cherry Ripe?” “I’ll have 10 cents mixed lollies.” 

In the summer months, the answer was probably more likely to be: “I’ll have a Cornetto, thanks.” Or maybe: “A banana Paddle Pop, please.”

What you wouldn’t hear, though, is, “Drumstick please”, or, “I’ll have a Barney Banana”. And that’s because our local milk bar was a ‘Streets’ shop. The only brand of ice creams stocked in its large chest freezer was Streets.

On the wall behind Mr Girardi, the proprietor of our corner shop, the board advertised Cornettos, not Drumsticks, and Paddle Pops, not Barney Bananas.

To get a Drumstick or Barney Banana, you’d have to go to the corner shop a few blocks away. That was a ‘Peters’ milk bar. 

This was one of the quirks of being an Aussie kid growing up in the ’60s and ’70s. 

Streets versus Peters ice creams

During that time, Australian suburbs were littered with corner shops. They were where you’d grab your morning papers and a loaf of bread – and milk if that wasn’t delivered. Corner shops were also a convenient stopping point on a drive home for a car full of hungry kids.

Because our local was a Streets milk bar, we’d look out for the distinctive sign when in ‘foreign’ territory. And they were easy to spot. A big twin-cone of ice cream against a blue background. In contrast, Peters milk bars were identifiable by a sign in the shape of an actual ice cream cone.

Sometimes we’d have to make do with the ‘rival’ ice creams. If we found ourselves at a Peters milk bar, we’d have to settle for a Drumstick instead of a Cornetto. Of course, they were – and still are – basically the same thing. But we kids were aficionados – we could discern the subtle difference in taste and texture between the two. The same went for banana Paddle Pops and Barney Bananas. 

A point of difference

Streets and Peters each had a range of basically identical ice creams with different names to cater for each group of retailers. Mind you, they also came up with their own distinctive ice creams. Some of these became favourites, others burst onto the scene with a big marketing campaign before disappearing without a trace. 

Some of these short-lived ones were quite bizarre. Peters had the ‘Cool Shark’ – blue and white ice on a stick fashioned into the shape of a shark. Streets went with the perhaps even weirder, ‘Funny Feet’. Each of these was a big slab of strawberry ice cream on a stick. The ice cream portion came in the shape of – you guessed it – a big, pink foot complete with toes. 

I wonder how many people there are out there with foot fetishes that had their origins with these.

A third ice cream brand

In Victoria, Streets and Peters had a virtual duopoly on corner shops, and a kind of ‘Coke vs Pepsi’ rivalry. But, for a time in my childhood at least, there was a third player on the milk bar scene. 

A slightly longer walk than our local Streets and Peters milk bars took us to a ‘Toppa’ shop. The Toppa brand was a distinctively Melbourne one so readers in other states probably won’t recognise it. I suspect, though, there would have been local equivalents.

Because our nearest Toppa milk bar was the furthest away, we rarely ventured into it. But it was on the walk home from our local swimming pool. On hot days, it was an oasis, and a case of ‘any port in a storm’. And that meant buying ice creams that were different again.

I must admit to not remembering many of the Toppa ice creams, but I do recall they had a Drumstick/Cornetto equivalent. It was known as a ‘Trumpet’. It’s an understandable name, really. These ice creams were basically horn-shaped like a trumpet or a cornet. ‘Cornetto’ is Italian for ‘little horn’. So, why Peters decided to call their version a ‘Drumstick’, I’m not quite sure. 

The ‘Toppa’ brand was eventually subsumed into the ‘Pauls’ brand, known these days for milk more than anything. To the best of my knowledge, the Trumpet was consigned to history long ago.

But the battle between the Drumstick and the Cornetto goes on to this day. There is, however, one major difference now. You’ll most likely make your choice between the two at a supermarket or petrol station. And that choice won’t be influenced by whether your nearest corner shop is a Streets milk bar or a Peters one. 

Were you part of a Streets or Peters family growing up? Did you prefer a Cornetto over a Drumstick? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: What was the most popular dessert in the year you were…

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.
- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -