The New Zealand Ice Cream Association
The New Zealand Ice Cream Association

1971 - 1990


Angus McDonald started up his ice cream business in 1922, operating under the McDonald's brand and said to be the Waikato's first ice cream manufacturer.

He and his wife had moved to Hamilton from Wellington that year, so it is likely that he had gained some prior experience with a Wellington ice cream operation.

                 McDonald's first ice cream factory, Alexandra St., Hamilton.
- NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers Assn. archives, Frostee Digest.

                 McDonald's Duchess Ice Cream Block.
- Waikato Museum.

Not long afterwards, Angus, or "Mac", was joined by Ken Johnstone, whose engineering background proved invaluable in those early days of setting up production and distribution. Over the years Ken also assumed wider production and sales responsibilities.

Many years later Ken would remember:

" The plant in use in those days was certainly very elementary. The pasteuriser was simply a water jacketed open vessel heated by a large gas ring. I can see Mac now standing over this piece of equipment with the "agitator," which was simply a wooden stick, in one hand, and a dairy thermometer in the other.

Churning was carried out in a vertical churn (packed around with ice and salt), which although power operated was really only a glorified replica of the type operated by elderly ladies behind the counters of lollyshops where as a boy I spent my hard earned wealth, a penny at a time. It was certainly a crude affair when compared with the streamlined stainless steel continuous freezers in common use today.

After buying our ice for perhaps twelve months, we installed our first ammonia compressor, a 25 h.p. horizontal Linde, together with a four ton ice tank. We did not possess a homogeniser in those days, and in fact it was a good many years later before our first one was installed.

From the churn, the ice cream was transferred to cans which varied from 11 to 5 gallon capacity. For hardening and holding these were placed in boxes lined with galvanised iron and packed with ice and salt. The resultant brine was drained off each night and morning and the boxes repacked.

For distribution, the cans of ice cream were packed in wooden tubs with ice and salt. These were also used to serve from at the point of sale. Owing to rapid melting of the ice, the consistency of the product varied considerably, and any stocks unsold when the shop closed had to be dumped. As a five gallon can packed in a tub weighed one and a quarter hundredweight, a driver in those days certainly needed to have a strong back."

"We originally started off with one second-hand Model T Ford which Mac brought with him from Wellington, and as this vehicle was flat-out all day taking care of both rail orders and the town shops, it was not unusual to have to spend most of the night carrying out more or less major repairs in order to have the van on the job again the next morning."

                 McDonald's first Model T Ford ice cream delivery van, with Ken Johnstone and Mrs
                 McDonald in the front.
- NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers Assn. archives, Frostee Digest.

This small newspaper advertisement appeared in the NZ Herald on Christmas Eve, 1924:

                 "Ice Cream for Picnics, Parties, Sports, Dances, etc. - Ring Phone 1724, McDonald's,
                 Alexandra St., Hamilton." NZ Herald advertisement, 24 December 1924.
- Papers Past.

They would also travel to where the customers were; to the beach, and to events as far away as Whangarei, just Mac and Ken in a Model T van, loaded up with ice cream and blocks of ice.

Their local competitors in those early days were Zero Ice Cream (Grey St.) and Velvet.

Ken: "The next forward step was to supply each shop with an insulated cabinet - which incorporated a tub with a tap to draw off the brine. These cabinets of course still needed repacking daily with ice and salt, but did, because of the insulation, enable stocks to be held until sold. Country shops were a bit of a problem as ice had to be sent by rail at least three times a week to enable the shopkeeper to repack his cabinet - quite a laborious and messy job which entailed breaking up the ice by hand."

                                                 The Domain Tea Kiosk offers McDonald's Pure Ice Cream,
                                                  Waikato Independent, 3 December 1925.
- Papers Past.

McDonald Ice Cream Manufacturing Company Limited was registered in February 1925, with capital of £5000, and with A. K. McDonald (4000 shares) and E. T. J. Peacocke (1000) as shareholders.

Around 1927 the company purchased 23 Frigidaire electric freezer cabinets, newly launched on the New Zealand market by John Chambers & Son Ltd., for supply to it's leading ice cream outlets. These were revolutionary for the retailers, but created a new problem for the manufacturer, that of servicing. Refrigeration engineers were not available outside of Auckland, so Ken added that skill to his repertoire, training under James McAlpine, who would later establish his own refrigeration business and and build the first automatic refrigerated ice cream transport outside of the United States.

In 1928 McDonald's purchased the first Model A Ford commercial vehicle sold in the Waikato, and in the same year, built their first refrigerated truck body, mounted on a 30 cwt, 4 cylinder Chevrolet chassis. The compartment for carrying ice cream was refrigerated by ice and salt, and there was also a section for crushed ice as they were still packing some ice cabinets.

On the 30th of April 1927 the Manawatu Times had reported that "Mr A. K. McDonald, manager of the McDonald Ice Cream Co., of Hamilton, is in Palmerston North, negotiating for the opening of an up-to-date ice-cream factory to supply the wholesale trade next season". By the end of that year McDonald's was open for business, operating from a factory in in Main Street West.

                                                 McDonald's Delicious Ice Cream advertisement,
                                                  Manawatu Times, 8 December 1927.
- Papers Past.

The company opened branches at Masterton and Hawera, and in November 1928, a new branch and factory in Vivian St., Wellington. McDonald's advertisements at the time stated: "Mr McDonald is recognised as the most experienced ice cream maker in the Dominion. His plant too, is of the very latest type. Ice cream is freshly made in both factories every day and delivered per motor-vans (properly insulated) to all parts of the Wellington, Wairarapa, and Manawatu and Oroua districts."

                 Curly Smith with McDonald's Ice Cream delivery van, Foxton Beach, 1929.
- Foxton Historical Society: Kete Horowhenua Ref. f1999.0825

                 McDonald's Famous Ice Cream advertisement, Evening Post, 25 February 1930.

Angus McDonald attended the inaugural annual conference of the NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers' Association in March, 1928. McDonald's was one of the first eight member companies.

Angus is said to have pioneered Neapolitan ice cream in New Zealand - the triple-layered chocolate, vanilla and strawberry classic.

In December 1929 a new ice cream company was registered, A. K. McDonald (Auckland), Ltd., with capital of £2800. Shareholders were Angus McDonald, William Meek, and Nicola and Emily Astrella. The Astrella family were Auckland's original ice cream manufacturers. We don't know if this company ever produced ice cream, or if it was simply a vehicle for investing in other businesses.

It is thought that Angus's move into the Auckland market was initially by way of investment in an existing business, Polar Ice Cream Company, which had a factory in Station St., Newmarket. Polar had the sole rights to Eskimo Pie in Auckland and was being run by Dick Naylor, who had sold Angus those first Frigidaire freezer cabinets. It appears that Polar ran into difficulties and the New Polar Ice Cream Company was established in September 1929 to take over Polar's operations.

                 New Polar advertisement, Auckland Star, 12 December 1929.

Polar Bars. Ice Cream Cakes. Rainbow Blocks - layered orange, vanilla and strawberry ice creams sandwiched between wafers. In May 1930 New Polar Ice Cream Company merged with Astrella Ice Cream Company, and in July 1930 a further merger was announced between the New Polar - Astrella and Robinson's ice cream companies, but this did not eventuate. Robinson's was Auckland's largest manufacturer at the time.

In 1931 the McDonald's Hamilton operation moved into a new factory in Bryce St. Advertising from that period, including signage on the factory, shows the company was selling a novelty called a "Fro Joy".

That year Angus's brother Stuart, who owned and ran tea rooms at 235 Cuba St. in Wellington, moved up to help run the Auckland operation. First he trained with Angus at the Palmerston North factory, and then took up the position of Manager at the New Polar plant in Newmarket, Auckland. New Polar was still located at Station St. in January 1931 but appears to have moved to Teed St. some time that year.

Sadly, the Great Depression took its toll on the business - New Polar was reported to be in liquidation by April 1931 and was taken over by Peters Ice Cream (NZ) Ltd in 1932.

Angus did not get on with the new management and left shortly after selling up; Stuart followed soon afterwards.

Stuart opened up a delicatessen and butchery business, `Nikau Delicatessen', at 175 Karangahape Road, Newton in Auckland, but later turned it into a "home cookery", selling amongst other treats, McDonald's Ice Cream:

                 Stuart McDonald's home cookery, Karangahape Rd, 1930s, with ice-packed,
                 insulated ice cream cabinet. Note sign at right, "Ask for Paeroa & Lemon" and front
                 window signage, "Anchor Butter" and "McDonald's Fancy Cakes".
- Raymond McDonald.

                 Seated area in Stuart McDonald's home cookery, Karangahape Rd, 1930s.
- Raymond McDonald.

                 The Karangahape Rd home cookery, with electric (Frigidaire?) freezer cabinet installed
                 - steel lids visible on top of the counter, and an electric milkshake mixer next to the
- Raymond McDonald.

Master baker Stuart and his son Lloyd sold bread, pastries, biscuits, slices and cake, all made with real Anchor New Zealand butter. They also served cold drinks - soft drinks, milkshakes, ice cream sodas, malted milk, Ovaltine - and McDonald's ice cream sundaes - Strawberries & Cream, Fruit Salad & Cream, Peach Melba and the legendary Rangitoto Special.

The "Rangitoto Special" sundae was an institution around Auckland milk bars through the 30s and 40s; three scoops of ice cream (a larger one in the middle) topped with syrup, strawberries or glace cherries, and a pink wafer biscuit on top.

Later Stuart opened a second shop in Queen St., next to the St James Theatre. The business also developed a wholesale market delivering cakes and pies to outlets in the surrounding suburbs. All of Stuart’s five sons (Lloyd, Ralph, Alan, James, and Leslie) worked in the family home cookery business.

                 Stuart McDonald and his son Lloyd, both photos taken behind their Karangahape Rd
                 home cookery.
- Raymond McDonald.

                 Lloyd and his wife Nellie in the Queen St. shop.
- Raymond McDonald.

Meanwhile Angus was supplying his own McDonald's brand ice cream into the Auckland market and had set up an Auckland office at 10 Quay St.

Around 1935, he opened an Auckland ice cream factory in Kings Drive (near the new Railway Station). R.W. McDonald became the manager, and Leo Garvey and Pat Fay were involved in the Auckland operation.

At this point, with coverage of most of the North Island, McDonald's would have been one of the largest ice cream companies in the country.

McDonald's second ice cream factory (centre), Bryce Street, Hamilton, 1939.
- Ref: HCL_5162 (detail), Hamilton City Libraries Heritage Collections.

Stuart McDonald died on 20 October 1939.

Angus Keith McDonald died in 1946, aged 53.

Ken Johnstone appears to have taken over management of the business. Other names associated with McDonald's Hamilton were R.J. Tucker and R.G.P. Brownless.

                 McDonald's Ice Cream (Auckland branch) refrigerated truck, 1951.
- NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers Assn. archives, Frostee Digest.

In 1951, the company was represented at the annual Ice Cream Manufacturers Conference held in Wellington by Ken Johnstone, A.R. Watkins, R.G.P. Brownless and Jim Winstanley (ex-Frosty Jack). It appears that by then the Wellington operation had been split off as a separate business - McDonald's Super Cold Ice Cream of Wellington was represented at the Conference by J. McDonald.

                 McDonald's Ice Cream Hamilton factory, Bryce St., 1950s.
- NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers Assn. archives, Frostee Digest.

                 McDonald's Ice Cream delivery truck, late 1950s.
                 - NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers Assn. archives, Frostee Digest.

Stuart's son Ralph continued the McDonald family's entrepreneurial food exploits, establishing the McDonald's Chips business, long before the American fast food giant arrived in New Zealand, becoming an institution at events and showgrounds around Auckland in the 50s and 60s.

                 McDonald's French Fried Hot Chips, 1966.
                 - Carole Prentice.

In late 1958, the McDonald's Ice Cream Manufacturing Co. was taken over by Tip Top (Auckland).

References and related sites:

Special thanks to Raymond McDonald, Carole Prentice nee McDonald, Jennifer Wescott nee McDonald and the McDonald family.

Foxton Historical Society: Kete Horowhenua

Hamilton City Libraries - Hamilton Heritage Collections

NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers Assn. archives, Frostee Digest.

Papers Past (National Library of New Zealand digitised newspapers database):

BackBack to Ice Cream Brands from the Past.

Angus McDonald

                 Angus Keith McDonald
                                  1893 - 1946

Angus Keith McDonald was born on 1 November 1893, in Johnsonville, Wellington.

By June 1916, when he embarked for England as a Rifleman with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, he was listed as a clerk, living in Levin. He served with the Wellington Regiment in France, where he unfortunately was the victim of a German gas attack.

It was during his time recuperating in England that he met his future wife Mary Douglas Mathieson.

The family has also speculated that it may have been the effects of the gassing (it burnt the lungs and throat and eyes) that led to Angus's love of, and interest in ice cream - could ice cream have been given to the stricken soldiers as relief for their sore throats?

Angus was eventually repatriated back to New Zealand. and it wasn't long before Mary (also known as Mamie) came out to New Zealand and they were married in 1920.

In 1922 the couple moved to Hamilton, where Angus established the Waikato's first ice cream manufacturing business, which he built up and expanded to cover most of the North Island.

The damage sustained from gassing in the Great War affected his long-term health and Angus Keith McDonald died on the 11th of November 1946, aged 53.

Ken Johnstone

                 Kenneth W. Johnstone

Ken Johnstone worked for McDonald's for 35 years.

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