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

1971 - 1990

Rush Munro's

Englishman Frederick Charles Rush-Munro learned the skills of the confectionery trade from his father, Frederick Rush, who himself is said to have learned from a German confectioner. Frederick Charles ("Rush") emigrated to New Zealand and had opened the original Rush Munro confectionery shop at 161-163 Ponsonby Road, in Auckland by December 1914.

In 1917, the year his first wife Amy died, the business re-located to 142 Karangahape Road, advertising as "Rush Munro's Soda Fountain", and Fred was advertising his services to train prospective soda fountain owners and dispensers:

                                             Advertisement, Auckland Star, 7 March, 1917

In 1919, the business moved to 181 - 187 Karangahape Road, re-named "Rush Munro", complete with cafeteria ("help yourself style" service), light lunches, soda fountain and ice cream.

                             Photo: Rush Munro, Karangahape Road, Auckland, 1923 (detail from original).
                             - Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A15977

Rush-Munro's Cabaret ("Auckland's first Cabaret") operated in conjunction with the cafeteria, upstairs, from the same address.

In 1924 Rush Munro was advertising lemon ice cream sold at a second shop at 281 Ponsonby Road. There may have been another outlet at Otahuhu, and in December 1925, Rush Munro announced the opening of a new confectionery shop in Queen St, to coincide with the completion of the Majestic Theatre.

However on 16 January 1926, the "Strollers" Jazz Club announced that "absolutely the last dance to be held at Rush Munro Cabaret" would take place that night, and on 26th and 28th January, Rush Munro's ice cream plant, soda fountain and "whole stock" was put up to auction at 181 Karangahape Rd. Another "Gigantic Auction Sale" held later that year referred to "Rush Munro in liquidation".

Frederick had re-married in 1922, and he and his new wife Catherine moved to the Hawke's Bay. He had obviously over-stretched himself financially, "tired and depressed", he and his wife had only £10 to their names when they opened a new shop, Munro's 'Garden of Sweets' in Heretaunga Street, central Hastings, opposite the Cosy theatre (later the Embassy) on 26 May 1926.

                             Photo: Catherine & Frederick Rush-Munro's first Hastings shop, ca. 1926.
                             - Rush Munro's.

They started out with seven varieties of toffees and candies, later adding ice cream, chocolates and fruit drinks.

Munro's ice cream was made on a hand churn packed with ice and salt, flavoured with fresh fruits in season; strawberries, raspberries and passionfruit.

Just when things were looking up again, Munro's premises were destroyed in the devastating 1931 Napier earthquake - stocks of ice cream given to the sailors of H. M. S. Veronica who were clearing debris from the streets and sweets and fruit going to the hospitals.

Photo: Rush Munro's Ice Cream parlour (far left) on the morning of 3rd February 1931.
- Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Ta-u-rangi, 2019/20/8

Just seventeen days later, they managed to re-open in a tent in an empty section near Stortford Lodge. Moving out of the central business area was a risk, but after the earthquake, they were not keen to re-open amongst the bricks and mortar. Meanwhile they started work on building a new shop and house at 704 Heretaunga Street West.

Around 1932 they moved the business to the new premises which eventually evolved into the famous Rush Munro's Ice Cream Gardens:

Photo: Rush Munro's Ice Cream parlour and garden, ca. 1932. Photographer Henry Norford Whitehead.
- National Library Reference Number: 1/1-004612-G

The Oriental-style Gardens featured pergolas, outdoor tables and chairs, a lily pool with goldfish, fountain, lanterns, coloured lights and an aviary.

A modern refrigerating plant was installed and the range of ice creams was extended. Milk and cream was supplied by a local farm (Tweedie Bros. on Raupare Road), strawberries, raspberries, lemons and walnuts came from local growers, passion fruit arrived from Kerikeri, oranges from California and crushed pineapple from Hawaii.

Interestingly, the photo shows that the ice cream was still branded "Munro's Ice Cream".

                 Frederick & Catherine with staff in fancy dress, 1930s.
 - Knowledge Bank, Lovell-Smith collection.

'Rush' was a very generous man, quietly contributing to many community causes, but he was also famous for his quick temper, known on occasion to end an argument with a customer by closing the shop!

The War brought sugar restrictions (which lasted until 1948) and rationing, meaning the business could open only a few hours each day. By the time things began to get back to normal, Frederick's health was deteriorating.

In 1948, Frederick and Catherine reluctantly sold the business to John Caulton, who had been a WW2 Spitfire pilot, and his wife Marie. Frederick's secret recipes were part of the transaction and he stayed on for three months to pass on his knowledge to the new owners.

The Rush-Munros retired and moved to Tirau in 1954.

John & Marie maintained Rush Munro's high standards and worked on expanding the factory and product range:

"The town was getting bigger and it seems silly to say but it was a special place to come to. People used to come from overseas because they had heard about it, it became part of their journey for their holiday times. I started feijoa ice-cream, Rush had a couple of trees growing on the corner of the drive, before he left to retire. They were only little tiny feijoas, I made a small batch and asked Rush what he thought, he said “that’s great.” They were quite a new fruit here."

"I would have to say I would have been the first shop in Hastings, if not the country, to have no smoking in the late 50’s. I had 3 signs up, and they had to make up their mind, they either wanted an ice-cream or they wanted a smoke, take your pick, as simple as that. It caused a bit of a rupture every now and again."

Over the years the Ice Cream Gardens became a Hawke's Bay landmark and family tradition, much-loved for its soda fountain and hand-made, batch-churned ice cream, scooped high in a peaked cone, or served in a dish with a silver spoon, in a range of natural, real fruit flavours.

"At the time there was nothing to equate with our ice cream. A company “Bluemoon” tried hard but maybe it was the extra cream we used, I don’t know what it was, we had a name and it just went on and on and on. There was plenty of work, it wasn’t a 40hr week, but I didn’t mind it, you knew you were making something that people appreciated and enjoyed."

Frederick Rush-Munro died in 1976 aged 92, survived by his wife Catherine, three children and many grandchildren.

                 John Caulton (left) in his factory with fellow 132 Squadron pilot, Dr John Everall, 1978.
 - John Caulton Spitfire Pilot. Thanks to John Caulton.

                Rush Munro's 1.5 litre label, ca. 1980s.
 - John Caulton Spitfire Pilot. Thanks to John Caulton.

                John and Marie Caulton outside their famous Gardens in 1985.
 - John Caulton Spitfire Pilot. Thanks to John Caulton.

The Caultons operated Rush Munro's for 38 years. In 1986 John and Marie sold the business and retired to Havelock North. Sadly, Marie passed away in November 2000. John died in 2015, just a few weeks short of his 95th birthday.

Today Rush Munro's is still family-owned and operated.

The company is still producing 100% natural ice cream made to Frederick's original real-fruit recipes, and you can choose from over 20 award-winning flavours such as Passionfruit (above), Boysenberry and Feijoa.

Sunday 30 October 2022 - Rush Munro's scooped it's last ice cream at Frederick Rush-Munro's iconic, hand-built, 90-year-old Heretaunga Street West ice cream gardens. The business will continue to operate from a site at Albert Square in central Hastings but, tragically, one of the Hawke's Bay's most-loved heritage buildings, compete with rose gardens and goldfish ponds, is to be demolished to make way for a petrol station!

References and related sites:

Archives New Zealand:

Auckland Libraries

John Caulton Spitfire Pilot

Knowledge Bank - Hawke's Bay Digital Archives Trust

National Library

NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers Assn. archives.

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

Rush Munro's NZ Ltd

BackBack to Ice Cream Brands from the Past.

Frederick C. Rush-Munro

           Frederick Charles Rush-Munro
                                1883 - 1976

Frederick "Rush" Rush-Munro was born in London in 1883, son of confectioner Frederick Rush, and emigrated to New Zealand probably in the early 1900's.

He married his first wife Amy in Auckland in 1913, and had opened a Rush Munro confectionery shop at 161-163 Ponsonby Road by 1914.

By 1917, the year Amy died, the couple had had two children. The period of his wife's illness may have been difficult financially as Fred was advertising his services (from his wife's parents' address) to train prospective soda fountain owners and dispensers.

Fred also served as President of the Auckland Provincial Retail Confectioners' Association, and was involved in organising dances at the Orange Hall and Munro's Hall, Ponsonby.

In 1919, the business moved to 181 - 187 Karangahape Road. Rush-Munro's Cabaret ("Auckland's first Cabaret") and Conservatoire de Danse operated in conjunction with the cafeteria, hosting weddings, functions, music (jazz bands and the Coo Ee Jazz Club), dance classes and jazz dancing.

Frederick re-married in 1922, to Catherine.

The Karangahape Rd cafe hosted fortnightly lunch meetings of the Karangahape Business Men's Promotion League, and other business functions, up until November 1925.

The Rush Munro business went into liquidation at the end of 1925, and Frederick and Catherine moved to the Hawke's Bay - he is said to have had only £10 in his pocket when they opened a new Rush Munro in central Hastings on 26 May 1926.

After the premises were destroyed in the devastating 1931 earthquake, they moved the business to the current site at 704 Heretaunga Street West, the shop evolving into the famous Rush Munro's Ice Cream Gardens.

Photo: Frederick Rush-Munro, Rush Munro's Ice Cream parlour and garden, ca. 1930. (Detail). Photographer Henry Norford Whitehead.
National Library Reference Number: 1/1-004612-G

Frederick Rush-Munro died in 1976.

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