Anecdote Index






(15) by John Estlea

(Webmaster: John Estlea was not an employee of Lyons Maid but I had no hesitation in including his essay here, together with some of the associated correspondence.)

Back in the days when there was a plethora of luridly coloured ice lollies in equally lurid wrappers, and no-one worried about E-numbers, I was a 12-year old school boy who enjoyed making his own comics and eating plenty of ice lollies. It seemed only natural, therefore, that I should start collecting lolly wrappers which had cartoon strips on the back, such as Lyons Maid's "Brr Blobs", "Captain Rainbow" and "Crime Squad". The practical difficulties of collecting and keeping the many and varied wrappers with their remnants of a myriad fantastic flavour combinations still lurking and congealing inside in anything approaching sanitary conditions soon started to become apparent, however, and it was one day whilst loitering outside the local corner shop and (I'm equally ashamed and proud of my devotion to the cause to admit it) picking discarded wrappers from the bin (!) that it dawned on me that there was perhaps a better way: I would put pen to paper (after all, this is in the days before PCs, when even the ZX Spectrum was a twinkling in Clive Sinclair's eye) and write to the manufacturers! This I duly did, writing to both Walls and Lyons Maid, asking whether it would be possible for them to send me some mint-condition (and in some cases mint-flavoured) wrappers.

Imagine my disappointment when Walls gave me the brush-off. In contrast, imagine my delight when Lyons Maid wholeheartedly embraced my endeavour, and so started what was to be a correspondence over several years, chiefly with their fabulous PR officer Brian Burton, who not only sent me copious quantities of wrapppers but also collectable cards (remember "Jubilee" or "Space 1999"?), character lolly sticks (Kevin Keegan's "Goal", "Superman"'s collection of super heroes for you to decorate) and even face masks ("Star Wars" masks of Chewbacca, a Storm Trooper and C3P0), those big stickers displaying the product range that you see on the freezers, together with publicity material for new lolly launches and so on. I responded in kind with my comments on what I thought of the products, together with questions about how the flavours were dreamt up, who designed the wrappers, suggestions for new lollies and so on, including one for a Dracula lolly which was to feature a red strawberry filling which, when bitten into, would ooze "blood" <see accompanying re-creation of the original letter, sadly now lost in the mists of time>.

I was already in Ice Lolly Heaven when one day, through my letter box, the postman delivered a letter from Brian that was read with trembling hands and heart: an invitation to spend a day visiting the Lyons Maid ice-cream plant with my Dad, to see how the ice lollies were made. It was like Willy Wonka inviting me to his factory! A date was duly set, I was duly attired in something smart, including one of my Dad's best ghastly floral ties (sartorial elegance perhaps not being his strongest point, but then again, this was the 70's!), and we drove up from Chichester to Bridge Park on the outskirts of London for our visit. There were no Oompah Loompahs, but there was Brian in person, together with Charles ........, the factory manager, who led the tour round the clanking whirring deafening machinery. It was a fascinating and fantastic exploration of the factory, and I was apparently the youngest person to have ever had this privilege - I still have the set of photographs taken as a great record of my day <include photos>, one of which was then published in our local paper - my five minutes of fame! The tour culminated in a presentation of the latest set of lolly wrappers for that Summer, together with a whopping great box of lollies and ice-creams packed in dry ice for us to take home.

Sadly for me, Brian eventually left Lyons Maid for pastures new, and my passion for all things ice lolly was gradually replaced by other interests, such as a burgeoning interest in loud rock music, attempting to grow my curly my hair long, and girls (for whom the idea of collecting lolly wrappers might have landed me in the proverbial "Trainspotter" camp)!

The collection has, however, remained carefully stored in a succession of lofts throughout the intervening 25 or so years, and it was a chance discovery of this Lyons website that rekindled my interest in doing something to share my collection with a wider public. Even my children have enjoyed seeing some of the wrappers, such as those for the Mr. Men lolly - who knows, one day perhaps they too will start collecting something and also in the process begin a journey of discovery that will bring them equal pleasure!

My hope for the future: that the current wave of nostalgia, helped in no small part by the Friendsreunited website and the re-forming of so many bands from the '70's, will cause one of the ice-cream manufacturers out there (come on Nestle, show your mettle and restore pride to the Lyons Maid moniker, or come on Ben & Jerry's - here's a great brand extension opportunity for you) will launch a range of nostalgia ice lollies, re-creating some of the well-known names of the past such as Lolly Gobble Choc Bomb (now with real Belgian chocolate, of course), Haunted House, Red Devil (now with an alco-pops style vodka or similar kick to it, for those grown-ups who still want to be kids at heart!) I have all the collateral you need to re-launch the products, and I'll be first in the queue at the first shop to stock 'em!


© John Estlea 2003