Saturday, January 7, 2012

D Di Mascio - Coventry Ice Cream Vendor

Mike Godwin c 1958 Holbrooks nr the Horse drawn Co-op Bread Van 
With most of the pupils coming from Coventry, discussion on the I Survived Wyre Farm Camp School Facebook page turning early memories Coventry vendors or stores and especially the vehicles in the 50's and 60's. The discussion started with a photo Mike Godwin uploaded showing a horse drawn Co-op bakery van in Holbrooks c 1958, which i though must be much older as I remember a van but Mike assured us that the earliest it was was 1958 as he was in the picture (seen here).

I seem to remember the Co-op bakery van as being engine drawn earlier than 1958 but have a vague memory of there being a change which might have been changing from horse to internal combustion engine, at least in the Willenhall area of Coventry. In order to show the kind of van it was (as i couldn't find anything on the web about Co-op bakery vans in Coventry) i posted a picture of the D Di Mascio Ice Cream van - although smaller than the bakery van, had a similar front. This started a new and interesting thread about D Di ice creams. I am still looking to find out more about Co-op bakery vans but first to document this ice cream thread on here. Think it was like the Commer Q25 above only red.

D Di Mascio Ice Creams
In the 50s and 60s "D Di" was a byword for ice cream in the city

The thread began like this - 

Mike Godwin  Just remembered the only other van round our way was the D Di man selling wonderful icecream I think D.DiMascio are still trading in Cov?

Paul Rees I remember D Di!!! Great ice cream a weekly treat if we were lucky!!! 

Trev Teasdel  You never asked for an icecream - you asked for a D Di!  Those mudguards and lamp are from the Noddy car!!

Mick Gajic D Di's in my opinion was the best ice cream ever, the photo look's like it was taken in front of the City Arms in Earlsdon, right on the round-about.

Lauri Lindsay  Always wanted "blood" (raspberry syrup) on my cone!

Charles Joyce I can remember D. Di,s when we lived in Stoke,Cov. You could have a red syrup juice poured over the cornet, the man called it monkeys blood, before 99s were invented, does anybody remember the Corona pop wagon ? Oxford diecast models do the exact same van , but painted green, Facchinos morris J ice cream van ( 76MJ001 ) £3.99.

Mike Godwin  Just bought the history of D Di off ebay looking forward to reading it. I used to have to run out with a bowl to get their lovely icecream , the red sauce was brill . They also invented the milk lolly which was made in the shape of a rabbit with big ears. Then they sold jubblies shortly followed by the red version.

Lauri Lindsay Anyone remember Di Di's store in Hillfields ?

Clair Worsfold I wasn't allowed Di Di, my mum used to call him Dirty D Di. I could only have ice cream from Mr Whippy. His van used to play Greensleeves when he cane around Canley.

Michael Billings Brilliant memories from you all. D Di did it for me. Always loved seeing him coming round Canley when i lived at 55 Walsall Street. Best ice cream ever. Mr Whippy with their pink vans playing Greensleeves, ah yes i remember it well to quote Maurice Chevalier. My mum used to get us pop from the Corona delivery van. Raspberry, Orange or Lime were my favourites with an occasional Dandelion & Burdock for good measure. D Di's milk lollies and jubblies were wonderful. Was so sad to hear that the depot in Stoney Stanton Road had closed many years ago. I remember my sister giving me an insert out of the Coventry Evening Telegraph with the history and photos of D Di's place in Coventry. Must try and find it and send to Trev for the blog.

Clair Worsfold We had Alpine pop not Corona but equally varied flavours lol

The book is on sale on various sites including Amazon

More discussion may follow and be added here but here's a little history

D Di Mascio - A history
"In the 50s and 60s "D Di" was a byword for ice cream in the city. The fleet of vans would set out from the factory in Stoney Stanton Road to cover the whole city. The Di Mascio family, headed by Dioniso Di Mascio, came from near Cassino in Italy and settled in Scotland just before the outbreak of the Second World War. They came to Coventry in 1932 and started D Di Mascio Ice Cream from King William Street, Hillfields. D Di Mascio came to an end in 1980." (more discussion on this Coventry history blog).

And from You can read an early and interesting history of ice gathering and ice houses and its use on the above Nuneaton History site along with early developments in China and later Italy and how "many Italian immigrants to the United Kingdom brought with them their expert traditions in making ice cream.". It's a fascinating history and well worth a read but more to our point is the information on D Di Mascio and family -

"Dionisio DiMascio made the most delicious ice cream, much appreciated by Nuneatonians in the 1950s when they visited the small shop in Queens Road or bought from the travelling red and cream coloured vans which toured the district.  Dionisio DiMascio’s father came to Britain with other Italians about 1890 to work on the building of the Forth Bridge in Scotland. The DiMascio family hailed from Valvori, near Cassino in Italy and Dionisio himself moved to Glasgow after the First World War, and then to Paisley where his son Ugo was born in 1924 (a second son died).  In this decade the famous Walls Company was well established with sales totalling nearly £14,000 in 1924, hugely increased to £444,000 by 1927!

It was when the DiMascio family was travelling through Coventry on their way to Bristol to visit another Italian family of ice cream makers called Verrechia that Dionisio got the idea of starting his own business.  Ugo’s wife Joan recalled of the family*: “They were on their way down south when coming through Coventry the factory hands were going home.  When my father-in-law saw all the cyclists he said ‘This is the place to live!’”  Seeing the huge number of potential customers in Coventry encouraged Dionisio to set himself up in the Hillfields district in the 1930s.   He opened a small café in King William Street behind which there was an enclosed yard with a ‘shed’ where the ice cream was made.  The family lived above the premises and a single van was acquired to deliver the products around the district.

By 1939 they had a parlour at Smithfield Street in central Coventry that seated 200 on three floors and a branch at Clay Lane.  During the devastating Coventry blitz both of these premises were destroyed.  This was an extremely difficult time for the business, made more difficult with the imposition of Purchase Tax in 1940 on non-essential luxury items like ice cream, causing the temporary disappearance of the product.  But the Company survived by selling coffee and confectionary and after the war the reintroduction of ice cream resurrected the family fortunes so that by the end of the 1940s a second premises traded at Stoney Stanton Road, in addition to the Hillfields business, with a wholesale outlet at Cannon Street and the branch parlour at 30a Queens Road in Nuneaton.  At this time more than three dozen distinctive DiMascio red and cream ice cream vans toured the districts.

Joan DiMascio recalled that the reason they had a milk bar in Nuneaton was because the family moved to Attleborough during the war.  In the 1930s the Italian Association of Ice Cream vendors had thousands of members but when Italy joined the Second World War in 1940 the consequences for many Italian residents often led to arrest or even anti-Italian rioting.  Joan DiMascio concluded: “Because Dionisio was Italian he was interned for the duration of the war.  When they returned to Coventry they began the ice cream factory on Stoney Stanton Road, and then moved to Broad Street where they finally finished up.”
Dionisio died in 1969, leaving his wife and family to run the business.  It finally finished in 1980 although Remo DiMascio carried on a business of his own for many years.

Nuneatonians were grateful for the presence of the DiMascio parlour in the town and the vans which toured the streets and long after the Nuneaton establishment closed many fondly remembered the delicious products they so enjoyed at “D Di’s”."


Some mentioned Mr Whippy Ice Cream. I think they came a little later and there's an interesting piece on the Mr Whippy site about the development of 'soft icecream' adopted by both Mr Whippy and D Di who designed the new van for Cox's ice cream (see here -

On the Mr Whippy we discover a strange linkage with Thatcher's Britain!

" One important development in the 20th century was the introduction of soft ice cream (like Mr Whippy uses!). A chemical research team in Britain (of which a young Margaret Thatcher was a member) discovered a method of doubling the amount of air in ice cream, which allowed manufacturers to use less of the actual ingredients, thereby reducing costs. This ice cream was also very popular amongst consumers who preferred the lighter texture, and most major ice cream brands now use this manufacturing process. It also made possible the soft ice cream machine in which a cone is filled beneath a spigot on order."


  1. Typical, cheating the British ice cream consumers, sounds like the Chorley yeast/baking process, doubling the loaf with air!

  2. Can anyone remember D Di's selling hot batches from thier hillfields shop around 1963/65?.I was in there most days and would be greatful for any replies on this..Thanks..

  3. My brother Mo worked for D Di's for a few years He was at Wye farm in the fourtie,s with my 2 other brothers I was there in the fiftie's and my son was there in the severntie's

    1. Hi, I don't know your name but comments get more replies on our facebook page I Survived Wyre Farm Camp school. If you are on Facebook and find that page and click Join - i will accept the request. There are lads from all decades on there sharing info and memories. Do join us there - and that applies to anyone else who was at the school. Trev Teasdel - site admin.

  4. hi my name is Alan Wilkinson, i worked at D Di,s from 1962 as a13yr old until 1975 when i bought my own van,i am still in the trade and still in contact with surviving members of the family.During my time at the company i remember MO CORRY, MO HALL, MO SALT.

    1. Hi Alan its Keith Fletcher sorry to hear about remo . glad to see your still flying the flag regards keith

    2. Hi Keith you gave me my 1st job on the vans when I was at BARKERS BUTTS SCHOOL thanx mate I'm still going. So sad for me about REMO he was what I called my 2nd DAD.take care mate.

  5. Are there any of D di,s vans in any museums or pictures. My father in law passed away recently and he first helped in making the ice creams, then van boy then ice cream man for them. I have old photos that I would love to go to the right place.