Anyone who remembers MESCHIAs
Milk Bar in Hyde, or ice cream bought from a LEVAGGIs
van all around Tameside may wonder how the families came
to be here. This is a summary of an article in the Ashton
Louis MESHCIA arrived in England
in the 1880s. He was part of the widespread emigration
from Italy, coming from the Province of Genova of Northern
Italy where the countryside is beautiful, but the farms
too small to support a growing family. It was family connections
that brought him to Ancoats in Manchester, the area that
became known as Little Italy. Shortly after
arriving, he was told that there was an ice cream factory
for sale in Hyde, then owned by Harry GICHERO at 139 Market
Street. He liked the liked the shop so much that he bought
it and invited his intended, Maria LEVAGGI to join him
from Italy. The couple married at St Pauls Church
and had three children Amelia, Clarence and Joseph.
It is the middle childs story on which the Reporter
Clarence was born above the
familys Market Street shop in 1912 and went to Harrytown
School and later, Flowery Field. By the age of 12, he
was working in the family business, pushing a handcart
around Hyde, selling ice cream. Louis had begun to expand
his enterprise and had taken a wooden hut on Hyde Market
in which he had a brazier that he used to boil large pans
of black peas that he sold to shoppers by the mug-full.
And, of course, he also sold ice cream. By the age of
14, Clarence had left school and was given a horse and
cart to expand the operation into Newton, Woodley and
Market Street was as much a
bustling place then as it is today - the shops, billiard
halls, cafes and the Monkey Run as the courting
circuit was known. Many romances began (and some ended)
at MESCHIAs Milk Bar. Clarence recalls how the Market
Square played a major role in the towns social life.
It was where the Whitsuntide processions gathered; where
Wakes Week was celebrated and where politicians harangued
the crowds from the top of coal wagons. But first and
foremost, it was there for trade.
Clarence remembers jeweller
Harry GILBERT who had a stall on the corner of the market;
Mrs CROSSLEY who sold curtains; PRESTONs Pot stall;
and a Quack Doctor by the name of Sequaw.
He stood on a highly decorated wagon selling patent medicines
and would also act as dentist for those foolhardy enough.
(A shot of whiskey and loud music to drown out the screams!)
The market went on until nine oclock at night and
end with an auction of any unsold meat
There were four ice cream sellers
at the market SWANNs, HENSHAWs, LEVAGGIs
and MESCHIAs. There were no such things as cones
or wafers then. You either brought your own mug for the
ice cream to go in, or bought a Penny Sucker,
a thick glass of ice cream, returning the glass for it
to be rinsed out and used again.
Clarence met his wife Betty
while dancing in Manchester. They married in 1936 and
went to live on Church Street where their daughters, Maureen
and Christine were born. But then came the war and Clarence
was called up to serve with the British forces in August
1940. Two weeks later, Italy declared war on England and
many families of Italian descent were interned in Bury,
or transported to the Isle of Man or Canada.
Clarence MESCHIA during
Not so Louis MESCHIA or his
son Clarence who joined the 8th Training Battalion
RASC. He served through the war as Company Quartermaster
Sergeant of 799 Air Despatch Company and was heavily involved
with the supply drops for the D-day landings and Arnhem.
Towards the end of the war,
he received news that his father was ill and was given
compassionate leave to be with him. On reaching Manchester,
he was unable to get a taxi to take him the eight miles
or so to Hyde, but a policeman intervened after he explained
his problem. He shared a taxi with a group of American
servicemen being dropped off at various destinations.
Unfortunately, he arrived home to discover that his father
had died 15 minutes earlier.
After the war, Clarence rejoined
the family business and despite rationing of ingredients
such as butter and sugar, the business began to flourish.
Ice cream was then a great luxury in the post-war austerity
of Hyde. The family opened a factory in Pine Street from
where they supplied forty outlets, but by the early 1980s
Clarence and his brother, Joseph decided to retire. The
problem was in finding someone with the finance to find
a buyer with sufficient finance to take on a thriving
business. Eventually, the vans and stock were was sold
to Benjamin SUSCA who also took out a lease on the factory.
This worked well until vandals set fire to the factory
and vans at Pine Street and the enterprise came to an
untimely end. However, MESCHIAs is still represented
in Hyde Precinct today, next to the outdoor market where
Louis first sold his black peas, although now, frozen
yoghurt is high on the menu!