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Street, Edwin (Ted) (1891–1975)

by Stephen Garton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Edwin Street (1891-1975), by unknown photographer, 1900-10

Edwin Street (1891-1975), by unknown photographer, 1900-10

Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society, P15\P15267 [left]

Edwin (Ted) Street (1891-1975), ice-cream manufacturer, was born on 8 August 1891 at Corrimal, New South Wales, youngest of ten children of Staffordshire-born parents James Street, miner, and his wife Ann, née Cooper. By 1914 Ted and his brothers had established a farm at Leeton. There he met Daisy Olive Grigg, a farmer's daughter from Western Australia, whom he was to marry in the Leeton Methodist Church on 7 June 1921. They had no children.

On 29 June 1916 at Kiama, Street had enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force and served in the 45th Battalion in France from 1917. Twice wounded, after demobilization in July 1919 he returned to Corrimal where he established a grocer's shop and in 1920 began hand churning frozen custards. Increasing production by attaching a one-horsepower engine to the churn, he began selling his ice-cream to other local shops. By the 1930s reliable mechanical refrigeration systems offered the opportunity for expansion. Street seized the chance, purchasing the Corrimal Ice Works in 1934—the year Streets Ice Cream Ltd was registered in Sydney—and establishing the Illawarra Delicacy Co. On weekends he travelled extensively in the region promoting his product, marketed as 'The Cream of the Coast'. Although concentrating on vanilla ice-cream (from quart size bricks to twenty-two-gallon containers), Street also sought a more popular market through 'penny pinkies'—ice-creams in a cone sold from travelling carts.

In 1939 Street set up a distribution depot at Bexley to capture a slice of the lucrative Sydney market. World War II stalled further expansion plans but in 1946 he established a factory at Turella, Sydney, and that year brought out his first popular stick ice-cream, 'The Heart'. Fired by his fierce rivalry with Frederick Peters, Street moved quickly to become a bigger player in the industry, buying Lynam's Ice Cream Co. in 1950 and a year later establishing a second factory at Moruya. In 1953 the business was listed as a public company, with Street as managing director. Despite early board-room struggles and difficult economic times, he was able to plough profits back into the business. This gave the enterprise a firm base and the capacity to expand into other parts of New South Wales, with depots at Gosford, Wagga Wagga, Goulburn, Queanbeyan and Nowra. Street established long-term supply contracts with Dairy Farmers Ltd and worked hard to break Peters' tight hold over local distribution networks. Street's famous 'Paddle Pop' was launched in 1953, selling ninety million by the end of the century, per capita the largest selling ice-cream in the world.

Hard working, innovative, domineering and argumentative, Street nonetheless inspired great loyalty. He was square jawed, brown eyed and dark haired, and despite his growing wealth, retained the common touch. Driven to work in a Holden 'ute', and shunning ostentation, Street devoted himself to business and continued to live at Corrimal. His wife was of similar disposition, working long hours in the factory, taking an intense interest in the welfare of the female factory workers and rarely bothering to lighten domestic chores with modern household appliances.

By the late 1950s Streets was sufficiently profitable to attract the attention of larger firms. In 1960 Kraft Foods Ltd, Unilever Australia Pty Ltd and the old rival Peters put in offers to buy the company. Although Peters made a higher bid, Street sold out to Unilever for nearly £4 million. In new hands Streets became a market leader in the 1960s, pioneering such household names as 'Splice', 'Gaytime', 'Cornetto' and 'Blue Ribbon Ice Cream'.

Ted and Daisy retired to Narooma, becoming prominent local philanthropists. Street was appointed O.B.E. in 1970. A sometimes combative and demanding benefactor, he nonetheless made substantial donations to build public swimming pools at Corrimal, Batemans Bay, Dapto, Moruya and Narooma, and a skating rink and tennis courts at Narooma. The couple also generously funded retirement and nursing homes for the aged on the South Coast, including the Daisy Street Lodge Retirement Home. The Australian Red Cross Society, Narooma ambulance station and Legacy were also the beneficiaries of their largesse. Although they travelled widely, they liked nothing better than visiting schools to tell their story of Streets ice-cream. They also supported research into Parkinson's disease at Prince Henry Hospital, Little Bay, where Street died on 10 August 1975, survived by his wife. Daisy continued their tradition of giving school children at Narooma a free Streets ice-cream each year. She died in 1990.

Select Bibliography

  • Unifoods Pty Ltd, First Choice, no 1, Dec 1995, p 3
  • Observer (Sydney), 19 Mar 1960, p 37
  • Examiner (South Coast), 4 July 1968, p 5
  • Canberra Times, 3 Sept 1975, p 12
  • Illawarra Mercury, 1 Dec 1990, p 12
  • Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 2 Dec 1990, p 26
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Aug 1999, ‘Good Weekend’, p 13
  • Moruya and Narooma Historical Societies’ files
  • Unilever archives, Sydney.

Citation details

Stephen Garton, 'Street, Edwin (Ted) (1891–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/street-edwin-ted-13208/text23913, published in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 31 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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