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ANY QUESTIONS: Ices that made the Di Mascio name so popular.

Q. WHAT happened to D Di Mascio, the ice cream company whose vans went everywhere in the city?

A. I HAVE special memories of D Di Mascio's ice cream because I started working for the firm as a van boy in 1960.

I was only 12 at the time and he paid me 2/6d (12p) a day, but I had to work hard for it.

Dioniso Di Mascio came from Italy in 1920 to learn about ice cream making from his uncle who lived and worked in Glasgow.

He came to Coventry by accident whilst journeying to Bristol with his family in 1932.

He arrived in the city just as hordes of workers were leaving the factories, halting his progress.

Without hesitation he declared to his family: "You know, this is the place to be," and there and then decided to put roots down here.

His first premises, a cafe and ice cream parlour in King William Street, Hillfields, had a flat above where they lived.

By 1939 he had 12 vans and a further two cafes - in Clay Lane and Smithford Street, the city centre premises being on three floors with seating for 200.

In the Blitz the family lost Smithford Street and Clay Lane, and Dionisio worked in a shadow factory during the war.

In 1945 the Hillfields cafe re-opened, and by 1949 the Di Mascio's had moved the whole business to 426 Stoney Stanton Road (opposite the Red House public house).

In its hey day the business had 56 vans.

Two years after a move to Broad Street in 1969, Dionisio died leaving his wife and family - Remo, Ugo, Emmie, Doreen and Dante - to run the business. D Di Mascio came to an end in 1980 although Remo carried on his own ice cream business for another five years.

I occasionally see Remo, and Ugo still lives locally.

I stayed with D Di Mascio until 1975, when I bought my own van and enjoy serving Nuneaton families with ice cream.

Alan Wilkinson (Alan's Ices), Bedlam Lane, Foleshill.

. . . ICED desserts were introduced into Europe by explorer Marco Polo, who returned from his travels with reports of fruit ices in China.

Then Italian cooks developed water and milk ice, with the credit for inventing cream ices going to French cafe owner, Tortoni in the late 18th century.

The ice cream cone was launched at the 1904 World's Fair in St Louis, USA.

Dionisio Di Mascio's own brand of delicious ice-cream arrived in 1932 when he opened a shop in King William Street.

By the time he moved into premises in Stoney Stanton Road his fleet of distinctive red and white vans numbered more than 60.

Always a firm to maintain the highest hygiene standards, 12 new vans were put on the streets in the early 60s. They became known as mobile ice cream factories, which is what they were.

Even though the firm was still growing in the 80s, it was decided to close, although there were several take-over bids. They were rejected because the family refused to part with the name.

Bernard Moore, The Mount, Cheylesmore.

Fond memories of Honiley Airfield

VARIED activities over the years at Honiley Airfield stirred a few memories for readers (Any Questions, February 9).

Motor cycle enthusiast, Jim Bates, had similar interests to the Commanding Officer at Honiley.

His son John writes: The C.O. built a 500cc Cooper racing car of the type being used by Stirling Moss in his early racing days.

Its engine was a Grand Prix Triumph twin enjoying success at the time.

My father was running a team of motor cycle racers, mostly AJS and Manx Norton, with a new addition - a Grand Prix Triumph entered for the 1948 TT races on the Isle of Man.

Dad needed a good long runway to test the bikes flat out in top gear to compare the new Triumph with the Manx Norton, and Honiley was the longest in the area. We spent a day there in May 1948 doing many test runs, and the C.O. wheeled out his little silver racing car to compare it with the bikes.

I was just a lad, but I remember the conversations with the C.O. about having races on the airfield; Silverstone was just getting going, and Honiley seemed a more attractive venue, but nothing came of it. We took the bikes over to the Isle of Man and the Norton came second, ridden by Bill Doran.

The Triumph, ridden by Coventry's Syd Barnett, retired with mechanical gremlins.

Dad said the Triumph horsepower had thin legs!

Joan Court of Green Lane, Balsall Common, writes: I recall a Polish squadron arriving at the unfinished base in 1941 to live in the barrack blocks instead of tents at Baginton.

Their Hurricanes were still at Baginton, and that meant they travelled back and forth by lorry.

These men went south to defend London, probably in 1942, and squadron 255 came with Beaufighters.

In early autumn 1942 the ground staff sailed to north Africa, and a little later the aircraft flew out.

As I understand it, most planes were lost and the squadron was disbanded.

At Honiley there were other Beaufighters with the later addition of the USAF. They were there for about a year, so the questioner Mr Everest would surely have attended their parties.

The base continued to operate fully until at least the late 1950s when Meteors and Vampires used it as a training station.


Wendy Hier of Wendover Rise, Allesley Park asks: While the Roman numeral for four is IV, I notice that most clocks and watches use the Roman numeral IIII. Why is that so?

Mrs A.M.Zebrzuski of Headborough Road, Stoke asks: In the Herbert Art Gallery collection is a painting by Sir Edwin Landseer called Lady Godiva's Prayer. Why is Lady Godiva's attendant dressed in completely the wrong century? She appears to have been copied from a picture by Rembrant.

Joan Bridgestock of Wycliffe Road, Wyken asks: Can anyone tell me why there is a model of an owl on the top of the Forresters' Pub on the corner of Lower Ford Street?
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Draper, Keith
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 9, 2000
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