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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Past Christchurch/Canterbury Personalities 1

Sali MAHOMET
'Ice cream Charlie'

1866 - 1943


As a child, one of my favourite memories from the 1960's and '70's was the treat it used to be when dad would come in the door after work now and then with a large brown paper bag full of small cartons of 'Vanilla ice' from the 'Ice Cream Charlie' van. Scrumptious and drizzled with cream and a delicious diluted version of homemade raspberry jam filling the gap that had been punctured in the top with the serving spoon after it had been scooped into the carton.

It is only after becoming an adult I can appreciate how Sali Mahomet alias 'Ice cream Charlie' had created if not a Kiwi icon, then at least a Canterbury Icon. I still enjoy an 'ice cream Charlie' if i get the chance to have one when i'm in Christchurch.

It was fortuitous to have happened upon his icecream cart at Ferrymead Heritage Park when I visited there over Christmas. I took some photos with the intent to write up a post about him, so imagine my surprise when I went to Linwood Cemetery, Christchurch a few days later to look up a few graves and I walked right by his grave also!


The information board beside his original ice cream cart states:
"Mystery surrounds Sali's history. It is believed he was born in 1866 in Central Asia. He travelled with his father to Australia, then Dunedin [New Zealand]. Together they worked as 'hawkers' selling goods around the South Island.

In 1903 Sali arrived in Christchurch, a bustling Edwardian city with entrepreneurial opportunities. He set up his ice cream business, operating it in Summer. Sali not only sold ice cream, he made it too.

Sali's original ice cream cart
Milk and cream came from the Tai Tapu Dairy Company. Rising before dawn he created ice cream in a hand-operated churn. In later years he used a Westinghouse machine producing four batches a time.

Sadly in 1943 ill health meant Sali could no longer continue as Ice Cream Charlie. He died that year in October. The Ice Cream business, however, continues to this day."

A fuller and very good biography on Sali is accessible
here He had rather a sad ending.
The cart below is a later version probably used by his "successor".




At this juncture I'd like to commend the work done by Alexandra Gilbert of Christchurch and the Friends of Linwood Cemetery Trust**. Their hard work upgrading the cemetery, reassembling broken headstones and 'having a heart' for the past relevance of people - both the ordinary person and others of historical significance buried in this cemetery, has made it a relaxing, open and friendly place to wander around. Below is Sali Mahomet's grave with an obvious later repair.


In loving memory of
Sultan Mahomet
1836 - 1905
Sali Mahomet
(Ice Cream Charlie)
1866 - 1943
Florence Wylie
(nee Mahomet)
1916 - 1998


**Since this post was written, I have become a volunteer researcher for the The Friends of Linwood CemeteryTrust



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