If you are of a certain age and hear the name "Meschia's" mentioned you can be sure it will bring back fabulous memories of a great institution that stood on Market Street Hyde for many years. For me, it evokes memories of saturday and sundays sitting in the milk bar chatting with friends ,drinking vimto and eating toasted currant teacakes in the "American style" booths. The older teens sat on the right of the cafe near to the pinball machine whilst the youngsters sat to the left - all aspiring to ,one day ,be part of the "happening" group on the right.
Here's a short history of the family business.
Louis Meschia arrived in England in the 1880s. He was part of the widespread emigration from Italy, coming from the Province of Genova of Northern Italy.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 shop so much that he bought it and invited his fiancee, Maria Levaggi to join him from Italy. The couple married at St Paul’s Church and had three children — Amelia, Clarence and Joseph.
Clarence was born above the family’s 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.
Clarence Meschia during WWII
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 Bredbury.
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 Meschia’s Milk Bar.
Clarence met his wife Betty while dancing in Manchester. They married in 1936 and went to live on Church Street where their two daughters 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. 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.
Meschia's Ice Cream van in the 1970's
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.
Meschia’s is still represented in Hyde Precinct today, next to the outdoor market where Louis first sold his black peas back in the 1920's.
Unfortunately , I have yet to discover a photo of Meschias Milk Bar on Market Street. If anyone has one ,inside or out, that they'd like to share ,please send to Tom or I so we can post it on here. Thanks .
Thanks to The Rhodes family and the Reporter group for the information contained here - very much appreciated.