In 1911, William Schlipalius began making ice cream in a small factory in Sorrento, Victoria. He first sold his product from a horse-drawn cart. His son, Albert, followed him into the business and was among the first in Australia to sell ice cream from a motor vehicle. A second son, Reuben, began his own ice cream business based in Frankston. Both businesses used the name Slip’s and, long before Häagen–Dazs, pioneered exotic flavours like Plum Pudding, Apricot and Peach.
When I was in my early teens (in the late 1950s), our family’s summer holiday each year was at Frankston, now a Melbourne suburb. The ramshackle holiday house was just 50 metres from the beach. The highlight of each day was when the Mr Slips ice cream truck arrived at the end of the street next to the beach. The flavours were different every time, although we always hoped that Plum Pudding was on the list for the day. (In the picture below, the listed flavours are Apricot, Plum Pudding and Vanilla.)
The man in the van In Frankston was Reuben. His brother Albert had a converted bus that patrolled the beaches at Sorrento. Albert, with his wife Jeannie, then opened a shop in Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento, making 42 flavours of ice cream in a small factory at the rear. They used a hand churn and fresh ingredients from the markets. At a time when the offerings in Melbourne’s milk bars were limited to chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, the flavours from Slip’s ice cream were impossibly exotic. Both Reuben and Albert later abandoned the mobile business and Reuben purchased the Sorrento store from his brother.
Meanwhile, the mainstream ice cream companies were introducing new flavours via their tubs, sold through supermarkets. The competition from supermarkets and high penalty rates for weekend workers contributed to Dairy Bell’s demise. From the 1990s on, ice cream shops offering a wide range of flavours became more common, with Häagen-Dazs launching in 1999 and the American Ben & Jerry’s arriving in 2009.
Today, specialty ice cream and gelato shops abound and our flavour preferences have changed. Or have they? As of 2020, vanilla and chocolate were Australia’s top two favourites. But coming in third was Cookies & Cream, followed by Salted Caramel and Mint. Mr Slip’s ice cream would no longer be the unique treat that so beguiled us back in the 1950s and early ’60s.