I found the following manuscript excerpts when I moved home recently. It was beneath the carpet in the box room & appears to be part of some quite extensive notes for a proposed dissertation/thesis/biography (?) by someone called Henry Eves. Many of the pages were quite unreadable due to damp & many further parts were clearly missing. However, it holds a certain charm – despite being a little poorly written in places – & I felt that I would share it here. Perhaps someone will recognise it?! I wonder if Mr. Eves ever finished his studies? The Maas Twins (though I’d never heard of them) sound fun!
The Surprising Successes of The Maas Twins.
(A potted history of the Maas ice cream empire: 1935-1976)
1910: Born September 20th, Fiovana, Italy, to Maria (née Delphine) & Captain Augusta-Franck Maas. The twins (non-identical) are named Ezra-Sylvester and Sylvester-Ezra. The unusual pairing of the names being something of a tradition in rural Italy.
1914: The Maas family relocate to Turin where Augusta-Franck is stationed at the famous horse garrison. He is promoted to the rank of captain. This is remembered as a particularly happy period for the young family. The boys enjoy fencing & adopt the regiment dwarf pony, Fonzi. Unfortunately, their time at the garrison is short-lived as war breaks out over Europe.
1916: Captain Augusta-Franck Maas [Turin Brigade xiv] killed in action at Caporetto, Slovenia,* during an ill-fated cavalry charge against superior enemy forces. The family move back to Maria’s hometown, Fiovana, in the Trussanzi mountains, where the boys learn to ski & goat herd.
* [see Dr. F.D. Felicini’s excellent account of this battle: ‘Gorizia! – Gas! Gas!’ (Roma University Press 1957)]
1915-20: Various schools.
1928: Ezra-Sylvester applies to study Geography at Verona University, but fails to sit the entry examination as he becomes lost for several days in the unfamiliar city.
‘…my brother, he disappeared for a weekend in Verona. A weekend! Mama was frantic. Myself, I figured that he was chasing the skirts, the sophisticates, the city girls! Ah, how could I blame him! We had tired of the rough, country girls. By this time Fiovana, well, let me put it this way, we had baked that particular ciliegia torte! (cherry cake). As it turned out he was just hopelessly lost…’
– Gelato! The Collected Diaries of Sylvester-Ezra. 1928-53, vol. 1: [Templar Publications, 1974].
Ezra-Sylvester joins his uncle’s ice cream restaurant, Francko’s, in Fioricci, as a dishwasher. During his time here he begins to learn the Maas ice cream recipes. His brother joins him later that winter. ‘Francko’s’ ice cream parlour becomes a well known meeting place for stars of stage and screen as well as politicians. Benito Mussolini was a regular customer, visiting whenever he was in the area.
‘…Bennie, for he was this to me, was a big fan of the almond & raspberry knickerbocker. He would often eat two all the while signing this and that document.’
– Gelato! The Collected Diaries… p59-61
[see plate 15 – Francko ‘Fingers’ Maas can be seen to the left of the photograph, juggling]
June 1931: Following the Scatessio racecourse disaster of February 14th, which lay claim to both their mother & uncle Francko, among many others, the Maas twins board the SS Burundi bound for New York. However, they decide to disembark at Portslyn, England.
‘We had stood on the damp deck of that damn tramp steamer, in our flannels and our red braces, long enough. The English breeze, the countryside, well… she just took our breath.’
– Gelato! p.177
Spring 1933: The twins open their first ice cream parlour out on the outskirts of Barton Sands, Penn Beacon.
[‘A surprising success!’ – The Weston Gazette, w/e June 1933]
‘The success of the ice cream parlour was a surprise to almost everyone – everyone, but Ezra-Sylvester and myself. If we had opened on the mainland, in Weston or Bruchester we would, no doubt, have attracted the interest of the higher classes, those with the money and the time. But we were young. And poor. We could not afford to step straight into that society… The only properties affordable to us were… out on desolate Penn Beacon.’
– Gelato! p. 268-30
– a long line of Italian creatives, the Maas’ knew inherently that to make a success of anything one had to take business to the people who wanted … [text indistinct here] “… even so,” she said. “We all simply adored their ice cream …”
– reasoned (with an acumen that some later attributed to genius, recklessness or luck – these last folk were, probably, just jealous).
‘… if we could sell the cooling ices and sorbets at almost cost, from a cheap premises, to those with the driest throats… then we could make a go of it in this new world’
– Gelato! p259
It is not known whether it was Ezra-Sylvester or Sylvester-Ezra who came up with the idea of selling ice cream to the quarrymen first, as no clear record exists. Some think one, some think the other.