The Surprising Successes of The Maas Twins (part two of three)

Ezra-Sylvester was the eldest, by some nine minutes, and was the first of the two to be a talker (apparently). He was outgoing and attractive as a teenager. Sylvester-Ezra, quiet and reflective, could be sullen and was prone to chest infections & hallucinations as a boy. Despite these ailments he was the first of the two to be a walker (apparently): this is all merely hearsay about the young Maas boys, and there is suggestion that the attributes have been confused with the passing of time; so, who knows? The important (and clear) thing is that two young Italian boys arrived in the area in that thin spring of ’33 and, one or other, both, embarked on an idea that would become a surprising success.

The Hollows, as that area of the peninsula was known locally, was home to those employed in the quarrying industry. The name itself is thought to be a reference to the intricate network of open pits that riddle this part of the county. The Hollows stretched along a particularly desolate and dreadful part of Penn Beacon. Any trees that still stand there are bent almost double and bow to the east. At the time of the Maas’s arrival half acre plots could be bought for as little as £100. This was due to a number of reasons, including, obviously, the terrific scarring of the land, the constant rock face explosions, the pest problems & the water issues.


-The open pit families lived in a ramshackle slum of shacks and huts that were scattered all along the cliff top. People  –

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–  wandering semi naked one afternoon. The arresting officer found him to be both ‘incoherent & confused.’ His clothing was later discovered on the roof of the Eight Kings public house. One has to question –

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Five pits dominate the landscape. The Hollows was also the site of the local municipal dump. The dump dates back to Victorian times and sprawled alongside the blast area and the shanties and the blackened milk  –

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… skies were littered with terns. Of course, these days, this particular area is now the site of the Hollows Estate which promises ‘popular traditional modern living at affordable prices’ (brought to you by the Jurassic Homes Co.) – a bronze statue of a quarryman stands at the entrance to Ramsden Drive Car Park, although it is sadly in need of care and attention due to excessive guano build-up & some vandalism. [see image]


The front of Maas’ (‘ices, sorbets, milkshakes’), dressed out in pale blue and white, was quite incongruous among the scruffy and scant selection of dark, pokey businesses and timber dwellings. An elaborate and quite ornate etching in the plate glass of two rotund and smiling moustachioed gents, tipping top hats in salutation, greeted you as you approached [see plate 25].

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… the tinkle of spoons sang out against shapely glass bowls and crooked teeth.” The quarrymen gravitated to the parlour after leaving their shifts at the face and word soon got around that the delicious Italian ice cream was the perfect way to ease the grit-cake and dust-coat from their mouths.

The glistening globes of –

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– black, also, and green, was dragged back down onto chests or else was trumpeted out with gusty salvoes into the paper serviettes that read Maas’ in swirled pale blue lettering. The tables were bare board, busy with crushed almonds and ash and dust, leathered elbows and palms as big as spades.

harbottle 13
Quarrymen, Penn Beacon (c.1937)

“The lips of these filthy creatures, only that last hour risen out of the quarry {became} painted and glossy in the cutlery and glass, with the sticky raspberry sauce. Tongues darted and lolled and the thick and melodic voices of the quarrymen rose and fell, bringing a choral joy to [indistinct text due to excessive damp staining]…”

Gelato! p.466

– It was, as has been noted, a thin spring that year and a handwritten sign on the door requested that patrons should ‘please close’ it behind them on entering or leaving the premises. Many of the rockmen, being illiterate, paid no heed to this request and quite soon the twins, bemused, took the sign down and supposed that these hardy types preferred to be cold. The customer, it is said, is always right!


The Maas’s turned tables between them; collecting and delivering bowls, chatting with the men, neat hands in apron, on hips, friendly claps on black, broad and broken backs. By the second year they purchased another, larger, property on the mainland at Weston and that became as popular as the first. It was also called Maas’s and catered for families of the local businessmen. And, again it was the boys’ kind and professional attitude to business that made the twins a success among the town folk. That, and the delicious ice-cream sundaes and knickerbocker glories that required the longest spoons to mine the creamy fruit and nut delights from the tall glasses.


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–  if he were just a fraction taller, well, it would have been a completely different story! The fireman was later presented with a bravery medal, which, if you ask me, he most certainly did not deserve!” (Francesca Manson would go on to serve four years in Penn Beacon prison, all the time protesting her innocence). It is often said that after the incident with the steam engine Sylvester-Ezra never touched red meat again. Infact, it is said that even the sight of deer could anger him.

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–  she broke her arm one evening while walking the neighbour’s Daschhund, Rory. The wind that evening would have been easterly and the house itself, due to extensive renovation work on the west wing, was quite open. Dr. Clutter was duly summoned from The Eight Kings where he was on call.

4 thoughts on “The Surprising Successes of The Maas Twins (part two of three)

    1. Glad that you enjoyed this, Watt. It’s something that has sat in the chiller for about a year. I’ve spooned here it into three portions: mint chocolate chip, raspberry ripple & tutti frutti.

      Liked by 1 person

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