A child’s birthday party is not complete until at least one small person ends up crying over missing out on their favourite treat. Opposing chubby little fists grab for the last triangle of sparkling multi-coloured goodness, one bound to miss out on being the victor! Tears ensue!
An entire generation of Australian kids were brought up on the birthday party staple of “fairy bread”! These buttery white slices of bread topped with “Hundreds and Thousands” are part of our childhood culture.
These tiny round balls bursting with colour and sugar look like a party just waiting to happen!
Our very own chocolate factory here at City West was one of the earliest reported manufacturers of these “nonpareils” or “Hundreds and thousands” as they later became known.
We can thank one Hugh Plaistowe for the multicoloured delights. As a young man he worked as a confectioner in his father’s London confectionery business. After a move halfway around the world, he, along with a Mr J Hobbs, began making confectionery here in Perth during the gold rush era. The original factory built in 1898 in Marquis Street was quickly outgrown as production increased.
With new premises built on the current site, and producing confectionery from 1915, the factory grounds quickly doubled and then tripled in size as the range of goods manufactured increased.
By 1919 the effects of the war could be felt with world-wide lack of oils and flavouring ingredients available, the chemists at Plaistowes began experimenting with producing oils from native raw materials and in 1918 a new company was formed to take over the manufacture and distillation of these oils. This new company was called Plaimar and produced oils such as Sandalwood, Boronia, essential oil of lemon, peppermint and others from locally grown product.
In 1922 Plaistowes sent some of their Boronia oil to a chemist in London with the view of manufacturing a perfume, the perfume that was developed was manufactured here in West Perth and became commercially available in 1923.
In 1924 King George V and Queen Mary attended the British Empire Exhibition in London and the Queen was presented with a special decorative cut glass bottle, the stopper in the shape of a kangaroo and the front of the bottle embellished with a black swan, which contained the exquisite Boronia perfume.
Plaimar continued producing and exporting to the world the highest quality products, and they are still considered to be some of the finest in the world.
In the meantime Plaistowes began experimenting with the concentration of tomatoes and from 1928 began testing the water with tonnes and tonnes of tomato concentrate being sold in the East of Australia as well as in London
With a range of over 400 confections including milk chocolate, sugar confections, triple blend cocoa-icing sugar, and the now famous Choo Choo Bar, Plaistowes has also been responsible for a number of other products under different names including lemon concentrate cordials, cakes and Don jellies as well as custard powder under the name Fulcreem Co.
But it is those little, tiny round balls that look like a fairytale constellation in a bottle that hold our heart, in these days of themed birthday extravaganzas and party planners we are drawn to the simpler times, when a large newspaper wrapped parcel was passed and layers ripped off with gusto, little faces filled with hope of a treat being revealed as the music stopped. When a plate of fairly bread was coveted fare, and you were sent home at the end of the party with a slightly squashed piece of birthday cake wrapped in a napkin, the colour of which transferred to the icing stuck to it.
To ease the pain of the party ending, and much to the chagrin of many parents, the best parties saw you leave with the bottom of last week’s milk carton cut and decoratively transformed into a fantastical lolly basket filled with such treats as “teeth”, and “bananas” that taste ironically nothing like bananas!
Thanks for the memories Mr Plaistowe!