Get your ice cream

Topic: The past in the present
Student activity
History: Years 1 & 2

This is the student activity 1 of 1 of the Changing technology: Get your ice cream! learning activity.

Task No. 1

Mix 'n' match

Transport is very important for getting us to and from school, to the shops, the beach or a holiday destination. It is also used to bring food items to us – like ice cream! But transport changes all the time. 

Look carefully at the different types of transport that were used to deliver ice cream. How has ice cream delivery changed over time? How is ice cream delivered to shops now?

  • Look carefully at the sources and identify the different forms of transport used to deliver ice cream to customers.
  • Sequence the photographs in chronological order by writing the numbers 1-4 next to the photographs (1 is the oldest and 4 is the most recent).
Frank (Sonny) Duncan's travelling cafe. His catchcry at Cobar Football games was "Try our home made pies - warm your belly for threepence" - Cobar, NSW
Wright's "Puritan" ice cream cart - Bega, NSW


Hubert Opperman eating an ice cream next to a Peter's Ice Cream Reo truck,1936


Colda' fruit salad van with "Joy Sticks 1d." for A.H. Peters & Co. / Milton Kent
Task No. 2

What was ice cream like in the past?

Take a look at the article Take 5 ice creams featuring some of our favourite pictures of ice cream in the State Library's collections. Do any of these pictures surprise you? What do they tell you about ice cream in the past? 

Ask a parent, grandparent or teacher, ‘What do you remember about ice cream when you were my age?’. You might want to ask:

  • Where did they buy it?
  • What was their favourite?
  • Was it sold in shops?
  • Was it sold from trucks that drove around the neighbourhood?
  • What flavours did they have?
  • Did it come in a cone or a container?
  • What (or who) was ‘Mr Whippy’?
  • How did they know the ice cream truck was in their street?

Write words or draw pictures on the downloadable activity sheet to show what is similar and what is different about ice cream in the past.

Doreen Mitchell eating ice-cream, Rail & Tram Electrical Section Picnic


Task No. 3

Keeping cool

Where do you keep you ice cream at home? In the freezer of course! How did people in Australia keep their ice cream cold before they had electric freezers?

Look closely at the picture below. What are the people taking off the truck? 

Frederick Danvers Power : photonegatives, 1898-1926

Before electric refrigerators, many people in New South Wales kept their food cold using "ice chests". Look at the advertisement for an ice chest below. 

Sketch of an ice chest followed by advertising text
Image 1: The Mail (1932, October 29), p. 4 (Magazine Section). 
These ice chests were wooden cupboards lined with steel which could be filled with ice to keep food cold. The ice came from frozen lakes in America and Canada, and was sent to Sydney by ship. This advertisement promises that when you buy the ice chest, you will also recieve "a block of ice... delivered entirely free of charge". 

What do you think could happen to the ice when it spent a long time in the Australian summer heat?

Try an experiment in your classroom.

  1. Place one scoop of ice cream in a covered bowl with ice.
  2. Place one scoop of ice cream in a bowl without ice.
  3. Time how long it takes for each scoop of ice cream to melt. 

Would you prefer to keep your ice cream in a freezer or an ice chest? Why?