Saturday, June 15, 2013

Factories around P.E.E. (9) - Magnolia Dairies

Up on a hill along Upper Bukit Timah Road near the 12km mark, stands a condominium complex called Bukit Regency. It is situated just opposite the old Bukit Timah Fire Station, directly across the road from what was the former Green Spot factory site.

But long before the area was rezoned for residential use, the hill top was occupied by a rather famous factory. It was called the Magnolia Dairies (S) Ltd factory.

Magnolia Dairies was built in 1961 by the Cold Storage group. It was to be one of the most modern food manufacturing plants in Singapore and cost $1m to build. A staggering investment in its day.

The first product manufactured was condensed milk.
In 1964, it added another new production line and produced fresh sterile milk in bottles.
The raw milk came directly from their own cows that were kept at Dairy Farm, located a short distance down Upper Bukit Timah Road. Their initial run was up to 500 gallons of milk a day.

The line of condensed milk made by Magnolia Dairies.

When I was in Princess Elizabeth Estate School, my parents had an arrangement with the school tuck-shop Magnolia ice-cream seller to supply a small bottle of milk each day for me and my siblings during each recess. The milk came in 2 sizes, a large bottle costing 20 cents and a smaller bottle that cost 10 cents. We were given a small bottle each day.

This was the bottle I remember from my school days.
You had to peel the foil cap.

Many PEES students will remember the Magnolia ice cream man. He was a very short elderly man who always wore wooden clogs (cha kiak). He had to stand on a pedestal he arranged from the milk bottle crates in order to reach into his freezer for ice cream.

I recall that I was supposed to drink a bottle of fresh milk each day but very often I would persuade the ice cream uncle to give me strawberry or chocolate milk instead. My own favorite flavour was the caramel milk but this was only available occasionally.

There was also another Magnolia ice-cream seller who plied his trade within P.E.Estate on his motorbike. He had his ice cream freezer mounted on his sidecar. This Magnolia man was familiar to all the estate residents. He was a round, portly man who was always flush in his face of reddish colour and wore a toppee hat. He was an icon of our estate in his grey Magnolia uniform.

In later years, the Magnolia Dairies factory also bottled soft drinks, squashes and cordials, soya bean and Chrysanthemum tea. I had also assumed that this Magnolia factory made all those Magnolia ice-cream we so loved, but I have it from some hearsay sources that the ice-cream were made elsewhere. The ice-creams were produced by another subsidiary called Cold Storage Creameries. Does anyone know?

The Magnolia Dairies factory in 1978.
(Photo from National Library Board archive)

How many of you can remember the old delivery vans belong to Magnolia and Cold Storage?
These pictures were taken outside the magnolia factory.

Do you also recall the Magnolia milk in this triangular packaging?

Related links:
Dairy Farm

1 comment:

  1. My Primary school class (think it was Pri 4) visited the Magnolia factory on one of those "excursion" and I remember standing next to this large stainless steel pot (huge pot) as a neighbour checked as chocolate was being mixed in it.
    I remember the packets of milk that came in that unusual packing - I used to play with them - stacking up like a pyramid.
    I remember the ice cream man, his ice cream stall faces inwards at the school tuckshop - and he would stand with his back to the car park. On his right is the drinks stall where we buy our pineapple drink for 5c per cup from the Indian stallholder.
    James, you are lucky - I have only ONE occasion when I drank a bottle of those Magnolia milk in the bottle - I was only given 10 cents for pocket money - 5c for dried mee siam or yong tao fu and 5c for drinks. In my early primary, mom brings hot milo and 2 slices of bread (kaya and SCS butter). Sometime I ask her to bring bread with SCS butter and sugar instead. I remember looking forward to her visit every morning during recess time.
    Then in my upper primary years, I was made a Prefect and I remember trying to mend the leak on the washbasin at the tuckshop with laundry soap. Mr Tirlok Singh suggest it would not work and to leave it to the plumber but I gave it a go anyway - it only stop the leak temporarily!
    My son goes to Primary 1 next year but it will not be at Princess Elizabth Primary School because we should have moved by then from Bt Batok.

    Yum Shoen Liang