Lust, milkshakes and a Hutt panic
‘‘A notorious den of teenage lust’’ is how one writer described Lower Hutt’s infamous Elbe’s Milk Bar.
It is easy to dismiss such words as hyperbole but as anyone who studies Lower Hutt history would testify, Elbe’s Milk Bar is a defining icon of the city.
That is a big claim to make about a High St Milk bar that served milkshakes and chocolate sundaes from the 1940s to the 1960s.
It rose to fame after a government inquiry into moral delinquency, the 1954 Mazengarb Report, made a series of findings.
Today the report seems ludicrous, but at the time it was taken very seriously as moral outrage swept the nation.
According to the report, Elbe’s Milk Bar was used by Lower Hutt teenagers to arrange sexual encounters and was the haunt of ‘‘milk bar cowboys’’ who rode motorbikes and were seen as a threat to society.
The finding caused what we now refer to as a moral panic, with allegations that school kids were having a milkshake before going down to the Hutt River for sex.
The report resulted in increased censorship and a ban on contraception for under 16s.
Council archivist Jennie Hinton is organising an exhibition, Milk Bar Cowboys, Ice cream and the Modern Office – 1950s In The Hutt, to look at the impact Elbe’s has had on our culture.
The venue is a pop-up shop at 132 High Street, not far from where Elbe’s used to be.
Speakers include historian Redmer Yska on Bodgies and Widgies, and Bronwyn Labrum on what everyday life was like during that period.
Plans and photographs of Lower Hutt modernist buildings will be on display. It will also feature rock’n’roll displays.
Milk Bar Cowboys, Ice cream and the Modern Office – 1950s In The Hutt. 132 High St, Lower Hutt, September 21 to 24.