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The butter man

Thursday, 16th January, 2020

The Broken Hill Chilled Butter and Produce Company. The Broken Hill Chilled Butter and Produce Company.

By Paul Armstrong

Ernst Fromen, who was born in Sweden, came to Broken Hill in 1886 and set up a Produce Store on the corner of Argent and Oxide streets (later J P Martin’s store site, now ANZ Bank).

In the 1890s, he was one of the organisers of the Broken Hill Chamber of Commerce.

In 1900, he moved to Railwaytown and opened a Wholesale Produce Store. 

Due to the NSW Government slapping a duty on butter from South Australia, but not on cream, he set about building a butter factory and produce store on land in Beryl Street on the corner of Sulphide Street. 

Calling it the Broken Hill Chilled Butter & Produce Co, he was doing exceptionally well until the protectionist border duties were scrapped by the government.

This made the Butter Factory uneconomical, so Mr Fromen imported produce from SA, Sydney and New Zealand.

The new business grew substantially in the early 1900s and a new company was formed, which became known as the Broken Hill Ice and Produce Co.

It took up the site in Beryl Street and was about 90 metres long and was one of the biggest employers outside of the mines.

The company was then expanded again and was trading in South Australia as Alaska Ice Cream Co.

In time, the company in Broken Hill was producing three-ton of ice cream a week. Mr Fromen later withdrew from management, but remained a major shareholder in the company in the Silver City.

He then moved to Adelaide in 1918, where he later became the Vice-Consul for Finland in South Australia.

He formed other butter factories and, incredibly, at a produce show in London, his butter won a gold medal.

In the late 1930s, Mr Fromen was awarded Finland’s highest distinction that of ‘Chevalier of the White Rose’, for his outstanding work in looking after their interests in South Australia.

In 1937, he made a trip to Broken Hill and met up with business partners, friends and old acquaintances from the pioneering days of the city.

His care for his employees in Broken Hill would carry onto his businesses in Adelaide, where a number of employees would become managers in his factories in SA and later in the industry in other countries.

Mr Fromen also became Manager of Farmers’ Union-Dairy Produce Department during his business life, when they bought out his factories. But remained an adviser for many years after retirement.

In 1941, he turned 80 years of age and was feted at a party in Adelaide by businessmen, Swedish-Australian Chamber of Commerce, other Scandinavian Country people of South Australia and his family.

He was so respected in the Dairy Industry around Australia, he sat on many Dairy Boards and was invited to sit on Government Conferences on the Dairy Industry. 

On March 17, 1942, Mr Ernst Hyalman Fromen passed away at his home in Unley SA.

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