Ancestors, Legends and Time

A hot summer day is a great excuse to crank quarts of homemade ice cream

Jeanne Newby

Summer time was often a thrill for children to get to eat ice cream, usually homemade. I would safely say that ice cream isn’t really a seasonal item any more. Folks eat ice cream all year long. It is available in grocery stores as well as many fast food restaurants and still made at home when the family is gathering together. My brother-in-law says there is always room for ice cream as it just melts in your tummy and fills in the empty spots.

What is your favorite way to eat ice cream? Do you like it on a cone, in a banana split, an ice cream sundae, an ice cream float, ice cream soda? Or maybe a dip of ice cream on a piece of apple pie or on a chocolate brownie of goodness?

In the ’60s after church on Sunday, whole families would show up at Bradbury Bishop Drug Store to get ice cream at the soda fountain. It was a tradition for some families. The ice cream treats were not as expensive in the old days.

In the 60s, we had small Coke glasses where you could get a glass of fountain Coke for only a nickel. It was a treat for the kids to get a full nickel glass of Coke. But in those days you only drank a small amount of the carbonated treat. And believe it or not, you didn’t usually have a carbonated drink before noon unless you were having an early lunch. Some folks were repeat customers and you knew in advance what they were going to order. Mr. Johnson (from Johnson Feed, down the street) always ordered a glass of soda water, no flavoring just a glass of soda water.

In the really early days of our country, ice cream at that time was quite a luxury. The rich were the only ones who could afford the special treat. Dolly Madison and Thomas Jefferson both served ice cream at formal dinners. George Washington had quite a sweet tooth (wooden) for ice cream. The nearest place for Washington to get ice cream was in New York and history says, he ordered a lot. In 1790, the ledgers show that in a matter of weeks, President Washington had ordered over $200 in ice cream. That was a lot of money in those days. He eventually mastered the task of making his own in pewter pots that were chilled. Custard ingredients were added to the chilled pewter bowls and whipped by hand until the frozen concoction was firm. 

Have you tried making ice cream in a Ziploc bag? Look it up online! In 1840, Nancy Johnson invented the hand-cranked portable ice cream freezer and sold the patent for only $1,500, but she felt that was a lot of money. It was an invention that created a lot of ice cream magic at family gatherings.

Then in 1851, someone in Baltimore, Md. manufactured ice cream to be sold to the public. The average person could buy the ice cream but had to have a freezer to keep it firm. A new industry was born… ice cream.

Then came along, the St. Louis World Fair in 1904. The ice cream was more of a hit then was imagined, and the ice cream vendor ran out of cups, so his mind went to work and he talked the waffle vendor into making a waffle cone in which he could serve his ice cram. It was a great hit, and another industry was born. 

Well, there was a bit of a legal problem due to the fact that Italo Marchiony had a pushcart on Wall Street in 1903. He served his ice cream from glass dishes and folks would break them or walk off with them or he would run out of clean dishes and he was getting discouraged until he came up with the idea of making cones to serve his ice cream. He got the patent on the cones but his were flat bottomed instead of cornucopia shaped like the World’s Fair. Either way… America has had a love affair with ice cream since the beginning… no matter who is responsible!

In the Victorian Days, it was considered improper to drink soda water. In fact, many of the towns banned soda water completely on Sundays. So a “soda Jerk” in Evanston. Ill. concocted an ice cream dessert that was legal on Sundays. He put flavored syrup on top of ice cream but didn’t gas the soda water as he would have in an ice cream soda (which was invented by a confectioner in Philadelphia) he just added the flavored syrup on top. He called his concoction a “Sunday” but out of respect for the Sabbath, they spelled it sundae. The guy who invented the ice cream soda claimed his daily sales went form $6 a day to $600 with his new concoction.

What kids haven’t known the thrill of running in the house as soon as they hear the music of the ice cream truck, hoping to convince someone within hearing range that it was a matter of life and death to have some money to purchase some ice cream. Once the money was obtained then the chase began to catch the truck to obtain the luscious ice cream. After catching the truck they were so winded they could hardly order the frozen treat.

Grandpa would constantly harass a new car hop by ordering a frozen custard, and the sweet little girl would tell him that they didn’t serve frozen custard. He would laugh and inform her that that is what ice cream was originally called. She would roll her eyes as she walked away.

So as we head into an even hotter part of summer, don’t forget to take the family out for a frozen custard… oh, I mean ice cream! Enjoy!

Hey! Where are you going? Are you getting some ice cream?

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.