Picking up from where we left off last week, ice cream was not the only cool-treat game in town back in the day. I have to use that awkward expression because it covers a couple of generations. Fortunately, most of these goodies are still available in supermarkets, dollar stores and convenience stores, formerly known as gas stations.
An Isaly’s Klondike bar will still put a smile on my face. Back when there was an Isaly’s store within driving distance of most towns, it was a big deal to us kids to go there with our parents and grandparents for a quick bite of lunch. A chipped chopped ham sandwich served on a kaiser roll, accompanied by a Klondike bar, was the usual fare.
There is something about the combination of a crunchy chocolate shell surrounding luscious vanilla ice cream that is pretty close to heaven. Sure, you can stop at an ice cream stand these days and buy a chocolate-dipped cone, but it just isn’t the same as a Klondike.
For sheer kid portability, nothing beats a Popsicle or any of its variations. And here is where I fell down another rabbit hole because of my incurable curiosity. We all know how that turned out when I started researching the origin of pink lawn flamingos.
Back in the winter of 1905, a young boy was stirring some powdered drink flavoring into a pail of water on the back porch. He got distracted, left the pail and its stirring stick on the porch overnight and found it frozen solid the next morning. He refined his product over the years and introduced it at a firemen’s ball in 1922.
That was the world’s first Popsicle. Later, there was an explosion of variations and the results were Fudgsicles, Creamsicles and anything else that you could freeze on a stick.
When I was very small, my brother and I would share one of them after Mom cracked it down the middle into halves. When we got older, we could nosh out on an entire ‘sicle by ourselves.
Mom tells the story of sharing two Popsicles with her two brothers. Doing some higher math here, they each got a half, leaving one half to the mercy of either my grandmother or grandfather. During those hard times, I often wonder how Grandpa and Grandma McGregor negotiated who got to eat the other half because Popsicles must have been something of a luxury item.
They must have come from the freezer at Shick’s Garage, formerly located across from the Redbank Valley High School, an extra special treat because few people could afford a fancy new refrigerator with a freezer compartment. Those were the days of ice boxes and home ice deliveries.
When the much better days of the ‘50s and ‘60s came along, everybody had a fridge with a freezer in the kitchen and a deep freezer in the basement. There was always a box or two of Popsicles in ours. I took them for granted, but I realize now just how satisfying that must have been for parents raised during the Depression.
It was an excess of riches that even the family dog could enjoy. On hot summer days, our pooch lounged on the cool basement floor, rousing herself just enough to stroll over to the deep freezer and bark until somebody gave her a Popsicle. Kallie, the present canine-in-residence at Mom’s house, doesn’t even have to bark.
Those were also the days of Tupperware parties, and Mom bought a gadget for making your own knock-offs at home. The process was simple. You mixed up a strong batch of Kool-Aid, poured it into the plastic moulds, set them in the freezer for a few hours and served ersatz Popsicles to the kiddies.
Store-bought or homemade, they always dripped, usually when you were wearing something white or pastel. I was always on the receiving end of a lecture about that, but, hey, a kid is a noise wrapped in laundry stains. What could I do?
Given my fondness for chocolate even then, I always chose a Fudgsicle over a fruity Popsicle when possible. If those weren’t available, there was always a Nutty Buddy. Those are sheer genius, combining ice cream, a chocolate shell and a sprinkling of nuts, all contained in a sugar cone.
And then the 1970s came along and ruined everything.
Suddenly, there was a lot of news about the bad effects of artifical coloring and flavoring being used in foods that appeal to kids. As a new mother, I kind of lost my mind a little and became something of a food fascist.
Jello? No, sir, I used natural gelatin and fruit juice to make my own.
Popsicles? Those things were poisonous, and so I bought my own set of Tupperware moulds and filled them with homemade fruit puree before they went into the freezer.
Somehow, my daughter survived my fanaticism and turned out rather well-adjusted. All the same, she tends to limit my grandsons’ exposure to sugary treats and social media.
Now that I am antifascist in many ways, I still don’t keep a lot of sweets around. When you get to be a certain age, nothing succeeds like excess. I cannot eat just one Fudgiscle.
On the other hand, I need to run some errands and the supermarket is in the way. Maybe one Nutty Buddy won’t hurt anything now that I have found my waistline again.
[Susan Kerr is a semi-retired freelance writer living in her hometown of New Bethlehem. Previously, she was the managing editor of a regional-interest magazine and a business journal in State College.]