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50's ARTICLE #2

"Ice Cream Dreams"

I don't run anywhere anymore. And certainly not like the time when, forty or fifty years ago, I sat on the piazza of the house, nickel in hand, waiting to run for the curb to be first in line when the tell-tale white truck came into view slowly proceeding down Belcher Avenue. The warm summer days meant a tasty choice of frozen confection: would it be a "chocolate-covered", or a "Fudgeicle”, or perhaps an orange-flavored "Popsicle”? Or maybe it would be a "Hoodsie", complete with the flat wooden spoon, and the latest collectible picture under the lid of the cup?

Inevitably, there would be a lineup of the neighborhood kids, all patiently awaiting their turn in line, as the ice cream route salesman, complete with white uniform and change-maker hanging from his belt, would open the heavy hatch of the refrigerated vehicle, reach inside and, amid the usual cloud of frosty dry ice escaping, would pull out one's choice and hand it over, in return for the nickel.

The "Hoodsie" lids would be closely inspected. Would the picture be a Hollywood actor or actress like Lana Turner, or a well-known cowboy such as Gene Autry? Or, during the war years, the latest fighter plane, say, a P-38 "Lightning”? The collectible "Hoodsie" lids would be dried out and, at an opportune time a few days later, become part of a pack of lids, like a deck of playing cards, ready to be skimmed through the air to land on the inside of a chosen step on someone's front porch, winner take all, in our first foray into gambling.

Of course, there was more than waiting for the ice cream man to come to one's street. There was the anticipation of what to order when in the parents' automobile en route to destinations both near and far away--say, the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, or Nantasket Beach, or even the Cape, or perhaps thirty-five miles away in New Bedford or Fall River, with a promise to stop en route for an ice cream, "if you're good".

The stop might be Howard Johnson's ("28 Flavors") on North Montello Street, which had the added attraction of grilled items for take-out, especially a paper container of fried clams, or A.R. Parker's Dairy in West Bridgewater, with the aggressive ducks (or was it geese?) in the pond nearby? Closer in to town, within bicycle range, was the Walsh's Dairy outlet at the corner of Pleasant Street and West Street, across from the stone arch entrance to Field Park. And there was, of course, Producers' Dairy up on Belmont Street, where you could watch the cows in the pasture surrounding the building while you licked the ice cream cone.

My younger brother, who worked as a "soda jerk" for 33 cents an hour at Producers' in the Nineteen Fifties, recalls dispensing ice cream cones and sundaes and banana splits, as well as milk shakes (milk and flavored syrup), or frappes (milk, syrup, and a scoop of ice cream). Favorite items with Brocktonians patronizing Producers' Dairy, he recalls, included fudge cake and vanilla ice cream with fudge sauce, and strawberry shortcake. The usual prices in the Forties and Fifties were 5-10 cents for a one-scoop "regular" cone; 15-25 cents for a waffle cone; milk shakes, 15 cents, and frappes, 25 cents.

Also closer in to one's neighborhood was the drugstore soda fountain, where you could meet your friends at, say, "Dunnington's" or "Liggett's", and sit either on a convenient raised stool at the counter, or join your contemporaries in a booth for an ice cream soda, a milk shake, a frappe, or a cone or dish.

Nowadays, there's all this emphasis on calories, cholesterol and triglycerides, resulting in lots of "ersatz" light ice cream and/or substitutes at dairy outlets everywhere, but back in the Forties and Fifties, as in the present day, the more butterfat in the cow's milk, the richer the ice cream was. Typical of the standard of the day was the Gulf Hill Dairy in North Dartmouth, just north of New Bedford. Not only could you buy ice cream in cones or containers at Gulf Hill, but there was a milking "parlor", as well--standing outside, licking the ice cream cone in your hand before it dripped away, looking through the glass, you could see the Guernsey cows being "hooked up" with automatic milking hoses, and the milk running into large containers at the side of each animal.

Whether your ice cream favorite is a "Hoodsie", or orange-pineapple, strawberry, or "frozen pudding"-- enjoy! Here's a napkin, and make sure you don't get any on the seat!
by Nat Shapira

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