By Arthur H.Gunther III
Older folks like me have become our grandpas and grandmas in complaining that the “good, old days” are long gone, that things were always better back when. Well, of course they were not, at least not always. Advances in medicine, social understanding and tolerance, vehicle safety and quality of life have progressed as has an awful lot more. Yet, since advancement is usually two steps forward and one back, and because we don’t always go back to fix what’s wrong in the new, yes, some things were better back when.
For example, ice cream. Eons ago, I had a bit of someone’s homemade vanilla with real June strawberries, the wild sort that grew in many backyards in my Rockland County, N.Y., area, and that was the best I ever enjoyed. Second to that was the hand-packed variety from old-fashioned ice cream parlors and stores with fountain service, such as the Wooden Indian in Nyack, N.Y., where the Traversons would take their time to scoop from large buckets into cardboard, delicatessen-type containers . They packed the ice cream so tight that the sides would bulge, and then mounded off the product so high you could not close the top and waxed paper had to be slapped on so you could bring it home.
Once home, it took a strong hand or the heat of August to get the packed ice cream out of the package. What a treat. What taste. Compare that to today’s air-injected commercial products that never seem to freeze in the kitchen ice box.
In my elementary school, the 25 cent school lunch (soup 5 cents extra) could be topped off by the occasional, maybe twice-a-month 10-cent treat, a paper cone filled with ice cream from a New Jersey firm. It was labeled “Country Club Ice Cream” and was exceptionally creamy. The paper cone was perfect since you could squeeze the last bit out of it. It, too, came mounded with a paper top. Vanilla was best. Most of the girls bought chocolate, as they do today.
In the early 1960s, someone with limited thinking power decided to substitute some ice cream varieties with ice milk, which, while it offered less fat, was also just what it said it was: ice. Not worth the effort.
Today, you can spend a small fortune, perhaps a year’s worth of the 10-cent Country Club treats, on one single cone, triple-decker though it may be and perhaps tasty enough because there still is good ice cream on the planet.
But few places will pack ice cream, and almost no one, I bet, can pack it the way Ed Traverson did. And it would not have a mound on it.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org This essay may be reproduced.