Only a few weeks ago, before school started, the temperature climbed above the hundred mark and turned my thoughts to ice cream. As a child, my mind often wandered in that direction, especially on Saturdays when I’d walked with my mother to the center of town and she’d do a little shopping. On the way home, we’d stop at Chapman’s ice cream parlor. The place was small but cool and the cardboard containers sunk beneath the glass counter twinkled with a variety of flavors – not as many as today’s Ben & Jerry’s, but those that did exist weren’t poor sisters.
My mother usually chose one scoop of vanilla, which to my mind was tantamount to preferring broccoli to chocolate. At the age of 10, my taste buds demanded adventure. I’d sample as many flavors as allowed, then choose what I always did — two scoops of Chapman’s cherry ice cream balanced on a crispy cone. No one who’s tasted Chapman’s cherry ice cream would accuse me of being boring. Pink as a plastic flamingo and smooth as a waterslide, the confection was dotted with big, ripe cherries that, when crunched, gave up their fruity flavor like an advancing wave. On a hot day, I’d found heaven.
As whole cherries required whole bites, there was no way to avoid digging my nose as well as my teeth into the soft mixture. Some ice cream always escaped and formed pink veins down the length of my arm before landing on my dress. Passersby would see the mess I was making and give my mother a sympathetic glance. In those days washing machines weren’t common. In those day, people did their laundry in a tub with a wash board. But I gave no thought to laundry day on the weekend. I attacked my Chapman’s cherry ice cream with the fervor of a mosquito at a nudist colony. Fortunately, my mother didn’t seem to mind.
Not long ago, I came across an article by Anne Vandermey. She wrote that ice cream sales were down in the United States. Too much competition from frozen yogurt. Out of concern for their health, people were avoiding fatty calories. Last year 2,582 frozen yogurt stores were opened across the country while the number of ice cream parlors remained stagnant. (“Do We Still Scream for Ice Cream?” by Anne Vandermey, Fortune Magazine, August 11, 2014, pg. 11)
This decline in ice cream sales strikes me as un-American, somehow. Apple pie may be our national dessert, but it always comes with a scoop of ice cream, doesn’t it? It always did at my house. So much has changed… Come to think of it, what’s happened to the tinny tunes that used to pour from the ice cream carts that prowled the neighborhood? When I was young, that music would send me home with pigtails flying. “Mama, can you spare a dime?”
I miss the tinny tinkle of those ice cream carts and the youthful cries of summer. Back then, Ben & Jerry’s wasn’t around and they hadn’t invented Chunky Monkey, yet. Chunky Monkey isn’t Chapman’s cherry ice cream, but I’d have to say the company was making progress.