Boomers Made Their Own Frozen Concoctions

Boomers kept cool on hot summer days, first of all by staying outside in the shade more than indoors. That being said, cool drinks and especially frozen things did a heated body good. Mister Boomer has written about how there was practically nothing better than an ice cold root beer from A & W, or an ice cold Coke from the corner gas station’s soda pop machine after an afternoon of playing baseball. Yet that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to frozen things. Boomers cooled down with all types of ice cream, from Popsicles, Creamsicles and Fudgesicles to push-ups; sundae cups to Nutty Buddies and ice cream bars; and everything in between. Still there was more: many boomers liked to freeze candy. Frozen Milky Ways and Turkish Taffy were among the most popular in Mister B’s neighborhood. Mister B’s mom was partial to frozen Milky Ways, while he and his sister liked the vanilla flavor Turkish Taffy when frozen.

He and his sister would buy a couple of Turkish Taffy bars at the neighborhood store in the morning so it would freeze by the time the day was hottest in the afternoon. They generally stuck with vanilla, but on occasion there was strawberry or banana flavor. Once frozen, the fun happened when Mister B and his sister grabbed the bars from the refrigerator’s freezer and walked out the front door. Sitting on the porch steps, they placed the bar in the palm of their hand and smacked it on the concrete. Contained in its package, the bar shattered in irregular pieces, sometimes large and sometimes very small, but that only added to the enjoyment of crunching the frozen candy.

Even at 1950s and ’60s prices, boomers like Mister B could not afford to go to the store two or more times a day for a frozen treat. The answer for them was to make their own. Mister B and his siblings tried to freeze practically anything they drank: Hawaiian Punch, orange juice (or Tang), Flavor-Aid or Kool-Aid, and root beer were among the more successful. Mister B once had an ill-fated attempt at making his own Fudgesicles using Bosco and milk. The resulting icy cube tasted more like flavored ice than it did a creamy, fudgey ice cream bar.

Freezing stuff was easy enough that boomer kids could complete the process themselves. The only equipment they needed, other than a freezer, was some sort of sticks and an ice cube tray.

No one knows exactly when and where the first ice cube trays were made and used. In 1844, there was an American physician named John Gorrie who wanted a device that would cool down his yellow fever patients so he patented a refrigerator that would also make ice to cool his patients’ drinks. His device relied on blowing air over large blocks of ice into a cooling chamber. Of course, in the pre-electric refrigerator days, large blocks of ice were placed into the backs of “iceboxes” to act as a cooling agent, but that was not intended for cooling drinks with smaller cubes or freezing other products. Mister B’s mother never called it a refrigerator, but always an “icebox,” which is what she had in her house when she grew up.

The first U.S. patents for ice cube trays were issued in the 1930s, when people began buying electric refrigerators. Mister Boomer, like a lot of boomers, became familiar with the types of trays that were popular in the 1940s and ’50s. In Mister B’s case, they were stainless steel trays that had removable louver-like slats sitting in the tray, connected to a central lever. Once frozen, a pull of the lever-handle caused the movement of the metal slats to crack and release the ice cubes from the tray.

Mister B and his siblings would take an ice cube tray, or empty the ice from one in the freezer if none was available, and pour the liquid of their choosing into the tray. The next step was to place a stick for a handle into each ice cube tray compartment. Sometimes they had kept and washed ice cream sticks to reuse, but more often than not, they used the round, pointed wooden sticks that their mother used to make City Chicken (See: Boomers Ate Economical Dinners Like “City Chicken”). They rested each stick on the metal slat of the connected compartment, attempting to suspend the stick so it wouldn’t poke out the top when frozen. All that remained was to pop the tray into the freezer and wait.

Did you freeze your own ice pops and other things, boomers? What homemade frozen concoctions were your favorites?

Boomers Grew Along With Mister Softee

Many businesses got their start during the Baby Boom years to capitalize on selling their products to the increasing number of children. One summer-related business that can fall into that category is Mister Softee.

Mister Softee is the now-ubiquitous soft ice cream served up in your neighborhood by familiar white and blue trucks. It was begun by two brothers, William and James Conway, in Philadelphia in 1958. Within a couple of years, its franchises spread across the country. The company was a pioneer in constructing its own trucks, which it dubbed “an ice cream shop on wheels.”

In 1960, the company adopted the jingle that is so closely tied to its brand; the jingle plays as the trucks roll down the street, calling boys and girls like a Pied Piper of summer treats. Depending on your point of view, then as now, that jingle could be one of the most annoying songs ever broadcast in public, or it’s a catchy jingle that to this day evokes a taste of Boomer Age summer. Written in 1960 by Lester Morton Waas, an advertising jingle writer, he based it on The Whistler and His Dog, by Arthur Pryor (1913). Many boomers recall the music streaming out of the rooftop speaker on the Mister Softee truck, but do not realize the song has lyrics. The lyrics were often sung by children in TV commercials that the company ran during the 1960s. Still operating today and Conway family-owned, you can download the sheet music for the jingle — which includes the lyrics — from mistersoftee.com. If you can’t get enough of that particular memory, they offer a ringtone download as well.

Mister Boomer recalls the trucks crawling down the street in his suburb. Kids would run out of their yards and houses, yelling, “Wait, wait!” until the driver took notice and stopped the truck, all that while playing that earworm of a jingle. Yes, Mister B falls into the group that finds the sound of that jingle akin to nails on a chalkboard.

When Mister B and his family succumbed to the siren of the soft-serve, he always got the same thing: a cone of chocolate. Sometimes his brother would choose a milkshake, and his mother might have a sundae, but generally speaking, it was cones for the Mister B family. Like Dairy Queen’s soft-serve, Mister B didn’t think it tasted much like ice cream, but it was cold and chocolatey, which was pretty good on a hot summer day. Mister B recalls that cones were ten cents, with sundaes and milkshakes being a nickel more.

His neighborhood seemed to be the perfect demographic for ice cream trucks, as Mister Softee, Good Humor and a local ice cream vendor all vied for business, sometimes hitting the same streets within hours of each other on the same day. Unlike Mister Softee, though, the Good Humor truck and local vendor rang bells as they inched down the street. In both cases, a series of bells mounted at the top of the truck’s windshield were tied to a rope that the driver pulled to make them ring.

The kids in the neighborhood became connoisseurs of the frozen confections, knowing that Mister Softee had soft-serve, Good Humor had Toasted Almond, Strawberry Eclair and Chocolate Malt bars, and the local guy had push-ups and frozen pops. As long as your mom had a few coins, the clanging of bells or playing of the jingle were the summer sounds of the suburbs.

Did Mister Softee’s route include your street, boomers? Can you sing the lyrics to the Mister Softee song?