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 Chose Their Summer Footwear Carefully

For a good many boomers, their choice of summer footwear fell into two categories: casual or dress, and generally speaking for boomer boys, at least, there would be one pair for each. Some boomer girls might have more than one pair of summer sandals, depending on a range of factors that included their families’ economic class.

For Mister Boomer and all the boomers he grew up with, casual summer shoes were the very pair of canvas sneakers that had been worn the previous school year in gym class. Some boys had high tops, while others preferred the low rise (like Mister B). These shoes served triple duty during the summer, getting wear from everyday walking to playing sports, or going shopping or to drive-in movies with the family, but never to Sunday church. The shoes could often end up torn and tattered by summer’s end, so a new pair would be purchased for the upcoming school year. Many boys chose to wear their sneakers without socks, but Mister B did not; he always wore gym socks with his sneakers.

Boomer girls wore sneakers as well, but often wore sandals of various styles. Usually, they were made of leather with flat bottoms and a strap of some kind that wrapped around the top of the foot, with or without a buckle. There was usually a heel strap and buckle as well. Flip-flops, the ultimate in casual summer footwear, were not worn anywhere but the beach in Mister B’s area — by girls or boys — at least until the late sixties.

Some boomer boys and their fathers wore leather sandals, which often had thick leather straps to distinguish a manly shoe from the thinner-strapped feminine counterparts. Mister Boomer recalls two fathers of his neighborhood boomer friends who wore sandals with socks, the nightmare of every son or daughter. One of the men wore his usual socks with his leather sandals, which could be navy, black or olive green color. The other wore the proverbial knee-high white tube socks with his dark brown sandals. It was not the sartorial preference of boomers. However, some of the boomer boys in Mister B’s neighborhood had leather sandals. They might have simple (but thick) leather straps of a lighter or darker color, or be gussied up with gold-toned metal rivets that harkened back to gladiator days.

Mister Boomer tried a pair of leather sandals once, but found them immensely uncomfortable without socks, the leather digging into multiple locations on his foot. Wearing socks, of course, was not an option, so he abandoned the idea. Then one day one of the neighborhood’s older boys came back from Vietnam, with tales of how the Vietnamese made sandals from old tires. The boys were enthralled with the homemade factor, including Mister B and his brother. The Army vet gave the boys instructions of how tire treads were cut to foot size, then pierced on either side of the toes so strips of rubber inner tube could be slipped through the holes and knotted underneath to create a strap over the top of the foot. The process was repeated for a heal strap. Since the rubber stretched, the homemade sandals could be adjusted to suit the size of every foot. He said the Vietnamese wore them constantly, and they were very durable.

There always seemed to be plenty of junk material in Mister B’s neighborhood for building projects, from underground forts to treehouses, go-karts, to now, tire-tread sandals. As several boys in the neighborhood attempted to make their own Vietnamese-style sandals based on the neighbor’s instructions, Brother Boomer secured a chunk of tire for his pair, and for Mister Boomer as well. He retrieved his father’s hunting knife from the basement and, in the backyard, traced his feet with a pencil on roughly-cut pieces of tire tread. He brandished the hunting knife to trim the tread along the outline, then placed four piercings for the straps. An old tire inner tube — Mister B thinks it might have been from a bicycle tire — was sliced to a close size. Brother Boomer slipped one end through the hole and knotted it on the sole, repeating the process for the other side and heel. By leaving one side unknotted, the rubber strap was adjusted until it provided a snug fit. Then the straps were knotted completely underneath, with excess rubber getting sliced off with the knife.

Wearing his newly-made sandals and looking out for the safety of his younger brother, Brother Boomer cut tire tread for Mister B. After slicing the strap holes, he let Mister B complete the process to make the straps. While the DIY project was great fun, Mister B found them completely impractical and for him, unwearable. Brother Boomer wore his for more than a week before giving up, while one or two of the neighborhood boys continued to wear theirs well into the summer.

Society had structural rules for practically everything in the fifties and early sixties, and that included going barefoot. If boomers weren’t in the backyard kiddie pool or running through the sprinkler, they would be wearing some type of footwear. By the end of the sixties, rules were relaxed or demolished as boomers wore sneakers in places that were unheard of earlier (like to church) and flip-flops were worn in public by both males and females. Mister B had flip-flops for beach and vacation trips, but rarely wore them. He never got used to having that thing stick between the toes.

What memories of summer casual footwear do you have, boomers?