While attending Monroe High School in Rochester, NY, I found employment at Bowker’s Dairy on South Clinton Avenue, near the corner of Meigs Street. My brother, Fred, also worked there. Bowkers made their own ice cream and sold it in bulk as well as across the counter in an ice cream parlor. That’s where we labored. It was probably the best place I could ever have dreamed of working, especially when the manager told us we could eat as much ice cream as we wanted. He didn’t know our capacity. Some days we would stand by the ice cream machine and eat as fast as it would be poured into dixie cups. Many times we were told to go back out front and wait for customers so they could make dixie cups instead of just feeding us. I still remember how good that ice cream tasted fresh from the mixer.
I worked at the counter first. It is quite a trick to hold four cones and fill them with single or double dips without crushing one or two cones. It’s also quite a trick to keep customers happy when they have to wait their turn and you have to remember who came in ahead of who. After serving my apprenticeship at the cone counter, I was moved to the soda and sundae counter, where I had to learn all the recipes. “A Black and White Sundae is 1 scoop vanilla, 1 scoop chocolate, 1 squeeze chocolate syrup on the vanilla, 1 spoon of marshmallow cream on the chocolate, topped with whipped cream.” “A Cherry Soda is 1 scoop vanilla, 3 squeezes cherry syrup, fill the glass with soda water while stirring with a spoon.” That sort of thing. If we made a mistake, we would set it aside and eat it later when there were no orders waiting to be made up.
Most of us were High School students working after school and on weekends, but we always wanted time off for certain things like an important basketball game or to take a girl to the movies. That cost 25 cents at the Clinton Theater just down the street.
One time, Fred and his friend, Doug, and I picked up our pay, then headed to Batavia Downs to watch the horse races. The manager wanted us to work, but we refused. I think that was the beginning of the end of our employment at Bowkers. It had been fun. Many of our classmates hung out there after school. There was a juke box and we played our favorite songs, like “Music, Maestro, Please” or “Ahab the Arab” or “Moon Over Miami.” Great songs. And only a nickel per.