The hardest times were the hot, humid days when families would crowd around the counter, all wanting me to serve them their ice cream cones first. The frustration was twofold; first, trying to decide who was next, and then, trying to hold up to four cones in one hand without crushing any before they were handed over to the eager eaters. The best times were after all the orders were filled and we could go in the back where the ice cream was coming out of the mixer and we were free to sample the soft, creamy delight. The year was 1947, the place was Rochester, NY, the store was Bowker’s Dairy Products and I had just finished my junior year of high school and had my first paying job.
Soda Jerk. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a life of adventure for me; a place to serve the paying public; a place to meet girls; a place to satisfy my sweet tooth for free. Let me explain that last part: we were told when we were hired that we could eat all the ice cream we wanted as long as the customers were served; that if we made a mistake on an order, we were free to put it aside for future consumption. How close to heaven could this be?
It didn’t take long to learn the various recipes. Chocolate milk shake: milk up to there in the container, 2 scoops chocolate ice cream, 2 squirts chocolate syrup, put on the mixer, then pour into a tall glass. Lime soda: 2 squirts lime syrup, soda water up to there, 2 scoops vanilla ice cream, stir and serve. Black and white sundae: one scoop vanilla ice cream covered with chocolate syrup, one scoop chocolate ice cream covered with marshmallow syrup, whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top. And so on.
It was a fun time: good music on the jukebox; friends dropping by; a cool place in the summer heat; and all that ice cream in all those wonderful flavors! My favorite was any kind I happened to be eating at the time. Well, enough of the reminiscing, time to hit the Garden Café for a scoop or three. Happy sundae!