Whatever happened to ice cream parlours? When did they disappear? It must have been a slow process but gradually they all faded into oblivion and with them, a whole lot of wonderful memories for so many generations of teens.
As a child growing up in a small town, visits to an ice cream parlour were rare. Ice cream treats were usually purchased from a horse drawn cart. In our town we were lucky enough to have two Italian brothers who each had an ice cream parlour. The Feretti brothers made wonderful ice cream and one of them also brought his wares round our local streets. In those days it was a weekly treat as grandma loved ice cream.
There was very little choice of product, the only choices were one scoop or two of vanilla, either in a cone or a wafer. The only extra thing on the cart was a delicious raspberry cordial that you could have sprinkled on your scoop. Grandma preferred to buy our ice cream in her own bowl, so it didn’t get wasted if it melted prior to being topped with fruit and shared between us. I would stand waiting my turn as several people got their cones then I’d hand over gran’s bowl and the sixpenny piece from my grubby hand. Watching the man scoop the delicious stuff into the bowl, I would drool at the thought of what treat was in store.
Over the next few years the idea of a Cadbury’s chocolate flake, stuck into the ice cream became popular. It became known all over England as a ninety nine, but I have no idea why. The flake bar was compacted flakes of chocolate which were very dangerous to eat as they broke apart very easily and cascaded down your dress. The crumbs were then poked with a freshly licked finger to pick them up and deposit in your mouth. Gradually ice lollies of various flavours appeared and, later on chocolate ice cream was introduced.
Around the late fifties a new sort of ice cream swept into popularity, this was soft ice cream which was a real novelty as you got a huge pile of it for the same money as a small cone. The huge Mr Softy vans, with their musical notes flooded the area and the smaller hard ice cream vans seemed to disappear.
By this time I was into my mid teens and had discovered the art of ‘hanging out’. A group of eight or ten of us, all similar ages would congregate round a particular corner, where one of the Feretti brothers had his ice cream parlour. The shop had extended and now had a large seating area with a juke box so by hanging round one of the doors, we could listen to the music. Our group was just that, none of us in girlfriend/boyfriend relationships, just good pals who had grown up together. None of us had left school yet so rarely had any money to go into the much desired shop but, once in a while we managed to get enough collective change to treat ourselves.
Once inside the shop we would settle in for a couple of hours over a single drink as none of us wanted to leave the proximity of the music. I’m sure the proprietor was fed up of us taking up so much room but, usually, midweek custom was light and he let us linger. There was a particular drink sold which was locally made and only available, at that time, in Lancashire. It was called Vimto and was a mixture of blackcurrant and various berry flavours. You could get Vimto in either fizzy or still but we much preferred the cordial which was diluted with iced water and was marvellous, especially if you could also afford a scoop of ice cream to float on top. The cordial was also delicious with hot water, in cold winter months.
A couple of years later, I met Dave and we used to hang around a different ice cream parlour, or temperance bars as they were commonly known. Once I married, this type of outlet was rarely visited until I had my first baby. I then met another young mom and we became fast friends, both of us struggling with a newborn and no idea what to do with it. We got into the habit of doing chores early then meeting each other mid morning and walking our babies for miles. This became our routine, summer and winter and thought nothing of doing a ten mile walk while we enjoyed each other’s company. We had no money to spare but once or twice a month we would call in at an ice cream parlour and have a hot or cold Vimto, depending on the weather. Here we would feed our babies their lunch bottle and then walk home in time to prepare dinner for our menfolk.
Once I had all four children, shopping for groceries became a nightmare so, every Saturday I would feed the girls their lunch and leave Dave in charge, while his mom and I went shopping. We lived next door to my in-laws and my mom in law was my best friend, so we enjoyed our time out together. It was my only chance to get out alone so we made the most of it. Window shopping was a big time waster that we both enjoyed then we went to the big supermarket and bought the week’s groceries. After, we took our enormous load of shopping bags across the road, to the ice cream parlour. This was late sixties and by then most of the ice cream and soft drinks had been replaced by coffee. Frothy coffee, as cappuccino was known in England had become all the rage and Dave’s mom Gina and I would sip ours luxuriously before we caught the bus home. It was nice, for a while, to be an adult not just a mommy with too many demands on her time.
I remember when all of our children were very young that they soon recognised the tune of the ice cream van. It was a nuisance as I only treated them once a week and sometimes there would be four or five vans around every day, at suppertime. Dave and I got really crafty and at the first sound of the music we would immediately join hands and start singing “ring around the rosie”, which was a popular song for young children. The kids always rushed to join in and thought it was marvellous that mommy and daddy were being silly. The song finished with “all fall down” whereupon we all fell to the ground in laughter. The kids never did realize the ploy or if they did, they enjoyed the impromptu game more than the desire for ice cream.