As I walked through the supermarket this weekend, I was struck by the huge array of “treats, snacks and goodies” that it stocked. Judy had asked me to stop at the store and pick-up a few items since one of my daughters was visiting this weekend. Since we are already feeling the summer hear here in Ocean City, I thought an icy treat would be the best bet.
One of my stand-by favorites has always been Klondike Bars. After all, they had their humble beginnings at Isaly’s and even as a child, they were one of my favorites. In 1993, Unilever acquired the Isaly Klondike Company and the Klondike® brand became part of Good Humor-Breyers™. Unilever describes their Klondike line as “the most comprehensive line of chilly treats in dessert history.”
They are able to make this claim since there are over 23 different varieties in the assortment! When I was a child, choices were much simpler. There were two, plain or crunchy. Today you have plain (a,k,a, original), crunchy, Oreo, mint, Heath, Low Fat, No Fat and dozens of other choices.
I used to get so excited when we got a Klondike bar from Isaly’s. They weren’t sold in markets, only at an Isaly’s store. I remember sitting outside eating this wonderful delicacy! Mom made us eat any ice cream cones and items such as Klondikes on the back porch since we tended to be a bit “messy.” Klondikes were always a bit of a challenge for me since I had melting chocolate AND melting ice cream to contend with. Of course, like any kid, I would tear off the entire wrapper and end up holding the bar with nothing to contain the mess. Somehow it was worth it, and the joy of licking all the chocolate/ice cream mess off of my fingers was an added treat.
Although I enjoyed trips to Isaly’s for Klondikes, NOTHING compared to be able to get one of their famous skyscraper cones. Undoubtedly, my pick every time was vanilla that had chocolate jimmies mixed throughout the ice cream. Chocolate chip ice cream had not been created yet, so this was the next best thing. Mom and Dad preferred butter pecan, and I think my brother Steve was a vanilla devotee.
Just as when we were eating a Klondike bar, we were relegated to the back porch once again when tackling an ice cream cone from Isaly’s. If I remember correctly, whenever Dad would bring a cone on his was home after closing his garage on South 1st Street, Isalys would wrap the cones in wax sheets and place them in a brown bag. Dad would then race up Grant and Kennedy Avenues to be sure he arrived home before the cones had melted into a puddle at the bottom of the bag. Amazingly, although he was traveling in a car without air-conditioning, he usually managed to make it home before any damage was done.
Summer treats weren’t strictly products from Isaly’s. One treat that I always loved, especially on a sweltering summer day were popsicles. Occasionally, Mom would purchase some to keep on hand, but considering the freezer compartment was a mere little cubicle in our GE Refrigerator, space was scarce. Normally, if Mom felt we had earned a Popsicle for being good or perhaps working around the house, we would typically pay a visit to “Puski’s” at the corner of Mellon and Texas Avenue. You could get a whole Popsicle there for 5¢ or he would sell you ½ for 3¢. Seriously, we could actually buy ½ of a Popsicle.
Cherry was always my favorite. Occasionally, Steve and I would each get a whole Popsicle and then split them and share ½ with one another to get some variety. Of course, we were back porch bound once again to enjoy our treats. Unlike eating ice cream cones, we had the added excitement of watching our lips and tongue turn bright red, purple or blue, depending on our flavor of choice. There also was that initial sensation of the first lick when the frozen Popsicle would stick to your tongue. It was just like when Ralphie’s friend Flick had his tongue stuck to the flag pole in A Christmas Story. The melting Popsicle would then run down the sticks and coat our hands until we were a sticky, colorful mess, but it was well worth it.
At the conclusion of every back porch summer treat feast, Mom would clean-up after us since we always managed to drip all over the porch. She’d come out of the back door from the kitchen with broom and bucket of steaming hot water in hand. She would also have a warm dishrag in hand to wipe our hands and mouths. She’d then turn her attention and launch a vicious attack on the messy porch floor, claiming that she didn’t want to attract ants.
There were two other treats that were less “run-of-the-mill” than those I’ve mentioned. The first goodie was a Dixie cup. They always came equipped with a little wooden spoon and were the neatest treat to eat. For a short time, I remember that the lids had various images on them that we used to collect. The photos were usually those of movie stars, however occasionally, there would be a picture of a sports hero, a special sight, or animals. I saved those lids for a short time, but like most of our baseball cards, they somehow vaporized as I was growing up, never to be found again. (Mom, I know you did it!!) The flavor selection with Dixie Cups was somewhat limited; vanilla and/or chocolate were the only choices I remember, and honestly, the taste could never compare to Isaly’s!
Whenever the Duquesne Annex Fire Department had their annual fair during the summer, we were always treated to a Sno-Cone. Mom would always walk my brother and I up Mellon Street to the Annex parking lot to enjoy all the excitement of the fair. We would always be treated to a sno-cone and end up with it dripping all over the fronts of our shirts by the end of the cone. Cherry was my favorite, while I think my brother preferred the grape flavor.
The Fireman’s Fair was such a special treat each year. Not only did it provide some tasty food, but the rides and the excitement of being so close to home was so much fun. I am sure the ride operators were somewhat intimidated by the fact that Kennywood Park was only a short distance away, but they didn’t need to worry. Having a carnival in what could have easily been described “in our own backyard,” pretty much guaranteed them success.
When I had reached the appropriate age in Mom’s eyes, she allowed my brother to escort me to the carnival. I would have to hang around with Steve and his friends, but I did have a bit more flexibility. Steve took his job seriously, and kept a close eye on me, but I still felt more independent going with him. As I got older, my friends and I would be allowed to go to the fair whenever we wanted. We would take a shortcut through St. Joseph’s Cemetery and then crawl under the fence by the Duquesne Annex parking lot. We didn’t always have money to spend, but we were able to take in the excitement of just being there. I would always manage to run into a neighbor or a family friend who offered to either buy me a treat or pay for a ticket for one of the rides.
Now that summer is upon us, perhaps it’s time to rekindle a bit of those memories of summers in Duquesne. Grab a Klondike, a Popsicle or a Dixie Cup and kick back and enjoy the treat on your back porch. It’ll be a real delight!