August 14, 2017
Recently I traveled to northeast Ohio to visit my Aunt Mary and cousin Don. We had a great time together; it had been a while. After goodbyes and hugs to my aunt, Don and I went to the Heavenly Creamery in Conneaut, housed in what was formerly a Lutheran Church.
I’ve had coffee in a church sanctuary, but I think this is the first time for ice cream. And not just any ice cream. It was some of the best I ever had (and I’ve had a lot). It was made right there in the church basement. Don and I asked if we could go downstairs and see how these scrumptious confections were produced. We were told that no one goes down there except the employees. Health department regulations. I think the real reason, however, is that angels are working down there and want to keep a low profile.
My history with eating ice cream started over 60 years ago, right there in the same general area of northeast Ohio. Dad and Uncle Jim regularly made the homemade variety. All the cousins and I on Footville-Richmond Road would see to it that there were never any leftovers. Sometimes we had contests to see who could eat the most, which left me time after time with an excruciating headache. After a particularly bad one I decided that I would set an ice cream consumption record in a much less painful way—over the course of a lifetime. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept records, but I haven’t done too badly. And I shouldn’t forget to mention the many people who have helped me.
Dad was one. Besides treating us to the homemade variety, he often stopped with our family at soft serve ice cream establishments. One time he and I went on a trip to Atlanta for an all-day pastors convention. Not very exciting for me, until he said he would stop at every “ice cream joint” between Dorset and Atlanta if I wanted. Every time we approached one he looked over at me, I nodded, and he wheeled into in the lot and gave me a dime.
I made it to southern Tennessee. I guess I had a dozen cones on the way down, but only three or four on the way back. I stayed away from ice cream for a week or two after that to recover, but soon I was back in the game thanks to Grandpa Spencer.
Grandpa would regularly take my cousins and me to the Whippy Dip, which at that time was located along Route 7 not far south of Conneaut. There were five of us kids, and we would all put in our orders on the way. Exquisite goodies like floats, sundaes, and milkshakes. Grandpa just nodded. He wasn’t a big talker; he seemed happy just to let us excitedly go on and on. He’d park the car when we arrived, and we would all walk up to the window. “Six vanilla cones, please,” he would say. We’d whine a little, but not so Grandpa would notice, and then greedily consume our treats before they started to melt. It was mighty good ice cream.
One week Grandpa surprised us. Before we left he said we would be able to get something besides cones! The only condition was that we all had to agree to the same thing on the drive over. For 25 minutes we argued. Before we knew it, we were parked in the Whippy Dip lot. Grandpa asked us for our decision. We all said something different. He said nothing, just put the car in drive and circled around the Whippy Dip. We were on our way home—empty handed.
We didn’t complain. You just didn’t with our grandpa. We sat there in the darkness of the car and rubbed our salty eyes. The next day we decided it would be a banana split if Grandpa ever asked us again.
For the rest of that summer it was cones. Except on Labor Day weekend, right before the start of school. Five happy cousins found themselves in ice cream heaven, snarfing banana splits at the picnic table just outside the Whippy Dip. Grandpa sat quietly with us and ate his cone. All was well with the world again.
I’ve left my childhood behind, but not the ice cream. There were some years of teaching middle school students that helped me add many gallons to my total. I guess I should thank them, too. If they were rascally, I gave myself two or three scoops of ice cream when I got home. If they were good, I gave myself two or three scoops of ice cream when I got home. Yes, you read that correctly.
Hiking has probably contributed most to my unofficial-ice-cream-eating-in-a-lifetime record. I ate ice cream all the way around on my first trip hiking the Buckeye Trail in Ohio. Now my wife Bonnie and I are doing the same 1,400-plus-mile trail together. She likes ice cream, too. So much so that she is on a quest to eat a different kind each day we hike. Husbands should support their wives, so it’s not a problem working with her on that.
On the way home from meeting Don at the Heavenly Creamery, I took the scenic route to do a little camping along Tappan Lake and make a stop at the Deersville General Store in eastern Ohio. It’s only a few miles from where I lived in Tippecanoe as a kid, and less than a mile off the Buckeye Trail. The ice cream is fabulous. It’s made in the back, and I did get to look back there. No ice cream was being made at the time, but I’m sure they are usually busy, seeing there’s always a line at the ice cream counter.
I want to go back sometime soon to visit Don and Aunt Mary. Ice cream doesn’t agree with my aunt, but Don and I will probably stop at the Heavenly Creamery again. To celebrate Grandpa and the lessons he taught us, maybe we should both get the same thing. . . say, a banana split.
But only if Don wants to. No arguing or fussing this time. There might be angels downstairs.