Do you know where your ice cream is?
Donald E. Dinning of Carbondale certainly does. He keeps two 1.5-quart containers (formerly half-gallons) of Turkey Hill vanilla in the refrigerator’s freezer at his North High Rise apartment as a backup for the container he’s regularly dipping into. Vanilla was his favorite flavor as a youngster. It still is.
The 83-year-old and several other members of Carbondale Adult Activity Center also knew without hesitation where they could find their favorite ice cream when they were kids, roughly 50 to 75 years ago.
Ice cream has a long-standing image as a summertime treat. Consumption peaks in July and, thanks to President Ronald Reagan’s proclamation in 1984, July was declared National Ice Cream Month with the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day; this year, it’s July 16. But this little Carbondale band of ice cream aficionados made it clear that their youthful affection for ice cream was year round. Still, they were equally clear that the operative word was “treat.”
Dinning, who turns 84 in August, was born and raised in Jermyn.
“I had two favorite ice cream shops,” Dinning said, recalling his youth growing up in the 1930s and ’40s. Both were on Main Street in Jermyn. One was “Russell’s ice cream parlor, right next to the old movie theater.”
“Every Saturday, if my father could afford it, he’d give me a quarter and I’d go to the movie theater to see the serial,” he said. “And it cost me 12 cents to get into the movie theater. On the way in, there was a candy machine. I’d get an Almond Joy candy bar for five cents.
“After the movie, I’d go to Russell’s and from the change I had left (eight cents) I could get a single dip of ice cream in a cone. That’s where I blew my quarter,” Dinning said.
His other favorite ice cream shop served Dolly Madison.
“My mother always loved Dolly Madison [ice cream]. My dad would send me down to get a quart container.”
“The ice cream was a special treat in everybody’s home back then,” Dinning said.
Joanne Mattise, 86, of Simpson is related by marriage to a partner in a former local ice cream shop.
“My husband [the late Sam Mattise] used to have the ice cream store in Jermyn,” she noted. He and his brother operated the store, she said.
Long before she married, as a young girl, she would set her ice cream sights on Russell’s shop at the corner of Belmont Avenue and Canaan Street in Carbondale.
“We used to walk from Simpson to Carbondale (a mere two miles). They had the most delicious ice cream.”
Her favorite back then, was and today, remains white house.
“They had a cone for 10 cents. It was so big you wouldn’t believe it,” Mattise said.
The shop was an outlet of Russell’s farm dairy, which made its own ice cream and sold it retail, she said. According to Lackawanna Historical Society records, Russell’s made and sold dairy products, including ice cream, beginning at least as early as the 1920s. Spencer Russell is listed as the owner of the business in Carbondale city directories.
Sisters Mary Ann Venosh, 72, and Patty Hugaboom, 61 this month, both live in Carbondale but grew up in Forest City. Separated by about 11 years in age, they have very different, fond remembrances of childhood ice cream adventures.
“I used to go to the Red Cross Drug Store” in Forest City, Venosh said. “We used to hope that Dave was the one working that day because he would give us huge ice cream cones compared to the owner.”
Hugaboom has two recollections from her youth regarding ice cream. One is “going to Montdale for ice cream” referring to Montdale Dairy in Scott Township. It continues to operate a retail shop at 939 Montdale Road (Route 438) in Scott Township.
Her other memory involves McGee’s Ice Cream.
“They came around in the afternoon with their truck,” she said. “We used to go swimming in the pool and he would come around with his truck and sell us ice cream.”
The sisters’ tastes in the cool treat are decidedly different. Their favorites?
“I would say cherry vanilla (aka white house),” Venosh said.
“Chocolate — in a cone,” Hugaboom opined.
Twos keep popping up when Carbondale native and current resident Clara Montone, 86, talks about ice cream.
“I had two favorite [ice cream shops] when I was 10,” she said. “It was Russell’s at the corner of Canaan and Belmont because we lived at the corner of Canaan and Belmont. Then there was Mulholland’s, just down the street.”
Then there were the flavors. Her first favorite flavor was chocolate marshmallow — in a cone, of course. That changed when she was about 14 to butter pecan.
One of her favorite things about getting ice cream was “when they had the two cones hooked together. (The double-cup cones were baked so that the cups that held the ice cream scoop were side by side, atop a long cone.) You could get a scoop in each, the same kind or two different kinds — whatever you wanted,” Montone said.
Growing up in the Great Depression and World War II era, she said, money was tight. “My mother and father were working. I had to do the chores,” she said.
“We never could afford a sundae — didn’t have the money. If we got a sundae, that was a real treat.”
“We were happy to get a 10-cent cone at the end of the week.”
That would be the kind with two scoops.
While this group can readily recall memories of a favorite ice cream, the expedition to find it and enjoying it as a way to cool off on a warm summer’s day, they continue to make new memories each Thursday during the weekly ice cream social at the Community Center.
“When they say ‘ice cream,’ we’re all in line,” Joanne Mattise said.