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Tutti- Fruitti, Aw-Rooty


Tutti-Frutti, Aw Rooty by Eva Pasco"A-wop bop-a loo-mop, a-lop bam-boom! Tutti Frutti, aw-rooty!” (Little Richard, 1955). During those sultry summer evenings of the Sixties, my sister and I would scramble along the backseat of our Plymouth Suburban station wagon or one of my dad’s newly restored, vintage Model A’s to go for a family spin. Veering off the beaten path with no particular place to go, we’d often wind up at Edward’s Ice Cream Parlor in Fairlawn, the citified burb of  Lincoln.   In a quandary as to what flavor ice cream to order from the take-out window, and pestering our parents about what their intentions were, my dad purposely kept us in suspense by ordering his last, but not without teasing us beforehand with “Tutti-Frutti.” In hindsight I doubt Edwards or any of our other pit stops served such a concoction of artificially colored and flavored ice cream teeming with cherries, raisins, pineapples, and nuts.   

Wraparound porches, flip-flops, baseball, joy riding, and detouring off the main drag, lickety split for ice cream. Whether at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor or newly established franchise, it’s what summer’s all about.  It’s our chance to recoup a scoop of nostalgia, flavored with Main St. Rockwell simplicity from the vantage point of a swivel stool at a counter when soda jerks mixed up milkshakes in soda fountain style inside a stainless steel cup.  They'd pull the soda draft arm, jerking it in the process to serve up rickeys or ice cream sodas with a dollop of whipped cream on that floater with a cherry on top.   

Most of my ice cream memories of the Sixties have to do with chasing down the ice cream truck whenever the Pavlovian bell ding-dinged its presence on Angell Rd. right around supper time. My sister and I grabbed our change off of the kitchen counter and charged out the jalousie door of the breezeway.  Fudgesicles, chocolate or orange creamsicles, drumsticks, ice cream sandwiches, and Hoodsie cups plucked out of the freezer for a nickel or dime a piece.  We stored our booty in the fridgefreezer for safekeeping until we finished dinner.  

For most of the twentieth century, the orange roofs of Howard Johnson’s along America’s roadside were a traveler’s delight. Howard Deering Johnson, a struggling businessman, used his mother’s recipe to produce an ice cream with much higher butterfat content than other brands. Though it was the restaurant itself which made Johnson a fortune, he kept adding to his repertoire of ice cream until he hit the roof with “28 flavors” in what is considered the first major ice cream chain.  In the mid 1960s, Howard Johnson's was at the top of the food chain where company sales exceeded that of McDonald's, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Is it me, or did every Ho-Jo’s carpet smell musty? 

Aw rooty—in the 60s, a team of British research chemists discovered how to double the amount of air in ice cream without sacrificing its integrity, while reducing the amount of ingredients which reduced manufacturing costs.  Voila—the development of soft-serve ice cream! Let’s cone salute the rise of mass-market chains like Diary Queen and Baskin-Robbins—originating with “31 flavors” and waffling nouveau riche prices. Burt and Irv believed customers should be able to sample flavors until they found one they wanted to buy ― hence the iconic small pink spoon. Jamoca! 

Even signature flavors of ice cream are frozen in time, scraped from the bottom of their tundra-like freezer compartments to make room for the new. “Beatlenut” from the 1960s recently got the cold shoulder from Baskin-Robbins and was retired in what is referred to as the “deep freeze.”  

A-wop bop-a loo-mop, a-lop bam-boom drumstick roll for the old-fashioned, mom-and-pop ice cream parlors that didn’t undergo a meltdown.  The area of Cape Cod purportedly has 100 ice cream shops.  In a league of its own, Four Seas attracts ice cream aficionados from around the country, some going as far as planning their vacations around the Cape’s ice cream parlors of yesteryear. The tiny shop retained its old counter and stools that spin, evolving very little since it opened in 1934.   

Gotta love the name Sundae School, in Dennisport on the Cape, located in a renovated antique barn. Decorated with ice cream memorabilia and collectibles, a nickelodeon, and a 1901 soda fountain constructed of marble and onyx, it’s the place where signature sundaes are made. Whipped cream is made one bowl at a time with 40 % butterfat. They use all fresh fruit. Last count—36 flavors to stand out the door for. 

An aw rooty for Gray’s Ice Cream in Tiverton, Rhode Island. This 80-year old landmark on a road lined with stone walls, fields, and a winery retains its old school charm by offering classic favorites like rum raisin and frozen pudding.  They’re open 365 days a year because ice cream is good everyday! 

Though not as innovative or explosive as Jimi Hendrix combining fuzz, feedback, and controlled distortion on electric guitar, there’s no denying the call to action elicited by ice cream truck music.  Give chase to the Eskimo Pied Piper.  Then, fall in line to get your frozen assets. 



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