Ice Cream and summer seem to go together. They have for generations. With Memorial Day, Juneteenth, July Fourth, and now Labor Day behind us, what better celebration lies ahead before summer’s end than the serving of a cold, creamy, delicious bowl of homemade ice cream to refresh the long, hot, final days of a Texas summer?
Soon the old wooden ice cream makers will be covered and put away for the next season, along with white shoes, sleeveless dresses, and traditional summer fun. Time draws near for cooler days and autumn’s hello in less than two weeks.
Eagle Lake’s old timers remind us that not so long ago our summer air conditioning consisted of open windows, a hand held paper fan brought from the church service, a light prairie breeze, and a cup of frozen cream. Even when the breeze couldn’t be depended upon to cool the Texas summer nights in Colorado County, the ice cream could.
Local farmers and ranchers began work during the first light of day to enjoy the freshness of the early Texas mornings when the sun was low and cool. Families and neighbors gathered under the live oak trees in the evenings for conversation, dominoes, cards, and the twilight chorus of cicadas and locusts.
Children played games with friends until the call rang out for “I-iiiice Cream.” Then everything stopped. The moment had arrived for the dishing up of the summer’s best friend, homemade ice cream. Children were given the dripping paddles for the first taste. The shared cranking process had ended. Now came the final reward. Pass your cups!
Some will remember that little more than a generation ago many homes had “ice boxes.” These small upright boxes were usually put out on the screened porches or back stoops, and would hold a large block of ice brought by the ice man. Eagle Lake had an ice man who drove a wagon and two mules through town, loaded with blocks of ice from the ice house. He would bring his wagon to a home or to a business establishment, unload the ice with his large ice tongs, and place the block into the ice box, often unannounced. No one locked their doors. He delivered.
Before local children in the county ever dreamed about the musical ice cream trucks of decades later, the ice man, like the ice cream maker, was a form of entertainment. Hearing the scraping sounds of the old iron wagon wheels, which was his neighborhood music, the children ran behind, awaiting the right moment to jump onto the back of the wagon.
The older ones would lift the smaller ones, and soon all the splinters and chips of fallen ice around the blocks would disappear into their hands as they jumped off, happily carrying away their early form of a Popsicle. Not acknowledging their pursuits or presence, the old ice man waved to them without looking back, as he disappeared down the street. I was one of those children.
Before refrigeration, this homemade ice cream, chilled by salt and ice, was made for special occasions. Its popularity left no one to worry that there would be any ice cream left. No occasion was complete without it. From church socials, to school picnics, ice cream was served. Many recall ice cream socials at the Lissie Church and Nada and Mentz Halls.
From birthday parties, anniversaries, town events, family reunions, dances, parades, and holidays, to Saturday nights around the bandstand on city square, one could always find ice cream being churned on any special occasion. The old hand churn dates to 1843, and is still used today for ‘real ice cream’ taste.
So let’s celebrate the summer’s end. Have an ice cream cone. Remember the delights of the past. Recall the old hand cranked ice cream makers, the ice man, the summer nights, the city square, the church socials, the neighbors, and the simple joys of living in Eagle Lake and Colorado County in the summertime.