Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Sno-Cone Lady

Around 1979 my family moved to the Holiday subdivision located in West Mobile. During late spring up until early fall around 4:30 each afternoon, we'd hear canned music coming down the street. THE ICE CREAM MAN!!!! His schedule was ridgid and really never changed, you could set your watch to his arrival in our kid packed neighborhood. The second we heard the music in the distance, my sister and I would run around the house looking for change or hitting mom up for ice cream money, hoping she could get it out of her purse in time for us to make it out the door and into the street before the ice cream man passed our house. Our ice cream man in Mobile ROCKED!!! He had 40 or 50 different items ranging from Pac-Man and Mickey Mouse bars to ice cream cups on up to ice cream sandwiches and all priced fairly in spite of our meager budgets. It's seems the kids in our neighborhood kept that man faithful to our neighborhood while we were there and probably still after we moved away.
After we moved to Pace, Florida in the early mid 80's, my sister and I missed a certain element to our old neighborhood...THE ICE CREAM MAN. No more, Strawberry Shortcake Bars, Fudgesicles, Creamsicles or Mickey Mouse Bars. Within a week of moving, we discovered there was a Jr Food Store across the street from our neighborhood but the idea of riding our bikes slightly over a mile in the heat with an ice cream bar in tow was not a good idea, unless we wanted a dripping mess when we got home. The novelty of riding our bikes around the new neighborhood wore off pretty quickly during the afternoons thanks to the heat so my sister and I would spend our summer afternoons in our living room watching MTV. A week or so after arriving in Pace, we heard jingly canned music coming down our road and both of our ears perked up. OMG is that an ice cream man? We grab some money and run out to the road to hear but not see an ice cream truck or van. We hear the music but just see a junky little rusty orange Datsun pickup truck with a wooden canopy built onto it's bed coming down the street. Neither of us really cared for the neighborhood at the time and this gave us another reason to hate it...What ice cream man drives a crappy truck and how many different ice creams can he fit in the back?
The truck stopped in front of us and not only was it NOT an ice cream truck, it wasn't an ice cream man and furthermore there was NO ice cream at all. The driver was a middle aged woman wearing a dress, wedge sandals and huge 1980's amber colored sunglasses. She opened up the back of her truck and low and behold there was a chest full of shaved ice, cone cups and twenty or so pump bottles full of liquids of various colors. The wooden door she lifted had a stenciled letters that read Sno-Cone 25 Cents additional flavor 10 cents and a list of all of her flavors in their corresponding colors. I'm thinking to myself...REALLY??? No Ice CREAM??? But having manners, my sister and I knew better than to make the lady stop without buying something. We were seriously predictable, much like our favorite Kool-Aid flavors at the time, she orders a Cherry Sno-Cone and I settle for a Grape Sno-Cone. All the time the lady is pumping the flavors, I'm staring at her with wonderment. Why do we have a Sno-Cone lady and not an Ice Cream Man??? It's Florida. We had an ice cream man in Alabama. I'm also wondering why the Sno-Cone Lady is wearing a dress. As she pulls away, my sister and I walk back to the house. As we make it to our front porch, we taste our first Florida Sno-Cones bought from the back of a 1970s pickup truck.
The only time I ever had a Snow-Cone prior to this, it came out of a plastic wrapper and had a gumball in the bottom of the cone cup or from a Snoopy Sno-Cone Maker made with either Kool-Aid or Sweet Tea. These were SO much better, even though there was no gumball included. Whatever that lady did with that ice to get it a shaved consistancy and however she made her syrups seemed to give her Sno-Cones an addictive edge. These were not Kool-Aid based or even close to the ones we made with my cousin's Snoopy Sno-Cone maker. Over time, I began to try flavors other than grape and discovered that her Sno-Cones were even better with more than just one flavor, my favorite was her rainbow cone she priced at just 45 cents.
For many years, the Sno-Cone Lady drove around Pace and Milton in her Datsun...She knew her customers and definitely knew her market appeal...Every July 4th, she'd set up around Carpenters Park for the day, selling her simple little sweet treats. By the time I left Pace, the lady had closed her business leaving Pace and Milton with no mobile icy treat service. The Sno-Cone Lady may be a forgotten memory for many but for me, I fondly remember how my disappointment in buying my first Sno-Cone disolved when I got my first mouthful of the grape greatness from Sno-Cone Lady in Pace.

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