And that’s the way it was…
Back in the 1950s, Rosalie (nee Oliver) Romanic had what many teenagers might have considered “a dream job.” She worked in Scott’s Ice Cream Parlor on North Second Avenue.
Though the wages were only 40 cents per hour, employees could eat all the free ice cream they wanted on their shifts.
Vern Scott, who owned the business there, also owned another ice cream parlor on Campbell Street, where sister Donna Himes (nee Jackowiak) worked. I had a brief tenure at the dairy bar on the “North Side” but gave it up for a job at The Seagull restaurant on State Avenue that paid 50 cents an hour plus tips.
Rosalie, now age 77, conceded that employees were so busy it was likely they could keep only one small scoop handy.
But now, dear reader, I’ll let Rosalie tell you details of working at the North Side location.
“Mr. Scott made all his own ice cream,” she wrote in a letter to me.
“He had a big machine where he would put in all the ingredients for the ice cream. The machine would spin and mix the cream and other ingredients such as cherries, pineapple or chocolate. He also made maple, walnut and pecan ice cream, too,” she said.
Mr. Scott had pint, quart and gallon-size containers of ice cream for sale, Rosalie recalled. “I used to help him sometimes. He used to fill the containers and we would close them and put them in the freezer until they hardened.”
Other cartons were filled for individual ice cream cones or for sundaes and malts served at the counter or tables.
Ice cream cones were 5 cents for one scoop and 10 cents for two scoops, Rosalie wrote.
Sundaes were served in glass dishes, and banana splits featured ice cream in three different flavors as well as three different toppings. Scott’s Ice Cream Parlor opened in the 1940s, Rosalie said, and at that time “the soldiers at the base used to come in on a bus for their ice cream choice.” Rosalie recalled that there was a juke box “which could play your favorite tune for 10 cents or five tunes for a quarter. There was a room in back that had a pool table as well as a comic book rack.”
Ray French, who owned the juke box, gave Mr. Scott a couple of marked quarters to use to get the music started as an enticement to have the customers desire more of their favorite tunes. Later, when he collected the money, Mr. French gave the same marked quarters back to Mr. Scott, Rosalie recalled.
Sometimes customers would walk across the street to the park and sit on the benches there to enjoy their treats, she said.
The site was Avery Park, often referred to as “Sunken Park” because it was bowl-shaped and lower than street level then. That kept the youngsters entertained in summer as they rolled and tumbled down its banks. In winter, children often brought their “saucers” to slide down the snowy sides. Some years later, the City filled Sunken Park to make it level with the street.
But, back to Rosalie’s account of Scott’s Ice Cream Parlor…
“In the summer, campers from Camp Chickagami came in a van to Scott’s Ice Cream Parlor for their ice cream,” she said.
“Mr. Scott hired a lot of young ladies to work for him. Sometimes he would give the girls each a treat to take home potato chips, gums, candy bars.”
Beginning in the ’40s, (even before Rosalie’s tenure) “the soldiers from the (air) base came in on a bus for ice cream,” Rosalie said.
The ice cream parlor was open seven days a week, noon until 9 p.m.
“We had an old-fashioned cash register and you needed to count your change, and make sure you gave customers the right change,” she said.
After closing time, one of the employees locked up, took the money home with her and brought it back the next day.
As a condition of her employment, Rosalie said, “My father made Mr. Scott promise that he would never make me walk home alone after dark.”
Mr. Scott kept his promise and on occasions walked Rosalie all the way to her home on Beebe Street when it grew dark.
What a gentleman.
Now, another bit about last month’s column on “Push ’em Up Tony.”
Elaine Pearce writes: “I was born and raised in Spruce, and knew Bill Alstrom and his parents well, but until I read your article I never put together how my father would have known Tony.
“My parents divorced in 1950 when I was 5 years old. My father worked in Detroit and would come up north to see us and take us to Alpena to get a hamburger at Tony’s. I remember it well, and always enjoyed the hamburgers with lots of fried onions. My father would always talk to Tony, and at that time I never thought anything of it, but after reading your article I think my father probably knew him from living in Spruce.
“It was always a treat to go there as we didn’t go out to eat except to our grandmother’s. I also remember the cat roaming around the place and Tony getting him away from the grill.”
Rosalie Romanik of Alpena said she remembers seeing Tony in holiday parades, driving a vintage car he owned…
Another reader commented that folks were wondering who received all of Tony’s money.