Testing memory, if not taste, of area's vanished ice creams


July 01, 1992|By Jacques Kelly

It's time to dish up a second helping of the history of ice cream in Baltimore.

In recalling some of the great old Baltimore confectioners who were still churning out their own superb chocolate and vanilla ice cream in the mid-1950s, I left out a number of those manufacturers whose wares I had never sampled or who had gone out of business before my birth. I certainly heard about these omissions.

My mother, Stewart Monaghan Kelly, was the first to point out many departed makers and their parlors. "Ice cream had personality then," she said.

It's arguable -- and Baltimoreans love to debate the merits of fondly departed ice creams -- but the city's greatest confectioner may have been George Doebereiner. His mirrored emporium at 29 E. North Ave. was considered the local Mecca for mocha-and-jelly cakes, almond macaroons and heavenly ice cream. He went out of business in 1953 and there are those who still mourn the shop's passing.

"As a child, my special delight was licking spoons of the delicious ice cream, especially peach from the giant vats," recalls Nancy Glaser Schultz, who now lives in Takoma Park. Her dad, John Glaser, was a fine baker known for excellent lemon meringue pies. The bakery, which lasted here until 1956, was a favorite of Polytechnic Institute students. The Glaser family also had been in the ice cream business for generations, beginning with a push cart on Broadway.

Margaret Orman, of the 6700 block of Park Heights Ave., casts her vote for Harry W. Schwaab's delightful soda fountain and shop opposite the old Boulevard movie theater at Greenmount Avenue and 33rd Street in Waverly. "Surely you did not mean to omit Schwaab's. His pistachio was the cream of the crop for that flavor," she says.

Others recall that Schwaab's served the best coffee ice cream in Baltimore.

What I recall is all the imported party favors and little toy novelties his glass showcases held. And there was a bowling alley upstairs -- 25 cents a game. The place was well known to novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who lived in Baltimore in the 1930s. The author of "The Great Gatsby" kept Schwaab's number in his personal address book.

Irene Duncan of Towson remembers Temple's, a firm owned by two Taneys, Brook and Louis. They each had a shop, one in Hamilton in the 5400 block of Harford Road and the other in the 5600 block of York Road.

Sylvia Bliss Mandy, of the 7300 block of Park Heights Ave., notes that her family founded the Jersey Ice Cream Co. in the horse-and-wagon era. Her father, Nathan Bliss, and an uncle, M. Jacob Abrams, helped usher in the era of mechanical refrigeration.

E. Arnold Class, of the 8700 block of Harford Road, made and sold his own high butterfat delights at Class' Ice Cream and Fountain Shop, a favorite in Northeast Baltimore and beyond. The family business lasted from 1928 to 1976. His essential ingredient, pure cream, came from the Eastern Shore near Denton.

Mr. Class also approves of his competitors -- Berg's Dairy Farm on Joppa Road and Clayton's in Kingsville. He also recalls the rivalry between Lou Knox and Walter Murray, who each sold ice cream from a corner at Loch Raven Boulevard and Taylor Avenue.

For a generation of Baltimoreans who bought cars in the 1940s, no Sunday was complete without a drive to this intersection. Emerson Farms in the Greenspring Valley was another drive-to place.

James and Florence Galloway made their own ice cream at Overlea's Sweetland Garden on Belair Road from 1949 to 1966. The No. 15 streetcar's terminal was just across the street. Occasionally, the place filled up with teen-agers, and Mr. Galloway had to clear everybody out.

South Baltimore had Cooper's on Light Street near the Cross Street Market. Regulars of the long-ago ice cream parlor say its marble counters and leaded-glass hanging light fixtures would be worth a mint today. Most would settle, however, for a large dip of Cooper's strawberry.

James Genthner of Original Northwood recalls being served a fine root beer at Huyler's, the Lexington Street chocolate shop that had a busy soda fountain.

Castle Farms in the Lexington Market dispensed the finest buttermilk and dairy products, including a knockout vanilla ice cream. The Virginia Dare, an excellent bakery and tea room, graced Howard Street. Charles Street had Irvin's and Gaston's, a pair of fancy ice cream shops.

How many recall John C. Mencke's ice cream, with shops at Old Harford and Harford roads and in the 2800 block of Hillen Road? And what about W.W.O., an odd name for a creamery north of Bel Air? And there are more -- Price, the Hilton Dairy Cottage in Catonsville, Hendler, Arundel, Castleman, Eckel, Horn & Horn and Fiske.

Who can't still taste that bowl of peach ice cream consumed on a July night many years ago?

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