E. Arnold Class, 80, owned Parkville ice cream parlor

April 18, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

For more than 30 years, E. Arnold Class was the owner and chief "bouncer" of Class' Homemade Ice Cream and Soda Fountain in Northeast Baltimore.

For 50 years, the soda fountain-hangout founded in 1928 by Mr. Class' father, Edwin H. Class, was a daily stop for several generations of soda-fountain fanatics on the road to adulthood.

Mr. Class, who in 1978 closed the business that was noted for its homemade ice cream, penny candy and juicy burgers, died Mondayof cancer at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 80 and lived in Parkville.

Situated on the old No. 19 streetcar line at Harford Road and Hiss Avenue, and accessible to students of Parkville junior and senior high schools and St. Ursula's parochial school, the store became a destination for young and old.

Entering the store, customers were greeted by the aroma of popcorn and the grinding sound of the machine that made the ice cream.

"It was a gathering place for kids from the nearby schools," said Ron Lassahn of Northeast Baltimore. "It was right out of `Happy Days,' a real hangout."

Mr. Lassahn confesses to yearning for Mr. Class' hamburgers and french fries. "I don't know what he did to them, but they tasted real good," he said.

Mr. Class was a tall man with a receding, silver-gray hairline and rimless glasses. Dressed in a white apron, starched shirt and carefully knotted necktie, he was on to the numerous schemes that inventive teen-agers concocted to buy more booth time.

"Kids would come in and buy one Coke and four straws and occupy a booth for two hours," said his brother, Calvin M. Class of Houston, with a laugh.

"To get the slightest smile out of him, you had to come up with something really clever. And if you did, he'd give you five more minutes of booth time," said Zack Germroth, one of "Class' Boys," as they called themselves.

"The booths were made for four, and we'd cram in eight. A ninth person sat on the seat in the old-fashioned wooden phone booth with the phone off the hook and the door open," said Mr. Germroth, a spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development. "If Mr. Class came by, the sitter would pick up the phone and start talking away."

Mr. Germroth credited Mr. Class with knowing all his young customers' tricks.

"We'd split drinks when he wasn't looking and wrap napkins around our glasses. He then would ask, `Who's finished over there?' and we'd hold up our empty glasses, pretending that they were full," he said, laughing.

Mr. Germroth explained in a 1981 story for the now-defunct Parkville Reporter that another time-buying ploy was saying that "you missed a class, and you were waiting for a classmate `in this booth' to bring you the homework assignment."

"The smile seemed to be his reward to us for inventiveness. More than one such tactic per week, however, met with disdain and the order [to] evacuate," Mr. Germroth wrote.

Once he ejected someone from the ice cream parlor, Mr. Class wasn't finished with his work. He would go out to the sidewalk and disperse the crowd of teens with a stern admonition: "Go home now. You look rowdy, and you are discouraging my older customers from coming in."

After church on Sundays, families in their Sunday best would stop at the store for ice cream or a beverage.

"We had mahogany cabinets and display cases, a patterned tin ceiling, a marble-topped soda fountain, wire ice cream parlor chairs, and [we] served hamburgers, hot dogs, fountain Cokes, phosphates, banana splits, sundaes and malted milks. We also sold cigars and cigarettes," said Calvin Class.

The store also sold Mr. Class' homemade ice cream, chocolate and vanilla. When fresh fruit was in season, he added peach and strawberry ice cream to the menu.

Customers also came in to purchase fresh-baked bread, eggs and pasteurized milk that was scooped from farmers' milk cans and cost 40 cents a gallon.

Mr. Class' roots went deep into early Parkville, where he was born and raised. His grandfather, Wilhelm Class, settled on a farm more than 120 years ago that he purchased from the Hiss family.

He was a 1936 graduate of Towson High School and during World War II served as an Army Air Forces mechanic in the China-Burma-India theater. He was discharged in 1946 and took over the business that year.

The same year, Mr. Class married Erma Isennoch, who died in 1986.

He was a longtime volunteer at the Maryland School for the Blind and was a member of the board of Northfield Savings and Loan.

He also was a member of the Parkville Kiwanis Club.

He was a member of St. John's Lutheran Church in Parkville, where services were held yesterday.

He is also survived by a son, David A. Class of Freeland; two daughters, Arna L. Griffith and Terri Class, both of Cockeysville; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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