Ellis V. Reeves

[ Age 88 ] Soft ice cream purveyor, owner of Arctic Circle drive-in, had `a special touch with milkshakes'

October 31, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Ellis V. Reeves, whose double-thick milkshakes and soft ice cream cones kept the crowds coming for decades to his Churchville drive-in, died of heart failure Saturday at Union Memorial Hospital. He was 88.

Mr. Reeves was born in Sparta, N.C., raised in Bel Air and graduated from Bel Air High School in 1936.

After working as a Harford County dairy farmer and driving a Freezey Palace ice cream truck in Washington, Mr. Reeves teamed with his brother-in-law in the 1950s as co-owner of the Twin Kiss soft ice cream stand on Martin Boulevard.

In 1956, he purchased Big Cone on U.S. 40 in Havre de Grace. A decade later he added Arctic Circle on Route 22 in Churchville.

Mr. Reeves later closed Big Cone and focused on the Arctic Circle, drive-in, that, in addition to ice cream, served hamburgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

"The timing was perfect for the clientele of moviegoers and drivers of fast cars - everybody screamed for ice cream, and the Arctic Circle was the place to go for it," according to a profile of Mr. Reeves in The Sun just six days before his death. "Long before the malls and superstores came to town, families would pack up the children for a pleasant drive to the Arctic Circle, and young folks would meet there to get a milkshake or ice cream and socialize."

The Arctic's soft ice cream flavors were the traditional chocolate and vanilla. In the summer, frozen yogurt was added to the menu.

"It's a landmark. I don't know how it got its name, but I know one thing: It's never changed. There's no curb service, and customers either eat in their cars or outside on one of the picnic tables," John D. Worthington IV, publisher of The Aegis newspaper in Bel Air and a customer since childhood, said yesterday.

One of the Arctic's specialties in which Mr. Reeves took particular pride was milkshakes, made in a Hamilton blender. They were "made by the master, and it's the best shake in the county," Mr. Reeves said for the profile.

"He did have a special touch with milkshakes," said a son, Richard C. Reeves of Churchville, who now runs the business.

"He was a friendly man who was very popular with customers. He was outgoing and always smiling," said Jen L. Lepard, who helps manage the restaurant.

When he wasn't helping in the Arctic, he liked playing gin rummy with a group of friends from his high school days.

His wife of 38 years, the former Madge Warden, died in 1993.

Services for Mr. Reeves will be held at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at McComas Funeral Home, 1317 Cokesbury Road, Abingdon.

Also surviving are two other sons, Wiley Van Reeves of Naples, Italy, and David E. Reeves of Churchville; two daughters, Susan R. Lawrence of Forest Hill and Mary Elizabeth Spence of North East; a stepson, Gary Williams of Havre de Grace; two stepbrothers, Oscar Reeves and John Van Reeves, both of Sparta; a stepsister, Sue Underwood of Big Pine Key, Fla.; 13 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and his longtime companion, Margie Cross of Bel Air.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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