Sweet Tooth

by Bill Monson

A reader wrote to the Zephyr recently and requested more stories about 50 to 60 years ago. Well, as you can tell by the wrinkles on that puss in the picture which sometimes accompanies these reflections, I'm your man,

At mid-century, Galesburg was a great place to have a sweet tooth. Our reader already mentioned Highlander's ice cream, which was sold curbside from a small building outside the Highlander's home near Farnham elementary school. They moved the building out of their backyard for Memorial Day weekend and kept it at the front sidewalk until Labor Day. They manufactured the ice cream in the garage from their own recipe, and I agree with our reader that they had great vanilla. They also had great chocolate, peach and butter brickle -- which were the favorites of my sister Sue and me, Dad and Mom, respectively. Highlander's was the place to go on a warm summer night.

In those days before air conditioning, many people would go out for a drive after dark, leaving their house windows open and a big fan going to cool off the house. The Monsons would drive out to Lake Storey, check out the softball game there or maybe the lightning bugs dancing in the hollers down by the lake -- or best yet, the moon on the water. We didn't stop long -- the idea was to keep cool by moving -- but you could park around the outfield wire of the softball field (no real fence then) and watch an inning from your car. Then, it was back down Henderson to Losey, across Losey to Farnham Street, then right on North (which you could do in those days) or Summit to the ice cream.

We'd sit in the car while Dad went after it and stood under the lights which always drew bugs. Sometimes I went along ''to help.'' What I really wanted was to sneak a lick or two off my sister's cone. We ate driving home the four blocks to Blaine Avenue. If we timed it right, we could finish on the front porch, then go into a pleasantly cool house. Many times, however, it was a race against melting. On those nights, the house was still warm, too, especially our bedrooms upstairs.

A better spot for lovers of sweets was Gregory's on the northwest side of the Square. They had good ice cream year round and also made candy. Their cinnamon pillows are a Christmas memory I'll never forget. Just going into the place made my mouth water.

Meadow Gold Dairy also sold ice cream on North Kellogg where the parking lot is now behind the Zephyr office, and there was the Park Drive Dairy at Losey and Whitesboro near Little Custer Park, which had ice cream socials at least twice a week during the summer.

And of course the dime stores along Main Street sold candy you could buy by the ounce or pound. The clerk would stand behind the counter as I went from gum drops to jelly beans to licorice in their big bulk containers, trying to decide what I wanted. Then she'd use a little shovel to dig out my choice and put it in the scale container. I usually bought a dime's worth and tried to softsoap the clerk into not dumping any excess.

Last -- but certainly not least -- was the KarmelKorn Shoppe on East Main near the Post Office. They also sold candy, but it was usually more expensive than the stuff the dime stores sold. My mom favored a combination of Spanish peanuts and candy corn, which tantalized the taste buds with its combination of sweet and salt. I still have a sweet tooth for KarmelKorn. It was my favorite way to end a night after a GHS basketball game at Steele Gym on Simmons Street. I usually walked home, and a box rarely lasted from the Shoppe to Blaine Avenue. If a CB&Q train blocked the way, the empty box usually rode out of town in a hopper car.

Yes, Galesburg was always a great town for sweets.

Ask any dentist.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online December 12, 2000

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