Root beer, 'cream cones' and hot summers

Watson Arnold

My grandfather liked to come by on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the summer and take my brother and me for a root beer or a "cream cone." My brother and I would sit at the window waiting for Grandad to arrive, then run to the car. He would drive up with my grandmother in their 1952 Ford sedan, gather us into the back seat, and off we'd go.

There were two root beer stands I remember. One was on Franklin Avenue between 24th and 23rd streets — a Triple XXX stand. The building is still there, there though, no longer a root beer stand. The other was at Bosque Boulevard and New Road — way out in the country back then. That was the A&W stand.

The waitress would come to the car window and we would place our order. (The wait was sooo long.) Soon, the root beer would arrive in thick glass mugs covered in ice. The mugs were kept in an ice box until the order was received, then filled with root beer. The ice formed on the inside and outside of the mug. And there would generally be a bit of ice floating on the top.

Remember: It was really hot in those days. No air conditioning. We kept the windows open, and the side vents pushed a stream of air through the car when it was moving — giving some relief to the heat.

We tried to drink the rool beer before all the ice melted and it becme tepid. But if you drank it too quickly you would get a "cold headache." By the time that went away, the ice usually had melted. Drinking the mug just right was an art.

The other treat was going for a "cream cone" at the Robertson Dairy on 18th and what is now Waco Drive. It didn't have as have has as many flavors as one finds today at ice cream parlors, but that was OK. I only wanted chocolate. My brother liked vanilla. Granddad like strawberry. Grandmother Maxwell seemed to spread hers around, but I remember her getting sherbets most of the time.

You had to eat the ice cream quickly or it would melt. You also had to hold it firmly upward or it would fall and "smush" on the ground. If that happened there was no seconds. One licked around the sides quicklyi to prevent melting down the sides, then went after the middle.

If you were too slow, the ice cream would melt and drip from the hole in the bottom of the cone. If too fast, once ayam — the dreaded "cold headache."

Whether the outing was for root beer or ice cream, it was the best day of the week and a grand memory of hot summer days in a southern town.

Watson Arnold is a retired physician.

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