Friday, October 9, 2009


This morning, as I was pumping gas at the Stewart’s Shop in Middle Grove, New York, I became suddenly aware of how Stewart’s Shops and I have had a long-time, enduring relationship. As a little girl in Saratoga Springs in the late 1950s, I remember going with my father to the one of the earliest Stewart’s on Church Street. It was a wooden, 2-story building, blue, I think. I remember looking way up at the counter, so I must have been pint-sized. My dad was buying a half-gallon of ice cream for our family. (Stewart’s is one of the few companies that still makes half-gallons – check your grocer’s freezer – most are 1.5 or 1.75 quarts now). My first real job, after summers as a day camp counselor, was as a waitress at the Stewart’s at the corner of Broadway and Circular Street in Saratoga Springs. At the time, the shops offered counter and booth service, and even tried a soup and sandwich menu for a while. I remember scrambling eggs in a mug, cooking them in the microwave!

I was hired by manager Bob Hummel, a former construction worker with a Queens accent who’d survived a number of heart attacks, but still smoked devotedly. He was a jovial man with balding red hair and skinny legs, but he had a bit of a pot belly. He loved to play jokes on his staff, once faking a heart attack and laughing hysterically as I called for an ambulance, and another time seating a uniformed mannequin on the toilet seat, her skirt hoisted, to scare the wits out of the milk delivery man who used that bathroom every morning.

Among my specialties as a Stewart’s scooper was the banana split. I never ate them, but I made really pretty splits. (I ate other things – hot fudge sundaes on chocolate buttered almond, or coffee ice cream sodas). For the banana split, I’d take the oblong-shaped glass (real) dish, line it with a split banana, and then place three round scoops of ice cream – vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry – in a little pyramid: vanilla and chocolate side by side, strawberry perched above. I’d pour just enough chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple syrups over the top (one on each scoop) to make it pretty, and then crown it all in a rope of whipped cream, topped with a cherry. Other scoopers envied my creations, though were a little bit perturbed when the customer nodded my way and asked “Can she make mine?”

Eventually my brother Danny got a job there, and then my sister Anne. It became a real family affair. We all got good starts to our working lives in that little shop on Broadway, and later the shop on Railroad Place. I think back to the nights when I’d put together the bank deposit, change my clothes in the bathroom, drop the deposit in the Adirondack Trust’s night depository, and then go out partying with my friends for a few hours only to wake up three hours later to open the store in the morning. I have many fond memories of those early working days at Stewart’s, and every time I go in to a store, I restrain myself from telling the clerk “I used to work at Stewart’s, a long time ago.” Instead, I take my change, and remember that, for a little while, Stewart’s was a very big part of my life.

Here’s a version of the recipe I remember for that delicious

Coffee Ice Cream Soda:

¼ cup melted vanilla ice cream

3 tablespoons coffee syrup (available near the chocolate syrup)

Carbonated water or seltzer, cold

Coffee ice cream

Whipped cream

In large goblet, mix melted vanilla ice cream with coffee syrup. Add enough bubbling water to bring within an inch of the top. Hang the scoop of ice cream half in and half out of the goblet. Give a squirt of whipped cream.


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1 comment:

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed your story. Had me thinking back to my first position as a lingerie clerk at a department store. No mugs or goblets, but plenty of cups! *wink*