|I Scream, You Scream, the (Raritan) History of Ice Cream
By Bruce Doorly
|Ice cream is the All-American treat. It is synonymous with summer fun, good times, and special occasions.
It brings out the kid in all of us. But where did this treat come from? And how has it evolved over the centuries?
Lastly, we ask what places did the people of Raritan go for their ice cream?
|Casol and Zanoni Ice Cream Shop 1915|
|Frozen treats are as old as humanity itself. It was said that Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. had his troops fetch snow and coat it with caramel for him.
But the earliest record of frozen treats being “cream” based comes from the Chinese in the 7th century. While credit goes to them for being the first on record, it was the Italians starting around 1680 and over the next century that perfected the frozen cream desserts that today we know as ice cream.
|As You Like it Ice Cream Shop 2023|
|When Europeans settled in North America, they brought the ice cream recipe with them.
But at this time ice cream was a delicacy exclusively reserved for the rich. This was for two reasons. Some of the ingredients, sugar and ice, were difficult and expensive to obtain. Further, the making of ice cream required a large amount of manual labor. But servants could do the back-breaking work to whip up the ice cream in a manual mixer.
The ice cream of the time had to be consumed immediately due to the lack of refrigeration.
Records and letters indicate that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both served ice cream at dinner parties.
|Ice cream stood out from other desserts of the era. There was nothing that compared to it.
The rich wanted more and the middle class and the poor wanted it. Fortunately, as the 1800s went by gradually there were advances in the “ice cream mixing equipment”.
And sugar, once expensive, came down in price and was widely available.
Also, an ice industry arose by cutting ice out of rivers and canals during the winter months and successfully saving it (in most of the years) for the summer months. By the mid-1850s it was common for most towns to have one store that sold ice cream.
|Ice Cream Soda
Around the late 1800s water with bubbles, a novel item when introduced, known as soda water or seltzer was first marketed. It did not take long for sellers to start favoring this refreshing bubbly water. Someone (many towns claim the invention) around 1890 combined the two treats of soda and ice cream and the “ice cream soda” was born. It quickly became the rage and drove the consumption of ice cream for eighty years.
|Ice Cream Cone
Legend has it that at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis that a busy ice cream vendor ran out of ice cream dishes. With necessity the mother of invention, the vendor, aware that a waffle stand was next to him, decided to team up with the waffle stand and fold up waffles to hold the ice cream. The public literally ate up this combination. People observing the novelty started forming a line for the folded-up waffles and ice cream combination.
After the World’s Fair ice cream on cones became very popular. The advantage for the ice cream vendors and the public was that ice cream was now mobile. No longer did ice cream have to be consumed in the shop. (It was before the widespread use of paper products.) And there were no dishes to wash.
|Early Ice Cream Places in Raritan
In the old days obtaining ice cream required a trip out of the house due to the lack of home refrigeration.
It would not be until the 1930s that supermarkets first had packaged ice cream.
The earliest known seller of ice cream in Raritan was in 1881. William Harris, who was located across from St. Bernard’s church (Today the Shrine Chapel) on West Somerset Street, advertised “Struve’s Celebrated Ice Cream of all Flavors.” He promised that he had the best ice cream that could be had anywhere. He also sold cigars and tobacco.
|Ad from 1881|
|Over the years ice cream could be found at the following confectionary stores in Raritan. These places also had candy and soda.
Casol & Zanoni, as early as 1915, had a confectionary shop at 62 West Somerset Street. Coincidentally this is where “As You Like It Ice Cream” is today.
Business directories say this store was gone by 1919.
Minetti’s was at the corner of Thompson Street and Somerset Street. A photo of the storefront and inside the store survives today. Minetti’s was open from 1917 (perhaps earlier) – 1930.
|Raritan’s Candy Kitchen which opened around 1919 was a popular spot for years. It closed in 1971.|
|The location today where |
the Candy Kitchen once was.
|Santoro’s at 69 East Somerset Street was open from 1917 (maybe earlier) - 1952.|
|The location today where |
Santoro's once was.
|Carlino’s at 27 West Somerset Street was open from 1942 - 1976.|
|The location today where |
Carlino's once was.
As decades went by more families had a car allowing them to travel to get their beloved frozen treat. Howard Johnson’s opened in 1941 on Route 22 in Bridgewater. It was both a restaurant and an ice cream parlor boosting 28 favors.
It was located where “Buffalo Wild Wings” is today. Howard Johnson’s closed in 1989.
|The short-lived Minuteman was a favorite ice cream spot.
Open from 1961-1969 it was on the northbound side of 206 where the “New York, New York” diner once stood. Today it is an empty lot that is for sale.
|Ice Cream Trucks
Good Humor Ice Cream trucks were a fixture for decades starting as early as 1930.
|There were two independent locally owned ice cream trucks serving Raritan.
From 1961-1969 Joseph Cherivassi of Raritan owned and operated a truck that he called “Freddie Freeze”. When this author posted on FACEBOOK for ice cream memories of Raritan, people passionately recalled him.
Frank Provenzano said “Our kids would go crazy just hearing the bells on his truck.” He went on to say Freddie (Joseph) loved the kids.
When Joseph Cherivassi passed away in 1999 at the age of 85 the heading of his obituary simply stated “Joseph Cherivassi – Drove Ice Cream Truck”.
|Click for obituary and photo of|
Joseph Cherivassi (Freddie Freeze)
|Another beloved Ice Cream man was Ken Sarte whose truck was called “Ken's Munchies”. Well liked -
he had patience with the often-undecided children. He operated from 1973-1988.
Many remember that Ken sold candy in addition to ice cream. The candy was displayed on a clothesline. If a kid had a dollar, it went far as Kenny was inexpensive. Sadly, Ken passed away in 1989 at the young age of 36.
|Ken Sarte (Ken's Munchies)|
|As You Like It Ice Cream
Our favorite ice cream shop in Raritan “As You Like It” has been open for 38 years - since 1985.
It is owned and operated by Tom and Malinda Russo.
Since their beginning its signature in-store feature has been photos of kids with their ice cream. Every year Malinda takes a new round of photos.
Book, available on Amazon – “Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla – A History of American Ice Cream” by Anne Cooper Funderburg
Video, available on YouTube – “Modern Marvels – How Ice Cream is Made”