Does anyone recall those little 10-cent cups of ice cream with pictures of movie stars inside the lids?
OK! Now, what were they called?
Well, maybe you know and maybe not, but the bottom line is that you can’t get them anymore, at least not for a dime. In fact, that’s just one of the many things that were common in summers past but have vanished today.
While you’re thinking, let’s go back 60, 80 years and look at a few more summer treats that have slipped away from us into history.
Town swimming pools for the kids: Used to be that lots of our Wyoming Valley communities had their own pools, all of which were packed with young folks on summer break from June through August. You never had to go far to find them, and they didn’t cost much to get into — maybe 50 cents or so for a season badge, as Wilkes-Barre charged.
Ice cold sodas in glass bottles: I’ll tell you, there’s nothing more refreshing in summer than popping the cap off a freezing glass bottle, watching the vapor rise in a little cloud and then tasting that outer-space cold Royal Crown or Squirt or whatever. You didn’t need ice cubes. Just grab one out of the store’s cooler, raise it to your mouth and … ahhhhhh! It tasted even better if you drank it while beating your buddy’s score on a pinball machine.
Weekly church bazaars: Oh, we still have them during the summer, but in nowhere near the numbers of mid-20th century and thereabouts. You could trek to one on Friday and one on Saturday every week for practically the entire season. Today, though, extremely busy schedules have cut into the ranks of volunteers, turning the once-omnipresent pierogi and halushki stands into oases in a Wyoming Valley desert.
A summer job that bought you something: For maybe 10 weeks work, you could pick up enough cash to pay for one year of college or buy a good used car, whatever your priority was. Given the cost of colleges and cars today, you can work for Bill Gates 12 hours a day and still bemoan your poverty as August draws to an end.
Baseball at Artillery Park: Wilkes-Barre once had minor league clubs affiliated with Cleveland and later Detroit. The ballpark next to the armory just over the Market Street Bridge was readily accessible for thousands who could walk there. If you were lucky, you could see a future major leaguer like Bob Lemon, Harry Simpson or Duke Maas.
Square dancing: Wilkes-Barre sponsored square dancing in big open venues like schoolyards on summer evenings. I heard some people describe it as “farmer dancing,” but no matter what you called the action, it drew lots of people out into the cool evenings to do-si-do and change your partners with family and friends amid catchy fiddle music.
Monster movies: Well, of course you can see one today, but not in a neighborhood theater just a few blocks from your house and pay maybe 25 cents. Likewise, there were a lot more drive-ins than there are today with their dollar-a-car nights. Costume epics being reserved for the colder months, it was creepy creatures from the swamps and outer space that ruled the screens of summer. Eeeeek!
OK! Got your answer?
Those little treats, folks, were the fabled Dixie Cups, with the wooden spoon and the photo of Van Johnson or Jane Russell inside the lid.
Enough of this! It’s summer. So, what have you got going?
Tom Mooney is a Times Leader history columnist. Reach him at [email protected]