Iowa Writes

PERRY ROSS
An Alcohol-Free Event


Old men sit sideways on wooden folding chairs and work waterlogged toothpicks as they talk about Eisenhower and the county's plan to pave the gravel road in front of the house. Rows of cars are parked in the hayfield. Children, giddy with excitement, run and play in the barnyard. Behind the house, teenage boys and young men toil taking turns on the thirty-some handles. Women sit in the kitchen, on the porch, and in the dining room sipping iced tea. This is an alcohol-free event. No one even thinks of alcohol. It is 1954. It is the annual Presbyterian Ice Cream Social at Arlo Roth's farm.

Strong-armed men crank away at the freezers trying to show that they can go faster and longer than anyone else. Others carefully dump ice and then salt around the revolving canisters. Someone shouts, "This one is done," and others step in and try to do a few more turns. When everyone is satisfied that it is, indeed, ready, the women step in. One carefully removes the crank and then the lid. With great care another one pulls the paddle out. Young kids flock to her wanting to eat the ice cream off the paddle. A few lucky ones get that chance. The lid is carefully replaced and the canister is covered with ice and wrapped in towels to await the rest.

Old men sit sideways on wooden folding chairs and work waterlogged toothpicks as they talk about Eisenhower and the county's plan to pave the gravel road in front of the house. Rows of cars are parked in the hayfield. Children, giddy with excitement, run and play in the barnyard. Behind the house, teenage boys and young men toil taking turns on the thirty-some handles. Women sit in the kitchen, on the porch, and in the dining room sipping iced tea. This is an alcohol-free event. No one even thinks of alcohol. It is 1954. It is the annual Presbyterian Ice Cream Social at Arlo Roth's farm.

Strong-armed men crank away at the freezers trying to show that they can go faster and longer than anyone else. Others carefully dump ice and then salt around the revolving canisters. Someone shouts, "This one is done," and others step in and try to do a few more turns. When everyone is satisfied that it is, indeed, ready, the women step in. One carefully removes the crank and then the lid. With great care another one pulls the paddle out. Young kids flock to her wanting to eat the ice cream off the paddle. A few lucky ones get that chance. The lid is carefully replaced and the canister is covered with ice and wrapped in towels to await the rest.

Soon, someone else shouts, "Done!" and grabs his arm to massage the pain. Then another and another are done. The women lay out the bowls, spoons, and toppings on a long table on the lawn. Children grab spoons and line up to get heaping dishes of homemade ice cream.

The old men are right behind the kids. "That Myrtle's recipe?" says one as he points to a canister. "She makes the best ice cream!" The adults follow and usually add some chocolate, strawberry, butterscotch, or peach topping to their bowl. The first time through the young ones, knowing they will get more, go for the straight ice cream.

"Aaawww," says Jerry, grabbing his forehead. Eating the ice cream too fast has brought on a painful headache. Soon others are in the same predicament but can't stop eating the delicious soup. "My 'ead urtz!" says Tim, whose tongue feels thick with the cold.

Me, I like the semi-liquid ice cream around the outside edge of the bowl. I scoop it into my mouth so fast that I have to stop and wait for the mountain in my bowl to melt so I can have more.

Then my head hurts, too. My eyes seem to cross and I run to my mother in pain. She talks to me softly and the pain subsides. "Don't eat so fast," she says, and I look around and see that the yard is full of cross-eyed kids grasping their foreheads in pain.

Later, my mother stops me from going back for a third bowl. It's time for the hayride. I smell the fresh straw as the adults and kids load up on the hay wagons. I remember riding but not much else. The excitement, the food, and the gentle creak of the wagon put me to sleep soon after I am on board. I don't ever remember going home from Roth's but I know, of course, I did.

more

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


PERRY ROSS

Perry Ross, a graduate of the University of Iowa, is a school administrator in Iowa City. He grew up in Mt. Pleasant and writes about his experiences growing up in a small town. Perry writes primarily for his family but sometimes shares his stories with a larger audience as a professional storyteller.

This page was first displayed
on April 16, 2007

We are pleased to make available The Daily Palette Mac OS X Dashboard Widget! Download this Widget to see daily works by pressing F12.

Become our fan on Facebook!