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Column: Hot enough for you? Try melon or ice cream?

By Ray Crippen

WORTHINGTON — I don’t know what got me started on this.

“… In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime …”

It was probably background music for something in that daily tsunami of commercials which we call television. I’ve been humming “good old summertime” all day long.

Good old summertime is different for each of us. Good old summertime will be 1950 for one person, 1960 for another, maybe 1990 for another. I came on watermelon at the supermarket while I was thinking good old summertime. I remembered when a grocer would advise, “We’ve got a truckload of watermelons coming from Arkansas on Tuesday.” Oh boy! Now it is summer indeed.

In those summertimes, watermelon was never sold by the quarter or by the slice or the bite. Sometimes two neighbors would get together and divide a melon between themselves.

There always was concern with regard to whether a watermelon was ripe. You didn’t want to lay out your money for a pink watermelon. You wanted a bright red one. Most watermelon sellers would offer to plug a melon for you — take a knife, cut a small triangular piece from near the top of the melon and lift out that plug so that you could see it was red.

If you were on the farm — maybe for a reunion, maybe for the Fourth of July — there might be a watermelon or two cooling in the water in the stock tank. That was about as chilled as watermelons got. Watermelons were too big to fit into an ice box or a refrigerator in that time. Mostly, people ate their melon as it came from the vine. Warm. Watermelon is good that way.

You wonder what good old summertimes I am thinking of? Well — in those summertimes, Shirley Temple sang:

“ … Oh I like watermelon and I have for years, singing polly wolly doodle all the day. Oh I like watermelon ‘cause it wets my ears, singing polly wolly doodle all the day…”

(In the green house there is a white house and in the white house there is a red house and in the red house there are a hundred big black ants. What is it? Well — a watermelon, of course.)

Watermelon and ice cream. Those were joys of summertime. There was ice cream for sale, of course. I don’t know when that began. My yes; you could go to an ice cream store and get a pint of hand-packed. I was never sure I could taste a difference between hand-packed and not hand-packed, but I went along with the game. “I want you to know this is hand-packed.” “Oh my! It is really good!”

The very best ice cream (I still believe) was homemade. Homemade ice cream turned up often in the winter when there was ice right outside the door, but ice cream also was part of the good old summertime.

While we’re talking homemade ice cream, we are talking vanilla. All the recipes were for vanilla, although not many families needed a recipe: heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract, probably from the Watkins man. I do not remember hearing of someone adding chocolate to ice cream and, most certainly, there was no butter pecan or s’more.

Ice in July was only a small problem. At Worthington, you went to the ice house along what became South Shore Drive. You bought a dime’s worth of ice and wrapped it in a gunny sack. Ice didn’t melt as fast that way. Then you went back home and started working the ice pick, chipping your piece of ice into small pieces that you could drop in the space between the metal can in which had your ice cream mixture and the wooden bucket. Maybe sprinkle a little salt over the ice. Then you started to turn the dasher, the “churner,” inside the can, with the little crank on your ice cream maker. Turn. Turn. Turn. (Do you know what I’m talking about — an ice cream maker?) While the ice cream was beginning to set, there might be a squabble about who would get to lick the dasher. That was special.

Oh my. Watermelon and ice cream. The good old summertime.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.