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Remember: Ice Cream

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice Cream

Those swollen summer nights, thick with insect buzz and firefly flashes, the stew of humid air, sitting on a splintering picnic table on the edge of the green cornfields. The nights my dad didn’t have to work, we would leave around dusk. We kept the windows rolled down. We sweat.

Longacres Dairy
Beginning in 1920, John S Longacre would rise with the sun, milk his herd of dairy cattle by hand, and begin his daily deliveries of milk to neighboring homes in the Bally, Bechtelsville and Barto areas. Traveling by horse-drawn wagon, John would sell up to 22 quarts of raw milk daily, dipped directly from the large metal cans on the wagon. Refrigerators did not replace cold cellars until the late 1920's making it essential to have milk delivered two or three times daily.

John's son, Daniel E., followed in his father's footsteps and operated LONGACRE'S MODERN DAIRY, INC. in Washington Township along with his wife, Kathryn (Treichler), and their children (Daniel T, Newton T, Timothy T and Kathryn T) until several years before his death in 2001. John's son, Paul E., continued farming on the family farm and Daniel built the dairy on the corner of the property. The original dairy was built in 1942, with several additions added over the years. The business has seen extensive changes since John's humble beginnings -- in diversity of products as in the process, regulations, packaging and the sale and distribution of these products. Changes began as early as 1928 when the department of health ruled that only bottled milk could be sold.

Longacre's Dairy began making it's unique brand of ice cream in the 1940's which has said to be unparalleled by the competition . . . but you decide for yourself. Longacre's also introduced both hard and soft ice cream mixes some time later which is distributed to soft-serve ice cream stands, ice cream parlors and ice cream companies using hard ice cream mix to produce their own hard ice cream.

John's business was strictly a retail operation. In the 1970's retail deliveries started to diminish until they were totally stopped in the 1980's. Under Daniel's leadership, the dairy delivered to independent grocery stores, mini food marts, educational institutions and nursing homes. In addition, it expanded its product line to include ice cream, ice cream mix, fruit drinks and iced tea.

During 1996, Longacre's found it more difficult to compete with the larger dairies and at that time, decided to enter a niche market and process and package ORGANIC MILK.

In the beginning, an attempt was made to package both conventional and organic milk, but as the organic milk market grew, Longacre's sold some of the wholesale milk routes and devoted more time to the organic sales.

Longacre's originally packaged for Sunnydale Farms in Brooklyn, New York under the "Natural By Nature" label. During the next several years, Natural Dairy Products of West Grove, PA became more in charge of the organic processing because of the sale of Sunnydale Farms to Parmalat and Farmland Dairies. The "Natural By Nature" organic milk is bottled "fresh" and is not an ultra-pasteurized product. The organic milk is from the Lancaster Organic Farmers Co op.

Longacre's Modern Dairy Inc also operates a dairy bar ice cream parlor and retail outlet adjacent to the plant, and serves all-natural "homemade" (in every sense of the word) ice cream and light lunches. We also sell organic products which include milk and bi-products such as yogurt, etc. The dairy bar ice cream parlor features more than 40 flavors of hard ice cream and frozen yogurt. The "GARBAGE SUNDAE" is a combination of 10 ice cream flavors and 10 toppings and has been enjoyed by many families. The dairy bar is open year-round with shortened hours in the fall and winter months.

Longacre's Modern Dairy is still owned and operated by the third generation Longacre Family.”

The drive to Longacres from Allentown was long and it seemed interminable in the summer heat and in the throes of frozen anticipation as a child. The dairy bar was old fashioned. It still had the tiled floor and bar stool set up of a soda fountain. They had bins of penny candy. Outside, I have no idea what they are called but they had a row of those animals with springs attached to the bottom of them that sashayed back and forth when you sat on them. The placed smelled like milk and vaguely but not grossly like cows. I remember the drive back stuffed full on ice cream and sweets and barely being able to stay awake in the tamed August heat.

There are places scattered across the countryside like this around Allentown. Some have changed their names since I was a kid like the newly christened Parkland Drive In in Schnecksville. Others had lavish décor and mountains of toppings placed on the countertops like statuary in a dairy cathedral. King Kone and the Jungle Kafe in Whitehall immediately comes to mind. It sits on top of a hill that overlooks the entire three city belt of the Lehigh Valley. You can sit there with your cone of dripping soft serve and literally look into the heart of Bethlehem, Allentown and Easton.

Those summer nights provide me with many of my fondest memories of childhood. I was sick often then and being a sick kid there aren’t too many untainted memories to recollect. I was never sick on an ice cream night.

As I write this I realize that these drive ins and dairy bars may be passing into history; to be replaced by Cold Stone Creamery and Maggie Moos. I read on CSCs website that they are in the business of making people happy. That they are the sole providers of happiness inside their generic corporate caves of think-tank created ideal settings. There is no neon light to buzz with the insects on August nights just the slow drone of central air and the occasional forced singing of staff when they are tipped. It is a sad place without character and certainly not a place one should want memories made in.

I can see now the pink horizon under the yellow sky of real summer heat. I can remember my CMP or a mysterious powdery Rocky Road dripping on my pant leg and my mother chasing me with napkins. I remember the disappointment I would feel when my mother would make me have my ice cream cone served upside down in a bowl to prevent a mess. The red splintering picnic bench on the side of the cornfield was a sentinel of refuge and of pure unadulterated enjoyment.

There was no plastic. No Muzak. No central air. No forced singing. No flair. No banners advertising new items.

There was however memories to be made.

Directions from 15th and Chew in Allentown:

View 15th and Chew to Longacre Dairy in a larger map



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