Friday, May 15, 2009

A Dad sighting on Ebay!

Those who have been following the ice cream diaries from the beginning, way back when it came in the form of an emailed journal entry, will remember my Dad, my ice cream mentor, and all around good guy was one of the original premium ice cream makers, a founding father, if you will. His ice cream flavor inventing days came years before those guys Ben and Jerry were even thinking about turning that old gas station into a homemade ice cream joint. My Dad worked for Howard Johnson's, you know that place whose name was synonymous with the Mass Turnpike back in their day.
I remember our home freezer when i was a kid was always full of Dad's 'mistakes' from his lab at the Hojo's factory in Brockton, Mass. Peppermint stick that was just a little too pink. Cookie dough with too many chips and not enough dough. Of course, being a kid, there's no such thing as bad ice cream or bad pizza. I have great memories of going to Dad's lab on a Saturday morning when he had something to check on. He was also the quality control guy for the factory, so he was probably going in to check bacteria counts on something, but again I was just a kid and I was going to a giant ice cream factory. And I remember his lab being full of all the great stuff that went into ice cream. Giant boxes of chocolate chips. M&M's. 5 gallon pails of chocolate. Paradise for an eight year old.

I particularly remember the paper hats he made us wear when we had factory tours with our Cub Scout den and such. In fact, when I started doing lessons and tours at my shop twenty-five years later, that's the first thing I got...

Of course, back then I wanted to be an astronaut not an ice cream guy. Little did I know this is where I would end up. Turns out, I am the acorn that fell near the tree. Sure, I did get the engineering college degrees and went the traditional big company, cubicle route enroute. And that was great too, in different ways (weekends off were nice, in hindsight). My Dad went the traditional big company route too before he jettisoned himself off the ship to start his own gigs, first 'The Ice Creamery' in Randolph, Mass. Then later 'Dave's World of Ice Cream' in Foxboro, Mass. He and Mom are happily retired now and completely content to play the visiting grandparents role to my little place, Mt. Tom's. Dad gets to pop in during the summer, have some free ice cream, and rummage around my ice cream kitchen just like I used to when I was a kid. There's something kindof cool about that.

Speaking of cool, one of my customers is an avid EBay'er and Howard Johnson's paraphernalia collector (of all things). He was poking around Ebay the other day and came across a bunch of Hojo listings of old company magazines. And wouldn't you know, he found this, and recognized the name. Sure enough, my Dad, hard at work back in the old Hojo days, circa 1981...

Hojo's is an interesting rags to riches to rags story. They were ahead of their time in many ways (premium ice cream, cool flavors, Ground Round) but somehow ended up getting left in the dust. All that remains are a few hotels, a row or two of mac n' cheese boxes in the grocery store freezer, and a bunch of vintage collectables on ebay. Perhaps I'll write more on that topic, although I'm sure many an MBA school business case study has already been written.

Just before they were sold and never to be heard from again, I seem to remember their prices going through the roof while at the same time their quality and cleanliness sinking into the basement. Tough to survive with those strikes against you, even if you do 'own' the Mass. Pike.

If you are curious, here are a few interesting links, mostly grabbed from the wink. site...

Well, must go make some ice cream now, just like Dad taught me. Stop by for some. There's plenty to go around.

Enjoy your weekend.

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