Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Ice Cream

250px-HandelsAs we enter the dog days of summer, there is nothing like a trip to a local ice cream stand to cool off and enjoy a sweet treat at the same time. Where we live in Columbus, we are blessed with living a five minute drive from a Handel’s stand (how did they know we were nearby?). So going out for ice cream always brings back Youngstown memories of Handel’s and other good places for ice cream.

Let’s begin with Handel’s. The company website says Alice Handel started serving homemade ice cream out of her husband’s gas station as far back as 1945, using old-fashioned recipes and fresh fruit. Wikipedia indicates the franchise was established in November 1969, the same time as Columbus-original, Wendy’s. All I know was that Handel’s was among the places to be on a hot summer evening and teens drove from all over town to get Mrs. Handel’s homemade ice cream, sitting on or in our cars to eat it, since it was a walk up stand off an alley near the intersection of Market and Midlothian. (My wife grew up just down the street on Midlothian–I had to come all the way from the west side!). Handel’s has made a number of “Ten Best” lists including a list in USA Today.

Isaly'sI don’t think I heard of Handel’s until high school. Until then, the place to go was Isaly’s. Both my wife and I have memories of our parents driving to the main Isaly dairy plant at the intersection of Mahoning Avenue and Glenwood to get their trademark skyscraper cones, scooped with a specially designed scoop. My wife remembers her folks always getting the sherbets, particularly orange sherbet. I was more a butter pecan and chocolate guy. It was all good.

Klondikes, Chipped Ham, & Skyscraper Cones: The Story of Isaly's by Brian Butko. For more information, contact Stackpole Books at (800) 732-3669 or sales@stackpolebooks.com

Photo by Brian Butko. Used by permission with inclusion of the following: Klondikes, Chipped Ham, & Skyscraper Cones: The Story of Isaly’s by Brian Butko. For more information, contact Stackpole Books at (800) 732-3669 or sales@stackpolebooks.com

Isaly’s actually didn’t get started in Youngstown but in Mansfield, Ohio, moving early to Marion, Ohio, from which it expanded to Columbus, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh. According to Wikipedia, Isaly’s launched a commercial building program in the 1930’s in an art deco/Art Moderne style of which the Youngstown dairy plant was a prime example. Sadly, the dairy operation closed in 1969 and the building was eventually sold to U-Haul, who still occupies it. In 1986 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Truly, it is an iconic Youngstown building!

The local standby within walking distance of my home was Dairy Queen, on Mahoning Avenue between Maryland and Belle Vista. There was a time you could get a small vanilla or chocolate soft-serve cone for 5 cents, complete with the twirl on top. A 15 cent cone was huge. For a little extra, you could get chocolate or strawberry “dips”. Later, they added things like Dilly bars, but plain old ice cream cones were my favorite. The old Dairy Queen building is still standing according to Google Street View, now the site of Hunan Express.

My wife and I speculated that going out for ice cream was popular in part because back when we were growing up, our refrigerators had very small freezers, unless you had a separate freezer, which neither of our parents had. You had to use the freezer for those staple items, whether frozen juices, vegetables or meats, and just didn’t have room for a carton of ice cream. And it was cheap! Imagine getting ice cream for a family of four for as little as 50 cents, and certainly under a dollar. Now, it is $5 or more for my wife and I to go to our local Handel’s (but still worth it!).

I’d love to hear your ice cream memories and your stories of other good places to get ice cream around Youngstown!

[Want to read other “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” posts? Just click “On Youngstown” on the menu bar at the top of this page to read any or all in this series.]

10 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Ice Cream

  1. I vividly remember going to Mrs. Handel’s for the first time. I’d say it was 1958 and I was 7 years old. I don’t remember what flavor I got but I DO recall being jealous of the cherry ice cream the boys got, full of beautiful fruit. (The other thing I remember is that my pants split while I got out of the car. I should have taken that as a warning from the universe to stay away from ice cream!)

  2. I enjoyed Dairy Queen, Isaly’s, both on Mahoning Ave. and my all time favorite Handel’s Chocolate Pecan. Still go to Handel’s in Boardman when I am home in Canfield. Drove past yesterday and the lines were long. Had the fortitude to keep on driving 🙂 After this post I need to go today before I leave town!
    Michelle

  3. I grew up on the northside, two blocks from the Dairy Queen at Belmont and Tod (and across from North Side Pool). DQ was always a favorite. My grandfather would, with little to no notice, come pick my sisters and I up and we would pile into his Buick for a trip up the street. Usually my cousins from around the corner were already in the car, so it was grandpa and six grandkids (with not enough seatbelts) for the 2 minute ride. Grandpa liked to keep things simple, so the options were a banana cone, vanilla cone or a dilly bar. No flurries, Blizzards, or sundaes. There was always a buzz at that DQ in the summer evenings. There’s no place like that where I live in Northern Virginia now that even comes close.

  4. We moved to Youngstown in 1955. My father was an ice cream fanatic so Handel’s was onw of the first places we knew about. Another one was Webb’s in Hubbard although that was further from Austintown.
    The Isaly store closest to us was on Mahoning Ave. in the Wickliffe area of Austintown. My favorite was Banana Split. In the late ’60’s. my best friend worked in the office at the Isaly company. I was glad to hear it’s on the Historic list. It’s a great building!

    • Sonja, thanks so much for sharing your ice cream memories, including your mention of Webb’s, which I had not heard of before. So many good places around Youngstown in the past!

  5. My grandmother, Mary O’Connor, and her son, Ted O’Connor (who taught physics at Chaney HS) lived right beside the Dairy Queen on Maryland Avenue at Mahoning Blvd., and whenever my family visited Grandma us kids would raise a ruckus until we could go to the DQ and get a Dilly Bar! Nothing better than the Dilly! I saw the building is still standing via Googleearth. My Grandma’s house is still standing directly beside the Dairy Queen building, though it has gone through several owners and it seems to me that the house has shrank since I was last inside. My memories of the house are all good and wondrous. I graduated in 1972 from Aberdeen HS (Md.).

    • I remember Mr. O’Connor from Chaney and used to deliver papers in that neighborhood! Thanks for sharing your memories. Who knows, we could have been in line together at the DQ?

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