Vintage Ice Cream Freezers Make Sweet Collection

Frozen in time

| May 2009

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

That little ditty was certainly appropriate in rural America in the period before rural electrification, especially during the summer. In those days, the family gathered together on a Sunday afternoon. After church and a big dinner, it was time for a softball game for the youngsters and horseshoe pitching for the older set. Then it was time to break out the ice cream freezer and churn up a batch of homemade ice cream. (Try your hand at making ice cream: “ Ice Cream Recipes .”)

Many of the ingredients came right from the farm: eggs, milk and rock salt. Vanilla extract came from the Watkins man, sugar from the peddler’s wagon and the iceman delivered ice in block form.

The housewife mixed the ingredients while the man of the house chipped ice and prepared the salt. The kids waited with bated breath until the mixture came out of the house in a shiny freezer bucket. They had been warned that they would get no ice cream unless they helped turn the crank, freezing the mixture.

From the smallest child to the teenager, each waited anxiously to take a turn. Each wanted his or her fair share of homemade ice cream. The older folks proved to be quite smart. After they had the container in place, packed in ice and rock salt mixed to speed the rate of melting, they launched the youngest child to take a turn of the crank. As the mixture solidified and the crank became harder to turn, teenagers took their turns. Finally the ice cream master took over. Only he could determine exactly when the ice cream was ready.

Then came the housewife with a dipper or big spoon and a large dishpan ready to receive the freezer’s dasher (the plunger with paddles used to agitate the mixture). This was the fun part: All the kids who had helped crank the freezer got a spoonful of ice cream right off the dasher. Then the lid was returned to the canister and the ice cream was set aside for a bit to “ripen,” hardening it for scooping.

But what about now? How many kids today know about homemade ice cream? Not many. And how often do you see old-time ice cream freezers on display at tractor shows? Not often. In fact, Jerry Volk, Crestline, Ohio, is one of very few collectors who display antique ice cream freezers.

Several years ago, Jerry’s church sponsored a festival, and the organizers wanted to serve homemade ice cream. Jerry located a man who had a 5-gallon White Mountain ice cream freezer powered by a John Deere stationary gas engine. He was persuaded to set up at the festival, and Jerry helped with the operation. The ice cream was so well received that the church made it a regular part of their annual event. Jerry found a freezer and small engine, and manned the contraption for several years.