“Strawberry swirl, butter pecan, banana, rum raisin!” – that was the introduction to the Dairymaid commercial, and as much of it as I can remember. It played on the radio regularly when I was a child, and I was always fascinated by the woman’s singsong delivery. I know you can’t feel it from looking at the words on the screen, but each flavour had its own little accent. Wait, here, let me just make a little voice note:
She made me want to go straight to the factory and pick up some ice cream.
My parents never bought Dairymaid ice cream, but my grandparents did. My grandfather took it upon himself to be their ice cream man, and I tagged along with him on many trips to the company headquarters. Buying from the warehouse was much different from picking up ice cream at the food store or a parlour. From the outside, Dairymaid was like any office building. Painted in the same light and dark blue colours of their logo, it looked pretty plain and uninviting. There were no pictures of ice cream or smiling children or dancing cows. The hard-at-work dairymaid on their sign was the only indication that there might be something tasty available inside.
The first part of the ritual was going into the front office. It was dark, with few, or no, windows; staff stood behind a high, dark brown counter. My Grandad would tell them what flavours he wanted to purchase – there was never only one – pay for the ice cream and wait for them to print him an enormous receipt. I’m talking analogous to a full 8.5×11 sheet of paper, but square, and with 3 copies: white, then yellow and lastly pink.
Receipt in hand, we’d leave the office and walk around the outside of the building to the back. We’d stand in part of the warehouse, close to the refrigeration area. There were often two or three other customers in the back there too, waiting to be served. A man would emerge from behind plastic flaps, take a look at our receipt and disappear back inside. He’d come back out with brown paper bags holding our half gallon tubs of ice cream, and scribble his signature on our receipt. These paper bags didn’t have handles, so we’d fold the tops over and tuck the edges under a few times to make carrying the ice cream to the car easier. Then we’d be off, on to our next errand or back home.
Dairymaid closed down a long, long time ago, and the factory is abandoned. The lawn in front of the building is high and overgrown. Greenery has taken over the parking lot, and as you can see there’s no path to the front door. I can’t say I miss it, because I never thought much of their ice cream. It did the job, but it wasn’t especially creamy or flavourful. I was only really interested in chocolate back then, though I imagine they filled a void with options like soursop and rum raisin, my Grandad’s favourites.
I drive past the headquarters almost every day now, on my way to work, and each time I think of Grandad and our trips together. He died several years ago, and I love(d) him fiercely, and I miss him all the time. He was everything a grandfather should be; more than that, he was an amazing, renaissance gentleman. Passing the factory, I think more about my Grandad than Dairymaid’s ice cream. I miss our trips together, but I’m so very thankful that we got to have them. ♥