Monday, August 28, 2006

Pineapple Sherbet

One day last week the weatherman at my local television station reported the day’s heat index as 117 degrees.

Earlier that afternoon I had been running errands for my wife. My children were with me. One of our errands placed us near Kamper Park in my hometown of Hattiesburg. As a child I spent countless days in that park during the summer months. Funny thing, I don’t ever remember being too hot. Running, swinging, sliding, and jumping in the Mississippi heat with more energy than I’ll ever know again never slowed me down, the temperature outside never mattered.

However, last week’s heat slowed my pace considerably. Maybe it was age. I was certainly feeling all of my 44 years, maybe more.

As we drove down the road that led to the park, I showed my children— a nine-year old girl and a five-year old boy— the place where I ate ice cream as a child. It was an ice cream parlor owned by the Seale-Lily Ice Cream Company.

The “Seale-Lily” as it was known around town, was a soda fountain of the standard 1950s/1960s variety, which served ice cream in bowls and cones, sundaes, splits, milk shakes and light sandwiches. I held the place in high regard.

At the Seale-Lily I only ate pineapple sherbet. It was my favorite then and it is my favorite today, when I can find it. When making homemade ice cream, my family usually prepared vanilla or peach. To me, homemade peach ice cream tastes like summer, but pineapple sherbet tastes like my youth.

I am not sure what it was about pineapple sherbet that steered me away from the typical childhood choices of chocolate and strawberry. It has only occurred to me as I write this column that pineapple sherbet might be a strange choice for a kid.

Today a liquor store occupies the space where the employees of the Seale-Lily scooped thousands of cones.

My children asked about the Seale-Lily and wanted to know if there was a place in town that served pineapple sherbet. Hattiesburg has several ice cream shops which offer excellent gourmet ice creams, varieties in every color and flavor, places where exotic candies and fresh fruits are mixed by hand to one’s selection. I am a regular at The Marble Slab Creamery and my waistline is a testament to those visits. However, I couldn’t think of one place that serves pineapple sherbet.

At 44, I might not be as active as I was at six years old, but I am much more resourceful. After thinking for a minute, I walked over to the Sunflower grocery store that anchors the shopping center that housed the Seale-Lily and bought a quart of pineapple sherbet and a box of hard-plastic spoons.

I drove my children next door to the park and took them to the giant gazebo that has been there as long as I have been alive. We sat at a picnic table in the sweltering August heat, no cones, no air conditioning, no worries, and ate pineapple sherbet straight out of the box.

In an instant I forgot about the heat. I watched as my children ate with abandon and wondered if one day they would tell their kids about the joys of pineapple sherbet in the hot Mississippi heat.

Do yourself a favor, today; buy your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter, or friend some ice cream. Whether it’s in a cone or straight out of the box, you’ll be making memories for you and them. Pineapple sherbet or not, you’re likely to forget about the heat and humidity, but you’ll never forget the joy of eating ice cream with a child.


hudedog said...

Hi Robert, I am Robert also. I grew up in Hattiesburg as Bobby, now just Bob. I have very fond memories of Seale-Lily there. We always had the Orange floats! My Granddad owned Smith's Bicycle Shop on Newman Street right across from the depot. It, like Seale-Lily is gone now. My Orange floats were in the 40's. I just watched the movie "My Dog Skip" and Frankie Muniz walked his Schwinn bike right under one of those huge signs they used to paint on the sides of the buildings back then. It was a Seale-Lily sign. I looked up Seale-lily and found your blog. Funny I don't remember getting hot either except for the bottoms of my feet crossing those asphalt streets! Enjoyed your story! Bob Smith

Anonymous said...

Robert, thanks for the memory ... and for putting it in print. When my Uncle Buster Britt and his wife, Ann Seale Britt, ran the Seale-Lily, later run by their son, Gerald, Hattiesburg was truly a different place. In some wonderful ways, such as the Purple Parrot and Crescent City Grill, it has certainly improved. But, in others, it is not. The memory of Seale-Lily, in Hattiesburg and elsewhere in Mississippi, is something we share ... and may enjoy again one day. Keep writing your wonderful stories with that fantastic talent. Steve Seale

Larry Warren said...

Seale-Lily Ice Cream Company close the doors to the manufacture of ice cream the week before Christmas in 1981. A very sad day for the employees that worked there. Borden Ice Cream Company bought the entire operation from the Seale family and eventually moved the entire operation out of 110 E. Griffith Street. The memories always hit me hard this time of the year, because of my working at this location since May of 1970. My name is Larry D. Warren, and live in Magee, MS. I was the last Plant Manager for Seale-Lily, I was an ice cream specialist. God has blessed me with other doors opening and memories will remain.

Tommy Gentry said...

Circa 1946, I would walk down from my grandfather's sheet metal shop and climb upon the stool at Seale-Lillys on Main...and order the chocolate malt. I always wondered how the soda glasses always had a thin layer of frost as the soda jerk poured the shake from the stainless steel milkshake mixer cups. I called Tom Schutze a few years ago and asked him how he achieved the frosty soda glasses. He said that the soda glasses were kept in a cooler and that a spray from a water-filled atomizer would achieve that result. I suspect that the atomizer was kept at room temperature.

Anyone remember Woody Assaf?