Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Desperately Seeking Ice Cream

From cheese - to a suggestion I write about ice cream from the lovely Hannah at Whatevers Left UK Chart site - so yeah, why the hell not...

Desperately Seeking Ice Cream

Who was the genius who made up the childhood chant "I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ice cream?" - do people who make up childhood chants get credited? Artists rights? Royalties? Who was the first guy at a football game or whatever to start support by just spelling the teams name. "Give us a G" "Why?" "Just go with me..." "What do I do?" "Just when I say give us a G, you say G" "Why?" "Just do it! We'll spell the teams name!" "Can't we just say the teams name?" "NO! Spelling is inspirational!"

But I digress - I said before candy is the most illicit of substances for a child, but ice cream signifies a more special treat. To be honest, candy was everwhere, and cheap - 1c, 2c - but ice cream? That could cost a whole 20c minimum. Whenever I think of ice cream I think of the song "Pleasure and Pain" by the Divinyls, which posited there was a fine line between pleasure and pain. Ice cream was like that - it could bring joy and it could bring misery. And the biggest causer of pleasure was the treat that was the Golden Gaytime - an ice cream named in more innocent times, a yummy treat containing nuts, and nougat and which was also so cold on first bite, it hurt your teeth. It was a good ache though, a slight tremble ran through the eater as they enjoyed such a treat. It was (before Vodka laced Magnums) the high end of the ice cream spectrum.

There was a milk bar Claire and I visited on one of our trips to Tasmania, in a town called Pengiun, so called because once, fairy penguins were spotted there. There a milk bar we went into, and there was a moustached man behind the counter. He was putting salt on chips, even though we were the only two people in town, just in case someone needed chips NOW damn it. He had a giant signed John Farnham poster behind the wall, and green plastic garden furniture all through his store, that we figured he took home at the weekends. It took a moment to register he had customers, but when he did, he slowly put the salt down and looked at us calmly. He didn't speak, he just nodded slowly. I pointed to two Golden Gaytimes in the freezer. "Sorry...two Choc Wedges?" he said, smiling. "No," I said, pointing again, while Claire tried to demolish an antique version of Pacman by hitting the buttons too hard. "Two Bubble O Bills?" he said, motioning to another boy, his son I presume, as if my request was too difficult. "No, two Golden Gaytimes!" I said, shaking my head. At this point, the son and father bonded with a look, and then had a hearty chortle. He handed over the ice creams, saying "Enjoy your...Gaytime!" and waving us off, laughing at us as if we'd told him the one about the three nuns and the runaway rabbit.

We've often wondered about this, and whether he did this to everyone. Whether eventuallly the towns folk passed an ordinance to ban the sale of Golden Gaytimes from his store, or a passing gay rights activist had one day found this offensive, and complained. Maybe this was just the only way he could communicate to his son, the only common bond they shared. Or maybe, they laughed when anyone wanted an ice cream, chuckling at people buying Eskimo Pie's or Redskin Splits...

The Redskin Split was a strange ice cream, the kind your mum bought you when she had no money left in her purse, the lower end of the ice cream spectrum. It was like an Icy Pole, but with ice cream in the middle. It cost 20c back in the day, and doled out as an irregular treat round our house. One of my favourite memories in life is that once, my Dad, doing some work for charity, received about 100 Redskin Splits he was meant to distribute to the poor, but instead, he just bought all 100 and gave them to us. I hope the delivery guy gave the money to charity. Also, oddly, there was a Green Redskin split, which seemed to defeat the purpose.

My first best friend was called Emma Cobb, a pudgy girl with mannish hands, but a fantastic taste in back packs that I hope outlasted our friendship. Text books try and tell you a girl changes in puberty - real girls know the biggest change in any girl comes in the summer between age 5 and 6 when girls discover something more powerful than boys or drugs or all that other so called life changing stuff. They discover the power of being a bitch. They discover gossip, and very quickly form the cliques that will set them up for their high school life. One or two will even discover that if they just share a little bit of their lunch with the boys, and say that anything anyone carries "totally sucks", they can climb the social ladder.

Emma Cobb went from being a normal kid who liked stamps and running really fast into walls (well, avoiding them at the last minute) to a moody ball of angst, who cried when her lunch order bag was late, and who wouldn't do colouring in or play with lego because "it was for babies". One day, in the playground, I was munching on one of the 100 Redskin Splits we had (I think we had about 70 left at that point) when Emma Cobb came up to me, and wordlessly took it out of my hand, and threw it on the ground. I stood stunned, coming face to face with my first experience of bullying, of someone deliberately ruining something for pleasure. It was a pivotal moment, one that would set up my life. Word got round the Grade 1 playground quickly - "come quick, Alyson is having her first experience of bullying, let's hope she cries!"

I could have hit her. Well, I could have aimed a slap at her blotchy face. I could have walked away. I could have cried, given the masses what they wanted. Instead, out of nowhere, I screwed up my face, smoothed my brunette hair with my left hand, looked at the fallen ice cream, offered a moment of silent reflection, and hit the big Grade 1 1-2 punch...

"Oh...that was so funny, I forgot to laugh! Just cos your family is too poor for ice creams!"

Too poor for ice creams! I had hit her where it hurts. If needs be, I could have started up a chant about picking her nose, rubbing it in the dirt and eating it for desert, but the damage was done. Emma ran away to the corner of the playground crying, and didn't speak to me for the rest of our primary school lives, unless forced to be my partner in something. I realised then that I wasn't cut out to be a bitch, that I would embrace my role in life was to be a benny, dispassionate to social standings. Emma Cobb moved to Adelaide at the end of Grade 5, having seemingly made peace with the world, even bringing lamingtons to her farewell party.

There's a fine line between pleasure and pain? There's a finer line between ice creams bringing people together and tearing people apart - life is based on the motto - the better it tastes, the more people want it...it took ice cream to teach me that lesson...


Blogger Edward O said...

Two things:

1. I was thinking of doing a Mike Stock/Fast Food Rockers and creating an extremely hyperactive, bad, uptempo dance version of the I Scream For Icecream chant. This concept, along with plans for a similarly hyperactive dance version of "I know a song that'll get on your nerves" or The Song That Doesn't End from Lamb Chop's Play-a-long, has now been shelves.

2. Can you remember the name of that ice cream that was vanilla icecream, covered in chocolate, with small bits of nougat in the coating? It's driving me bloody nuts and nobody can remember what it was called. I ate many of them ca. 1992 and WANT ANOTHER.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Alyson with a Y said...

I think the world needs more hopscotch type songs too - or skipping rope songs - and I think such a version would totally rule the playground!

I know the ice-cream you mean - it wasn't called Rocket was it? I just think everything in 1992 bowed to the Push pop though!


11:05 PM  
Blogger Edward O said...

Don't push me! Push a push pop!

Rocket, it could have been. It wasn't made by Peters or Streets or any of the big guns, if I remember it correctly, which obviously I don't.

3:28 AM  
Blogger Doris said...

Speaking of icecreams and a blast from the past, does anyone remember an icy pole called "Pink Pussycats"?. They were around in the 70s (I really am old) and were similar to Redskin Splits except were vanilla icecream with a pink (strawberry or raspberry) ice over the top. It was definately Pink, not red.

It's driving me nuts as I can't find any reference to the icecream of that name. I believe they only came in packs - not individual. If anyone can help me I would appreciate it as I am doing a heritage scrapbook album for my mum.

Thanks heaps.


7:02 AM  
Blogger lastAutumn said...

Never thought a product can cause philisophical reflections like these... Credits to all the commentors and the blooger, of course!

1:52 AM  

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