One of the most fun ways to inspire 200 kids who are about to start kindergarten is to have a Popsicle party at the Memorial School playground. It happened again this year just before the school year began.
Medfield’s history with Popsicles goes back to the early 1950s. During Hurricane Carol in 1954, Medfield lost electricity for about a week in much of the town, and water was a foot deep on the south end of Pleasant Street. Lord’s Department Store at first marked down and eventually gave away melting Popsicles at the soda fountain. When the good weather and power returned, proper frozen Popsicles resumed their popularity and were being sold individually at Lord’s soda fountain and by the box at the First National and the A&P markets, which were in spaces now occupied by Casa Bella and Starbucks.
In the late 50s Lord’s expanded the store. Before the store closed for the construction project, many Medfield kids who liked Popsicles bought a great number and stashed them in their family freezers.
For a nickel, Lord’s sold double-stick Popsicles that were twice the size of today’s, as well as Fudgcicles (pronounced “fuj´ickle”) and Creamsicles and Dreamsicles. What used to sell for five cents now sells for more like a dollar. Regardless of the cost, over the last 70 years the town of Medfield has kept up with all that Popsicle tradition.
Today’s kids’ adventure is little different. In the 50s, when Medfield kindergartners went to that same Memorial Elementary School, they enjoyed playing, singing, drawing, and social interaction. The kids could put their lunch and snacks in their very own “cubby hole” that had their name and a number printed on the front. Going to school had a few of the children in tears after their moms and dads dropped them off for the first time. (Today it’s called separation anxiety, but the sentiment is the same.)
However, by the next school day most of those children were adjusting well to their new experience. At recess, the children could play on the small jungle gym and play dodge and kick ball. Back then the Memorial School only taught kindergarten, first, second and third grades. By the late 50s, the building was expanded to include grades four to six and an auditorium. It’s nostalgic to see that the cafeteria still has the long tables and seats folding into the walls.
The history of Popsicles dates back nearly to the turn of the 20th century. In 1905, eleven-year-old Frank Epperson left a cup filled with powdered soda, water, and a stirring stick on the family porch in San Francisco. That night low temperatures caused the mixture to freeze – and a summertime staple was born. Today, two billion Popsicles are sold every year.
Frank knew he had a great idea on his hands, and he kept making the pops for his friends and family. Years later he made them for his own children. In 1923, Epperson filed for a patent for his invention. Up until then, he had been calling the frozen treat “Eppsicles,” but his children insisted on calling them “Pop’s sicles.” The latter name stuck, and the Popsicle was born.
The frozen treat was an immediate success. In the early 1920s, an estimated 8,000 Popsicles were sold for just five cents and came in seven flavors: cherry, orange, grape, lemon-lime, strawberry, blue-raspberry, and tropical punch. Just a few years after the dessert debuted, the double-stick pop with two sticks allowed two hungry children to share a pop easily, for the same price as a single stick. Back then Popsicles were made with artificial flavoring and water, unlike the enormous method and variety sold today.
Popsicles are portioned-controlled, which limits over-consumption by those watching their waistlines and choosing to savor and sometimes eat sugar-free Popsicles. Today’s Popsicles are healthy, usually made from organic fruit picked at the height of the season. No wonder trendy Popsicles have popped up all over the country, from bodegas in Manhattan to the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.
There are many new flavors like coconut, root beer, banana, blueberry mixed in vanilla ice cream just to name a very few. There are also many other Popsicle-like treats that have become part of the market. Those frozen desserts are available as Italian ice and also “slush,” which is nearly the same as Italian ice with ground ice crystals and one’s chosen syrup added on the top and sold by street vendors. From its humble beginning to what they have now become, Popsicles will always retain their great popularity no matter what time of year it may be for children and for the young at heart.