I grew up in a suburb of Chicago’s South Side. There, on the corner of 95th and 52nd, just about two blocks from my childhood home, was Dove’s ice cream parlor. You know Dove Bars, right? Well, I grew up on the original, hand-dipped handmade goodness that was the Dove bar.
The ice cream parlor was something that you don’t see anymore. You walked in and right there by the door was the chest freezer, where you could get a pint of homemade ice cream (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, coffee, peppermint and sometimes banana) or a Dove bar (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and my favorite, coffee.) They had booths with mint green vinyl seat cushions and chrome trim. There was a long case filled with handmade candies and then the bar, where you could spin around on a squeaky stool and watch them make your sundae or shake, to eat there or to take home. They served water in those paper cones with the metal cone holders. For some reason, as a child, that water in the paper cones just seemed like the best thing ever. Even the water tasted good. I couldn’t wait for the day I was old enough to actually work there.
It was always cool in there – it was an ice cream parlor, it had to be. But what I remember most was the distinct scent that Dove’s had. It had the smell of ice cream and cold. If there was a real Winter Wonderland of a place, it would smell like Dove’s.
Everything was handmade. The ice cream, the chocolates, the whipped cream, the hot fudge. The hot fudge actually sat in a big vat to stay warm, ready to pour over ice cream. My mother’s favorite was a hot fudge sundae. My dad’s was a pineapple shake. My best friend Ann loved the caramel sundaes, I preferred a strawberry sundae. I remember one summer, when Ann and I would go to Dove’s, get our sundaes and then take them to the old school nearby, climb up the fire escape and sit there, eating our sundaes and not worrying about life.
When my mom was pregnant with my brother and sister (who are twins), we three older kids were the happiest kids on the planet. Not because of the twins (no offense you two), but because my mother was constantly handing over that magical five dollar bill with orders to go to Dove’s and bring her a pint of ice cream or Dove bar, plus whichever the rest of us wanted. Pints and Dove bars were seventy-five cents each, so five dollars would cover it. We’d take the orders, run up the two blocks, dig through the freezer case for the goodies, and take them home. The great thing about getting a pint was that you could have some for later…unless someone stole it. Luckily, that rarely happened.
And then, one day, the unthinkable happened. Dove’s closed. See, they decided to go national with the Dove Bar, were bought by Mars, and so could shut down the ice cream parlor. It happened my sophomore year of high school. It was the main topic of discussion during my history class – the teacher came in and said “Did you hear?” Some hadn’t. Some had but hoped it wasn’t true. But it was.
It was the end of an era for my town. It was the beginning of lots of changes for my hometown. At this point, I don’t really recognize it. The corner shop where Dove’s was is still there, unlike other store fronts that were torn down to be replaced by strip malls and TGI Friday’s. But it’s not the same.
The same can be said for today’s Dove Bar. Oh, it’s good. But it’s not the handmade goodness dipped in dark chocolate that we got in wax paper bags stamped with the ice cream flavor. Chocolate. Vanilla. Strawberry. Coffee.
I would give anything for a coffee ice cream Dove bar. Those were the best, in my completely biased opinion.