bumbershoots & waffle cones

bumbershoots & waffle cones

hey friends,

next up in the ongoing series of “jobs I’ve had” may have been my first food service experience…but it wouldn’t be my last. heh, which makes it sound way more ominous than it was, since I was serving ice cream at summer festivals.

so every summer Seattle has two big festivals in their Seattle Center (i.e. the park where the Space Needle is). it starts with the Folklife Festival over the Memorial Day weekend, and then wraps up with Bumbershoot during the Labor Day holiday. Folklife is geared more towards arts & crafts while Bumbershoot is more of a music festival. leave it to Seattle to name a summer fest after an umbrella. each festival is full of activities, vendors, and food…which is where I came in.

the sister of one of my best buds, Dave, ran a booths specializing in Fratelli’s Ice Cream and Dove Bars. and by specializing, I mean all we sold was cones of ice cream and ice cream bars. it kept things pretty simple. I have a lot of fond memories of working there. the day would go from slow, to crazy, and then back again to slow. or, if the weather was bad, we’d be practically dead. ice cream is one of those weather dependent type foods.

our days would start like this. wake up early in Bremerton, get a ride down to the ferry, sail across to Seattle, skateboard over to the center, put on an apron, start selling ice cream. at 10am you don’t sell a ton of waffle cones…but you do sell a few. most of the time before lunch we just hung out and hollared at passersby trying to convince with clever lines like “Free ice cream with napkin purchase”. eventually the lunch rush would hit and for several hours we’d be furiously scooping and serving ice cream. which is honestly not as easy as it might seem.

the problem was due to the fact that we were serving an “all natural” ice cream. now, you may wonder “Luke, how is all-natural a problem?” well, let me tell you. without all sorts of good chemicals to regulate the consistency, the melting point of the ice cream was very temperamental. when the tubs came off the truck they were super cold, and the ice cream was hard as a rock. we’d have to scrap off little shavings until we had enough to fill a cone. after an hour or so it had reached that perfect store-brand scoopable consistency and it was what you’d expect, easy pickings. from there is quickly turned into a gelatinous goop that was so gooey and stringy it was like trying to serve a cone full of melted cheese. try putting a two foot long string of vanilla into a cone… it’s not easy. the Dove bars were quiet a bit easier to deal with and they also made for an form of currency.

each day of our shift we’d get four Dove bars and basically an unlimited amount of scoop ice cream. who on Earth would eat four Dove bars a day? I don’t think anyone expect us to eat them…rather we got them to trade. for lunch you’d grab a couple bars then go to the turkey leg place, or the burrito shop, or whatever you felt like that day, poke your head in the back and ask if anyone wanted to trade. nine times out of ten, you’d walk away with a free lunch. it was a pretty sweet deal. especially for a poor teenager.

after inhaling the burrito there would still be time left on the lunch break, so that meant skateboarding at the nearby skate park. and not wanting to waste a moment, the fastest way to get there was by skating. sure, the Center was full of people, but when did that stop anyone? the trick to skateboarding through a crowd it just to make sure you’re moving faster than everyone else – that way you are dodging them, not visa versa. at least, that is what I would tell myself. in hindsight, it’s kind of miraculous that I never plowed anyone over.

the old Seattle Center Skatepark was quite formative in my skateboarding days. it’s the first place I learned how to “drop in” on a ramp, where I learned how to ollie on a pyramid, and one of the places where I first saw really, really good skaters in real life. sadly the steel and wood ramps are long gone. in the early 2000s the park was replaced with a concrete one, then a few years later it was bulldozed to make way for a parking lot (they gave money to build a new one in exchange). but that park w/ its simple quarter-pipes and pyramid remains a fond memory.

a quick skate session later, I was back at the ice cream stand serving the hungry masses. we’d work until the evening, then were free to enjoy the festival. I don’t remember to many of the acts, but I do remember going to see the Sex Pistols. at the time, I was very into punk rock, and the change to see one of the “founders” of the genre was pretty incredible. they sounded pretty much like their album and Dave and I both enjoyed seeing them perform. the one standout memory from that night was all the green plastic soda bottles being thrown on stage. I thought it was just a normal “punk” sort of thing to do…but later I’d learned that the band had recently done a “Mountain Dew” soda commercial, and they thrown bottles were probably a not so subtle commentary on them “selling out.” sheesh. being counter-culture is a tough gig.

here’s the offending commercial…

looking back, scooping ice cream was a pretty fun summer job, at least for the few hectic days I did it. I suppose if I’d worked at a Baskin’ Robins instead of summer festivals my experience would have been a bit different. what about you all? any fun summer gigs from high school?


p.s. sorry I don’t have any pictures from that job. maybe somewhere there’s a clip on a hi-8 tape…but for now it’s lost in the archive.

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