Hokey Pokey Snow Cones

The following column was written by the late Edie Peden and published in the Oct. 2, 1996 edition of the New Castle Weekly. Article courtesy Rosemarie Neville, photo courtesy John Ioannoni.

Three generations ago, children waited anxiously each summer evening for the familiar cry of "Hokey Pokey Snow Ball!" This sound was accompanied by a bell, and the crunching of large wooden wheels on gravel roads. Johnny, of Italian heritage, his dark hair barely showing above the wheels, pushed his cart through the streets of New Castle. The cart, painted white, had large wheels with colorful spokes. On top was a chunk of ice and an ice scraper. Paper cones sat alongside bottles of flavors, their colors sparkling in the sun. Our mouths watered as we watched him manually scrape the ice crystals, throw them into a cone, then douse them with flavors. Those of the modern generation walk into a store and buy a "Water Ice". Missing is the excitement of hearing the bell, running home to get a nickel or dime and speeding out to catch the cart before it disappeared from your street. Sounds like the J&J Ice Cream truck? No comparison! Fifty years ago kids didn't worry about autos as they skipped alongside the cart. Boys clad in knickers volunteered to push for awhile, hoping to get a free snow ball - then they couldn't decide what flavor they wanted - orange? peach? melon? strawberry? The flavors were all home prepared by Johnny's wife, Rose, after a trip to Philadelphia to buy the special syrup. The recipe was their secret and there has never been one quite so flavorful. For years children of all ages danced beside the Hokey Pokey cart until John became ill and the cart was pushed one last time into the shed alongside his home. The bell was quiet and John was gone. Time passed. A new generation. Rose remarried and decided to resurrect the cart once more, but only on her front lawn. The word went out! The Hokey Pokey cart was back again with the original flavors. And people from the city and suburbs drove in (just across "The High Bridge") to buy a snow ball. Rose's husband, Bill, would sit in his lawn chair and watch while Rose carried on with her tradition. It wasn't long before children realized that if you could get Rose talking, she would keep pouring on the flavor until it was very thick and delicious. Also, this new couple acquired an electric ice scraper and each time they misjudged the amount for a cone, some lucky neighborhood youngster got a free sample. But alas, as all good things end, so did the Hokey Pokey era. Once again the bell became silent. But there are those of us who will never buy a snow cone without picturing that archaic cart, and hearing the nostalgic cry of "Hokey Pokey Snow Ball!"