Snow cones bring me full circle
Maybe this is simply a nostalgia piece from a guy over 60 who grew up in a small Southern town with not very many stoplights. Maybe these are modest reflections from a son with an almost 99-year-old mother. How can I talk about the good old days of the 1950s when her razor-sharp memory still channels the 1920s as though they were yesterday?
But I want to try, so here’s my story.
In my day, there were two sources of snow cones: In a Southern summer without soccer, basketball, lacrosse and every other sport claiming a spot on the calendar, there was baseball. I attended more than a few popular semi-professional games: more-than-makeshift stadiums, uniformed players, and not a legal beer anywhere to be had. I also played Little League and watched Little League games when not playing. Snow cones were what both had in common.
Besides baseball, the other snow cone venue was the county fair, or if you had a 4-H or farmer relative, the State Fair. For a kid on those hot, sultry nights at the fair with the fragrance of grease in the air, the music and buzz of the midway, and the whirling lights of the merry-go-round and Ferris wheel, nothing satisfied more than a snow cone. Grape, cherry, orange, lime: those were the choices.
The other evening, a couple of minutes from my house, I encountered a modern festival of folks of all ages. There was an airy, almost carnival-like feeling moving through the crowd. No one fussed. The reward was clearly worth the wait. Decisions came easily and with gasps of enthusiasm and anticipation. Patiently, a slow line moved to its inevitable result: a shaved ice rendition of a former snow cone in more than 100 flavor options.
The hour for closing came and went. If the employees were wishing the customers to disappear into the heat of the night, the owners were surely celebrating. How many places have you been to lately where friendly hordes were still sipping and slushing non-alcoholic treats well past the appointed hour?
I may not have been the oldest one in the crowd, although I didn’t spot any peers. I am sure that many present, young and old of different races and ethnicities, have had snow cone or shaved ice experiences at Myrtle Beach or at other vacation venues. Yet, here we were in Fort Mill, still a Southern town with not that many stoplights, and I wondered to myself: does anyone know that snow cones were once a great treat in a less air-conditioned world, and that they came in only a very few flavors?