Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Learning Is Sweet at the Atlanta History Center

Recognizing that anytime is a good time for ice cream treats, the Atlanta History Center (AHC) is now featuring Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop, an interactive family-focused exhibition documenting and celebrating the popularity of ice cream. The exhibition, open until May 26, is presented locally by Mayfield Dairies, with additional support from Publix Super Markets Inc. and Publix Super Markets Charities.

Last summer, the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio, created Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop to bring to light the history, art and technology of American ice cream. Noting that smooth, sweet ice cream is as common and convenient as the grocery store that carries it, this exhibition takes a look at ice cream's past. In fact, this dish was once so costly and laborious that it was only set before Renaissance kings and courtiers. All aspects of ice cream's history are explored - from those early beginnings to the secrets of the great soda jerks, the origins of the cone, the art of proper dipping and some of the greatest ice cream formulas of the past. The Atlanta History Center is the first organization to showcase the exhibition since its original opening and the largest Southeast location currently booked to exhibit it.

According to the USDA, the total U.S. production of ice cream and related frozen desserts in 2000 amounted to more than 1.6 billion gallons, translating to 23 quarts per person. But this isn't a recent phenomenon. Our nation's affection for ice cream has been a long love affair. It is said that George Washington served ice cream, still a labor-intensive treat, at state affairs. In 1812, Dolley Madison served a strawberry ice cream creation at President Madison's second inaugural banquet at the White House.

The exhibition not only looks at the historical origins of ice cream; it also stirs up memories of recent decades when popular ice cream trucks and local attractions intertwined fun and food. While Atlanta's changes in growth and population are more recognizable, it's fun to ponder the city's own history with dairy products like ice cream:

* In the 1930s, DeKalb County boasted more dairies than any single county outside the state of Wisconsin.
* For three decades, more than 250 school children per day learned about dairy products at the R. L. Mathis Dairy in Decatur, each going away with a button proclaiming: "I milked Rosebud," the dairy's onsite cow. In a fun twist, the Atlanta History Center is offering 2-for-1 admission to the exhibition for any person who brings in an "I milked Rosebud" button during the showing.
* Residents longing for a cool treat in 1959 might have visited Wilson's Ice Cream Store at N. Decatur Plaza, or the Tastee Freez at either Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Chamblee or on Jonesboro Road in Forest Park.
* The clanging of bells on 42 ice cream trucks, operated by Atlanta-based Frosty Treats, might still be heard within your neighborhood. They have been an Atlanta tradition for over 30 years.

On Mondays during the month of April, the AHC is offering Magic Mondays, a fun program designed for children aged 1-4. Magic Mondays are designed to give children the opportunity to delve into the Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop while learning colors and shapes, participating in fun arts and crafts, and enjoying cool treats provided by Mayfield.

To learn more about Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop or Magic Mondays, visit the Atlanta History Center's website.