Two American entrepreneurs claimed to have invented soft-serve ice cream: in 1936, Tom Carvel of the franchise brand bearing his name, and in 1938, inventors John Fremont "Grandpa" McCullough and his son, Bradley, co-founders of the Dairy Queen franchise. No matter who actually invented the product - a lighter, airier frozen confection dispensed from a machine - soft-serve caught on in America in a big way. By the 1950s, there was hardly a city that didn't feature at least one concrete block hut with a cheery name like Tastee Freez (celebrated in John Mellencamp's song "Jack & Diane"), Dairy Freeze, Dairy Dream, and Frosty Freez.
Oh, sure, you can still order a butterscotch shake or hot fudge malt or even a cinnamon shake. But some of the more wild swinging '60s flavors have long been crossed off the board, including tangerine, apricot, loganberry, coffee, tutti-frutti, red rose - does anyone remember what was in that concoction? - as well as pumpkin, eggnog, orange-pineapple and peppermint. I was tempted, the afternoon I was in there, to order a candy spice shake, but then I was lured away by the selection of soft-serve sundaes: butter pecan, caramel, chocolate, pineapple, hot fudge, cherry, butterscotch, and marshmallow.
Sam and Hugh Silvernale bought the business in 1997 after running it for a couple of years. It's clean as a pin but not very big: a couple of stools and three tiny booths. The booths are so small that if you squeeze in before chomping down on a healthy lunch of a chili burger, tater tots, a corn dog, a taco and a chocolate malt, you may not be able to get out of it.