One of my favorite things about summer is Ice Cream! You can enjoy it year round, but it always seems more satisfying on the dog days of summer when you crave something cool to compliment the gorgeous sunshine. Most people feel the same way, but have you ever stopped to think about where your ice cream comes from?
Before it is delivered to the store, before it's processed and pumped into fancy containers, it comes from the farm. The dairy farm, to be precise. The delicious summer treat we all love begins with cows.
In my novel, A PASSING MIST, Gloria's family is one of many in Ridgely to keep a herd of dairy cows and to transport gallons of milk to the Breyers Condensing Plant on a daily basis. Before writing this novel, I never thought much about where my ice cream began. I just enjoyed a big bowl with a bit of chocolate syrup on top!
The milk received at Breyers was cooled and piped into thirty thousand gallon stainless steel tanks. The plant had a huge stainless steel vacuum cylinder, called a pan. With the help of steam and vacuum, the milk was condensed to a twelve percent cream, then piped into a cold wall tank for holding. The cream was then siphoned into one hundred pound milk cans and then conveyed on rollers to the box cars, well iced down. The north bound train would carry the loaded box car to the home plant in Philadelphia, PA. There, flavoring was added, the cream was frozen and packaged, and was ready to be enjoyed!
According to Tommy Rampmeyer, who worked at the plant, every two weeks the home plant sent a box of miscut slices to the Ridgely facility as a treat. He says that many employee's had to skip dinner on those days after having enjoyed a little much... Can't blame them there!
The starting pay was 27 cents an hour, which was far better than any other Ridgely businesses were paying during the war years. The company furnished white uniforms and caps, but we had to buy the rubber, steel-toed shoes. Each employee was allowed to take home two quarts of milk per working day.
After graduating from Ridgely High School, I continued to work at the milk plant until they closed the doors in 1962. This was a sad day for all the remaining workers, a loss to the farmers, and to the whole town of Ridgely."
Change and the current size and condition of Ridgely came with the general shift from railroad transportation to highways and trucks in the 1950s. As business and industry began to concentrate in larger urban areas, the factories and processing plants in Ridgely could no longer compete with larger and more modern facilities operated by regional and national corporations.
Today, Ridgely residents can enjoy farm-fresh ice cream at the Ridgely Pharmacy, Cafe, and Gift Shop on Belle Street. They serve many delicous flavors of Vanderwende's ice cream, handcrafted in Bridgeville, Delaware.