The Valley Dairy Restaurant opened in 1938. I was born about 10 years later, in 1947. In 1963, or thereabouts, The Lamb Family moved from the Mountain House in Bedford County to Maple Drive in Somerset. The neighborhood was Rummel, named for the area’s first postmaster, John M. Rummel. The town was Windber, named after the Berwind-White Coal Mining Company.
Valley Dairy was at 3200 Graham Avenue, a stone’s throw from The Lamb House on Maple Drive. The business had been launched by Joseph Fleming Greubel. There was a tidy, well-lit restaurant out front — with counter and chairs — and an ice cream factory in back. That’s where I worked.
In addition to ice cream, Valley Dairy manufactured ice-pops on a stick called “Joe Pops.” They were handmade, and I was one of three pair of hands that helped make that possible. (The other two guys were Ron Vitucci and Gary Berkey.) Since I was the “newbie” on the team and lacked skills, I had the back-breaking task of filling heavy containers with flavored water, placing a stick-holding contraption on top of the ice-pop molds, and then lifting the trays and placing them into a series of tracks in a trough.
Water in the trough was salted in such a way that it froze the flavored water without freezing itself.
As trays were added to the troughs, they were pushed slowly through the freezing water. By the time they reached the end, the sticks were frozen in place, and the contraption holding them could be removed. The flavored ice-pops were then placed in small paper bags, and the ice-pop filled bags were placed into thin cardboard cases.
The cases were carried to the walk-in freezer — that was also my job.
When they hired me, the brothers running Valley Dairy told me that I could eat all the Joe-Pops I wanted. Brilliant strategy. Why? Because after a few days, I got so sick of the syrupy frozen concoctions that I stopped eating them — even though they were “free.”
As I recall, the brothers paid me 65 cents an hour, raising my pay to 75 cents an hour after the first week. (That was a lot of money at a time when a gallon of gas cost a quarter.)
After three weeks, the brothers had to cut back on staff. Since I was last hired, I volunteered to leave — and my first job came to an inglorious end.
NOTE: My lovely daughter-in-law signed me up at StoryWorth so my grandkids will have something to read about me when they grow up. I’ve decided to share bits and pieces of what I write for them on Medium. By the way, here’s the StoryWorth website: https://welcome.storyworth.com