National Ice Cream Month Conjures Up Recollections of a Kathy Johns I.C. Girl
Posted on July 20, 2014
Write-Up & Photo by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
As someone who spent her college years scooping ice cream at a popular ice cream and sandwich shop, I particularly enjoyed a recent article highlighting July as national ice cream month in Yankee Magazine’s New England Minute. The writer spoke of her days working in an ice cream store and recognizing customers for what they ordered.
When I wasn’t waiting tables, I was assigned to “i.c.” at Kathy Johns in Storrs, Connecticut, located at the Four Corners about one mile from the University of Connecticut campus. That meant on a given night I made all the sundaes ordered. On Sunday nights, when students returned to campus often with their families in tow, lines overflowed out the door throughout the evening so there was a never ending stack of orders and steady scooping from when my shift started at 5 p.m. often to midnight – the shop officially closed at 11 p.m. but late orders still had to be completed.
The “i.c.” area was situated in a far corner of the restaurant which had an “ice cream parlor” ambience and circa 1890’s theme – the staff wore Victorian era styled hats with girls clad in neck high white, ruffled shirts accented by a cameo pin, black skirts and ruffled aprons while the guys wore red and white striped shirts, bow ties (I think) and black trousers. Immediately next to “i.c.” was a long row of refrigerated spaces with silver colored flip-top lids that held huge buckets of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, more vanilla and then the less common flavors, such as peanut butter fudge, with the current specials filling the last four spots.
The store owner, Kathy, was said to travel up and down the East Coast looking for new menu ideas. When the storefront freezers had to be cleaned we would form an ice cream bucket brigade and pass the huge, bulky, heavy and cold containers down the line to where they were placed in the back freezer.
It never occurred to me to wear a pedometer but I must have logged hundreds of miles walking back and forth to create sweet sensations such as brownie sundaes, banana splits with a scoop each of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry or flavors of choice and three different toppings, pineapple, chocolate syrup and strawberries, KJ clowns, and my personal favorite – an autumn, seasonal Spiced Gingerbread Sundae made with a generous square of gingerbread, vanilla ice cream, ( I preferred it with praline pecan), spiced marshmallow topping, a dollop of pecans and a spiral of whipped cream with a cherry on top.
I too can still remember who ordered which flavors, including friends such as Nick and his lime freezes and Jim and those Sunday night strawberry sundaes. Meanwhile, on virtually every supper break I had a small garden salad with extra shredded cheddar cheese and sweet and sour dressing . When I gave into the temptation it was generally around Thanksgiving for one of those spiced gingerbread delights.
One evening a little boy came in with his parents, they were regular customers who always sat in a booth. On this night they sat on stools at the counter close to where I was working. When it came time for dessert, sure enough the little guy ordered just as he had so often before, a KJ clown, which was a single, large scoop of ice cream in a dish with candies for eyes and a nose, and an upside down sugar cone hat decorated with dabs of whip cream then crowned with a whole cherry on the tip.
It was the responsibility of the servers who took the orders to deliver them, however, whenever I was on “i.c.” and was able to, I would help out with deliveries. Or, if I had a chance and there was someone special in the shop I would try to bring the order myself. This little guy qualified as someone special. When I turned to set his KJ clown down in front of him, there in his hand was a pin he had made for me in a craft class with the Kathy Johns logo. Such a touching surprise.
Another charming memory is of one evening when a boy I was dating came by for a cone – well – really to say hello to me. There we stood on opposite sides of the counter leaning towards each other, gazing into each other’s eyes, him with that cone in his hand, as I lived a Norman Rockwell moment!
Kathy Johns is also where I met my best friend during college, Becca. We both attended UConn and were what might be called “type-A” personality waitresses – the busier we were, the better we liked it.
Closed in 2009, Kathy Johns no longer exists. The building that housed it was torn down about a year ago and replaced with a large convenience store.
Nonetheless, thanks to America’s affection for ice cream, I have some treasured recollections of my time as a K Js i.c. girl.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream month in the United States and the third Sunday in July, that is today, as National Ice Cream Day. According to channel 8’s WFLA, in celebration Carvel will offer 80 cent soft serve cups and cones today. As well, throughout July, Baskin Robbins is offering a free waffle cone upgrade with the purchase of a double scoop of ice cream.
I so miss kathy John’s. Any idea how to get date nut bread recipe and where to find or buy onion relish for those great cheddar burger”s
Unfortunately, I do not. Those are some of the popular menu items I miss myself, as well as, the roasted peppers atop the cheddar burgers and Hodgepodge soup. Perhaps the former owners might know the answer.-JB
I thought of Kathy Johns today for the first time in more that 30 years and found your post on a search. Thank you for reminding me of all of the cool things I had forgotten about, especially the cool uniforms. Back in the late 70’s & early 80’s I remember the always busy Westfarms Mall location. During that time KJ’s served a massive sundae that I think may have been free if it could be finished by one person. Either way, it was the largest sundae I had ever seen. I do recall, at least at the Westfalls location that they rang a bell whenever it was served. Do you have any memories of that and the name of it?
I worked at the Storrs location so I cannot speak to the West Farms site, but yes I remember a super large sundae – I made many of them. When delivered we would ring a bell.
Thanks! Things sure have changed. Here is Austin it’s about things like Lemon Lavender, or Roasted Beets and Mint ice cream and ice cream shops that specialize in hard liqueur ice cream drinks. Or “earth friendly, sustainable” ice cream. KJ’s harkens back to a simpler time. Thanks again.