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Enter the Net: Memories of ice cream trucks and El Cena Casa

March 25, 2013

By David Hughes

Just about each week I enjoy a long talk with a long-time friend during which he catches me up with what’s going on in town and we reminisce about the good old days and, of course, conversate on how to fix what’s wrong with the world.
We met in high school, first because I was attracted to his sister, but she felt she could do a lot better (grin,) and of course – she was right. But, our friendship was my introduction to the kids at Bauxite High School, who might as well as been from Mars before he and I started hanging out.
The first few years of my life I lived with my parents and three younger brothers at 508 East Street – just up the street from Cranks and Snearley’s (later known as the Whopper Burger. Today, my street is known as Cox Street – I guess because one of the fine families living on that street was the Cox’s (grin).
This week we were talking about how technology has changed since our tender years, and I realized that since my buddy grew up in the country his childhood memories about everyday life was a kid was vastly different than mine.
I was waxing nostalgic about some of my strongest memories, including the milk man who would come by the house several times a week and we would have all kinds of dairy goods delivered. Mother would give in and order chocolate mile every once in a while just by leaving a note in one of the glass bottles. We four boys though that was a miracle at the time.
My buddy said the milkman didn’t come to Sardis because a lot of the folks there had their own cows and chickens and had no need to leave notes. He said they just needed strong fingers to milk the cows and fast feet to run away from the mad hens …
Although the 50s brought electric refrigerators too many folks on East Avenue I can still remember the ice truck coming by on a hot day and the delivery guy dropping off big blocks of ice to those who still used that type of refrigeration. The delivery guy would pass out ice ships to the neighborhood kids who would beg them.
Man, they were good.
Perhaps the most welcome person in the summer was the ice cream man who would drive through the streets around East Side Elementary. You could always hear him coming because of the cheesy music playing through that tinny speaker on the front of his truck. That music wafting through the neighborhood was out signal to begin begging mom for whatever change she had so we could visit big-eyes to the truck and look at all the goodies for a nickel or a dime.
I always lusted after the blue or pink sherbet push-ups and on a hot day it was a race to eat it all before it melted…
My friend said the ice cream trucks also made it through the back roads on which his home sat, but sometimes they had to scrounge the money to get what they wanted.
A final neighborhood memory was when the city would come up our street once a year in the summer spraying liquid hot tar and laying down a blanket of pea gravel. It was pain of death if any of my brothers or I tracked in that mess. But, it was fun to watch and the smell of hot tar still brings back memories of those lazy summer days.
I was so proud to see in Tuesday’s Courier that Saline County is 95th fastest growing county in the nation and that most of the cities here continue to grow at a steady rate. However, it’s hard to believe the county now has more than 111,000 people with Benton hitting more than 31,000 folks and Bryant rocketing past 18,000.
I can still remember one of the photos I did for the old Pacesetter newspaper was of the water tower’s population figure being crossed out and the figure “15,020” added. That means Bryant is more populous that Benton in the early 1970s.
While all that sounds great, until our communications infrastructure is going to favor Bryant instead of Benton because it is the faster growing area. With that goes more than population. It means more homes being built, higher-paying, more technical jobs, etc. will gravitate there because technology brings the people. If an area has better Internet service and/or cable television service then it’s a priority area for new folks who do not have any family or political ties when they decide where to live.
Bryant is also closer to Little Rock which is a draw for folks who work there.
Several weeks ago I noticed a couple of stories in the paper about how several popular food trucks from the Little Rock area have increased their relative areas to include Benton and Bryant. Those things are really big here in Northern Virginia and they packed wherever they stop. This is primarily because of social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
These restaurants on wheels may have a relatively static web page on which they feature their menus of the day and routes, but those in the know sign up for Twitter and FB feeds to know their exact itineraries.
One thing I have noticed on FB is that from time-to-time the relatives of the former owners of the old El Cena Casa restaurant will notify their customers to show up at Riverside Grocery if they want a cheese dip, enchilada and other “fix” from the old recipes. It’s my understanding they sell out in a very short time and if you are late, you lose.
While that’s not a food truck, I’ll bet someone could make a ton of money using those great tasting recipes on a food truck. Using social media even just a few days a week and traveling all around the county …. Ummmmmm, think of the possibilities thanks to technology.

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