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HISTORY OF CUMMINS ICE CREAM

In the summer of 1934, two young men of the village of Hebron decided to start on a business venture. Earl Cummins and Guy Kirk started making homemade ice cream and set up a roadside stand in a little “shack” which they had moved to a lot on the south side of W. Main Street, which would have been just east of Hamilton Avenue. They made their own mix, cranked the freezers by hand, and then transferred the ice cream to 5 gallon cans and took them for storage to the Hebron Ice House which is now a residence at 409 E. Main Street. They brought the 5 gallon cans of hardened ice cream back to their place of business as needed where ice cream cones, quarts and pints were sold. During the summer people were learning of this unusual place to get a good summer treat and then finally a state inspector stopped to make a call. It was near the end of the season and when he gave them a list of improvements which would have to be made to their building, they closed for the season.

In April 1935 Earl Cummins and Dorothy Hamilton were married. When Guy decided he didn’t want to continue with the business they had started the summer before, Dorothy and Earl made the improvements to the building and continued another summer in the business by the side of the road. Another summer they cranked the freezers by hand, stored the 5 gallon cans at the ice house and sold cones, quarts and pints of ice cream. More and more people were learning of this place and during the summer many regular customers were acquired.

During the winters of 1935 and 1936, Earl and Dorothy Cummins built a house on the vacant lot, which is now 808 W. Main Street and almost directly across the street from where they had started. Earl and Dorothy’s father built the building themselves. On the back of the lot they built a cement block building, which was used for manufacturing ice cream. At this time they still made their own mix and installed a 5 gallon Tuthill electric freezer. A hardening room was built in this building. The room across the front of the house was used for their ice cream store. All was finished and the opening set for June 22, 1936. The newspaper advertisement read

“FREE ICE CREAM CONES”

given the first day for a certain length of time. Long before the set hour for opening there were several local youngsters sitting on the front steps waiting. It was a good summer for their first year of a permanent ice cream business. Cones were sold for 5 cents, pints 25 cents and hand packed quarts 35 cents. In the fall of 1936 when naturally the ice cream sales slowed, they decided to add to their line of products; sandwiches, soup, etc. The new menu read – hamburgers 5 cents, chips 5 cents, chili 10 cents, milk shakes 15 cents. Since this location was near the Hebron School, they served many students who came for lunch. Usually two rooms were packed with the high school students during the lunch hour.

In 1937 chicken dinners were added as one of their specials, along with homemade pies. More clientele became regular customers. “Cummins” became a place of extraordinary activity. Even down to the night when Dorothy and one other employee were working in the restaurant and two young men entered and gave their order. When Dorothy served them , one man pulled a gun and the other went to the cash register and emptied it. Dorothy engaged in a conversation loud enough to attract Earl’s attention, as he was in their living quarters upstairs. When Earl discovered the boys had a gun, he went for his gun and broke the glass in the upstairs window and shot at them as they ran for their car. He didn’t hit them but I’m sure he gave them some second thoughts. They were later apprehended when the one boy, who was a minister’s son, confessed his part in the crime, solving the robbery.

In the fall of 1939, Earl acquired a full time position of “Ice Cream Maker” for the Furnace Company of Newark, Ohio, which later merged with and became the Borden Company. He also continued making the “Cummins Ice Cream” which was 14% butterfat.

During the year 1941 Earl entered the service and Dorothy continued managing the business. After Earl’s return he worked full time at the Alcoa plant, which is now Kaiser Aluminum between Hebron and Newark, and continued with the ice cream freezing for their place of business.

In 1944 they closed the business and remodeled the house for their home. The ice cream business evidently was their “first love,” because in May 1945 they decided to once again open “The Cummins Ice Cream Store.” They added to the cement block building which they had originally used for freezing only and had their freezing room in the back and sales room in the front. They also added a line of groceries and obtained two milk routes with delivery door to door.

In 1960 they enlarged their store again, adding more groceries and an extended horseshoe ice cream bar. Prices read – Ice cream cones 10 cents, half gallons 98 cents, quarts 60 cents, pints 30 cents, hot fudge sundae 30 cents, sodas 30 cents, banana splits with 2 giant scoops of ice cream and all the trimmings 50 cents.
And as always, they continued with the same quality ice cream. People knew of this ice cream store for miles around. You couldn’t mention it anywhere but people had heard of it or had made many visits there. It was always a busy place but especially on weekends. The cars would be lined down the streets and alleys to wait and get some of their favorite treat. On one Sunday alone, 4000 cones were sold along with all the other products.

In 1966, still another line was added. They built on another room and added Admiral Appliances. Selling and serving all their products.

Dorothy and Earl were joined in the business by their son Steve, after he finished high school. Of course he had one job or another around the plant for quite awhile. Many young people of the community had worked at Cummins one time or another while they were still in school and some later. Often more than one from a family. It was a good place for summer jobs or an extra place for employment.

Cummins Ice Cream was family operated until they retired and sold the property in 1977. In 1979, Sherman and Evelyn Clay purchased the property. Slowly, they started phasing out the grocery line of the business and added more to the menu. Sherman continued to make the ice cream in the original equipment.

In 1997, Sherman and Evelyn’s youngest daughter Glenna and her husband Mark, took over the operations. They changed the name to Clay’s Cafe and have added a full line of menu items and also have an offsite catering business. Mark and Glenna continue to sell great ice cream.

Written by Mildred Hamilton Morrow, Dorothy’s sister and the first employee of Cummins Ice Cream with additions by Glenna Jones

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