23 June 2007

All Hail, Frank Epperson!

Frank Epperson died in 1983, but his dream certainly lives on here at the Blake-Plock house.

Epperson was the inventor of the ice pop -- more commonly known in these humid summer environs as the almighty Popsicle. The year was 1905. A young San Francisco boy is experimenting with soda-water and leaves a glass and a stirring stick out on the porch overnight. The temperature dips precipitously. In the morning: one big old popsicle. Fast forward to 1924 where the adult Epperson patents his ice pop and works out a business deal with the Popsicle Corporation. Alas, that fateful year: 1929! Epperson's future in the popsicle world was not to be; the Crash forced the man to liquidate his assets -- and he pulled out of the popsicle dream a broken man.

Around these parts, however, we just won't let the ice pop dream die.

Nothing says 'summer' like glazed ice and corn syrup. The lower mid-Atlantic being one of the more unforgiving humid climates on the East Coast, we take our ice pops seriously. Though the more traditional popsicle on a stick is certainly never turned down when offered, much more common around my house is the streamlined Fla-Vor-Ice pop. This is the concoction that comes in the cellophane tube. It requires a bit more work, but in my opinion pays out better dividends.

All summer, the kids and I cut the tops off these cellophane-encapsuled wonder drugs. One of the most iconoclastic things about the Fla-Vor-Ice is how the several of the colors (especially blue and red) actually fail to correspond to any natural fruit flavor known to humankind. They exist solely for the purpose of injecting cold corn syrup into young (and old) bodies. But, man, they are good. I found that one can reach a certain nirvana (or perhaps 'freeze-induced delirium') by racing through a small handful of sticks. Caveat emptor, however: the withdrawal is downright nasty.

As I watch my three kids eating the pops and racing around the yard, I am reminded of my own childhood. The thing that made the Fla-Vor-Ice seem such an attainable dream was that it was affordable even to us kids. Cutting a single lawn would haul in enough money for a week's worth of sticks. Alas, it seems that Epperson's popsicle has become the mainstay of a more Epicurean class, for a recent trip to the grocery produced the unpleasant awareness that I -- as a thirty-two year old man with a steady income -- could not afford anything more than the most vile and slimy underbelly popsicles available on the market. In the present, it seems that fruit juices and vitamins have won out over the injectable corn syrup and soda water of the popsicles' origin. But that's alright. I'm sure that Mr. Epperson would be happy to see nutritious benefits (or at least less hazardous by-products) that the good-for-you popsicle market offers.

As for me, I'll continue to live in the wake of the young Epperson's 'Eureka' moment. And I'll keep cool this summer on a steady diet of glazed ice.

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