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Here's the delicious scoop on summer jobs

Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors — and this reader

Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors — and this reader tried them all. He found working at an ice cream shop is a job that couldn't be licked. Credit: BSK/Michael Indresano

After three years of mowing lawns and occasionally baby-sitting, I realized it was time to get a real job. I was 17.

It was 1973 and my friend Phil McCabe told me a position was available at the Roy Rogers restaurant in Greenvale. It would be fun, he said. I would be working with Phil and high school classmates Diane Ludder and Laura Weil. And we had some happy times. We were told to answer the phone with, "Howdy, pardner, Roy Rogers Family Restaurant. How may I serve you?" But when the boss wasn’t around, we’d shorten it to, "Roy Rogers. What’s your beef?"

The fun, though, didn’t last. It was grueling work. For $2 an hour, I labored in the back where there seemed to be little ventilation and lots of heat. I cooked roast beef (plus some chicken and hamburgers) and cleaned all the instruments. Over and over. It never ended — and I felt like the Charlie Chaplin character frantically working the assembly line in "Modern Times." I was granted time off for lunch, but no one replaced me. The work piled up, and I gobbled down my sandwich so I could get back to the job. At the end of each shift, exhausted, I’d bike home smelling of perspiration and roast beef. This couldn’t keep on.

One day, I noticed a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store across the street on Glen Cove Road. Now, that looked like a fun place to work! I applied for a position, was hired (took a cut in pay to $1.85 an hour), bid farewell to the roast beef, hamburgers and chicken, and started scooping ice cream with a woman who looked like "Hazel" the maid from the 1960s TV show of the same name. Delightful lady!

Compared with the other ice cream stores, Baskin-Robbins was considered expensive: 25 cents for a single cone; 45 cents for a double; 65 cents for a triple. And French vanilla was an additional 2 cents: "Costs more, but worth it!" the ads said, reassuringly. The franchise boasted 31 flavors, and I tried them all — each day a different double-scoop cone, for free! (My favorite was German chocolate cake; peach was a close second.)

Working there was a joy, in part, because everyone is happy coming into an ice cream store. We had our regulars: I could see Eddie coming down the street and knew he wanted a strawberry cone. Beverly liked pistachio. I’d have their favorites ready when they walked in — they liked that. Skinny people asked for "just one scoop." We had the chubbier customers who’d buy a huge sundae and say to their friends, "I don’t understand why I can’t lose weight."

The summer went along uneventfully until the day the power went out and we had ice cream melting before us like a snowman in July. "Buy one cone, get one free!" I yelled to passersby, following my boss’ direction. It later became, "Buy one cone, get two free!" Soon, we were just giving the stuff away.

After the summer, I left the job to start college, but my association with the ice cream store didn’t end there. Whenever I’ve traveled overseas and see a Baskin-Robbins, I stop in to "pay my respects" and buy a cone. A double scoop, of course!

Reader Saul Schachter lives in Sea Cliff.

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