Neiderfrank’s: Old School

i claim it was the jacaranda that made me do it. Saturday loomed as the day to get done all i had put off all week. i arose with that intent, devoting the day to the never-ending, always growing to-do list as well as much needed exercises and a good swift walk.

i grumbled and felt badly. Most of our country was sweltering in unheard of heat and humidity. i had incredible Southwest corner weather: low 70s, slight sea breeze, no clouds. And the whipped cream was, because of the dour winter and spring, the jacarandas were still in bloom, usually done by mid-June. These kind of days have been rare this year out here. The weather guessers are predicting we are going to get the same kind of miserable heat elsewhere. i wanted loll about outside while it was possible. But i had vowed to get things done.

i decided to compromise with myself.

i chose to run my errands first. i headed down to Third Avenue in Chula Vista’s older city area. Currently, there is an effort to revive this older part of the city. It is a bit run down and does not feature The jeweler there needed more guidance on an old engine order telegraph to replace missing parts. i wanted it for memorabilia, knowing it would invariably be moved into my garage “workshop” even if was allowed inside the house before being relocated by a wife of mine — that was perfectly okay with me. My garage work space walls are line with my memorabilia. It is not so much a workshop, more like an escape. So i headed down the jacaranda lined streets to Third.

King’s Jewelry is a marvel in today’s world. It is a narrow space with counters on both sides to the reception table. the counters and the walls are crammed with clocks of every kind. Many are of the wood carved wind-up clock variety with glass fronts displaying the works and the gongs that can make you reel when they go off on the half-hour (one clang) and the hour (a clang for each hour, e.g. two o’clock = two clangs. Fortunately, none were wound. It is a private shop. These folks aren’t into uppity, high-end jewelry. i have the impression most of their business comes from repair of watches, clocks, and strange requests like some old Navy guy asking if they can come up with an arrow matching the one he lost for the Engine Order Telegraph repeater. They were not only courteous and helpful but were downright interesting in the project. i should have an update after the holiday tomorrow.

Man, it felt like old school.

Since i was on Third in Chula Vista (i will repeat a post with the poem i wrote more than a dozen years ago about Third after posting this one), i used the excuse of proximity to head to National City and Neiderfrank’s. It really isn’t that close and even more distant if the route is on surface streets. Since i avoid freeways as much as possible, i chose the longer route.

8th Avenue in National City is much like Third Avenue in Chula Vista. It is older, the chic upper class (they think) folks don’t go there much. No one is going to be impressed by their high-priced duds. You find working people there. The homes, mostly well kept, are modest bungalows from bygone days. Back when, i went there a lot, primarily for McDini’s. McDini’s originally was an amazing Irish pub, located downtown San Diego on Market Street, now a condo high rise haven with trendy restaurants. McDini’s shut down its operation and the National City restaurant became “McDini’s Baja,” a combination of Irish and Mexican fare. There is a post there all by itself. Later. It is shut down now. Sad.

But across the street on A Avenue stands Neiderfrank’s, truly an ice cream parlor par excellence.

The parlor was created in 1948. New owners took over in 1995 but retained the business in the exact way it had been run just shy of a half century. They didn’t change a thing.

That includes using an ice cream maker that is over 100 years old as well as the process that reduces the amount of aeration. They also have created or retained some great quotes like:

“We make our ice cream by some of the most antique, inefficient, outdated, and expensive process in the world,” and “We are so far behind in modern technology that we are about 100 years ahead.”

They are ahead of the world by retreating to a world i once knew. Neiderfrank’s is old school, my kind of old school.. The reason i went there was to get my fix of black walnut, my favorite ice cream since i finally realized my father was wise in choosing that flavor at Johnson’s Dairy on the corner of West Main and West End Heights some eons ago. i have had other black walnut concoctions but Neiderfrank’s is the best. As i was waiting for my pint, i noticed a hand printed add-on to the available flavors. Peach. When this affable and fun lady, whom i presume was the owner, returned with my black walnut, i added a scoop of peach in a cup.

i took my first taste as i walked back toward my car. Bells went off. Choirs sang. i called Maureen to tell her i was cutting my errand run short because i had something i wanted her to taste before it melted. When i got home with the one spoonful i had not eaten, she tasted it and shared my ecstasy.

i was back to the 1950’s in the back yard of our home on Castle Heights Avenue. We only ate two things in that backyard. One was slices of a whole watermelon long before they agronomists or whatever they are figured out how to reduce the number of seeds in a a watermelon. The children sat cross-legged on the lawn, take a bite, and spit the two dozen or so seeds that came with each bite before diving in again. Oh, oh, that sweet delicious taste.

But the best was when the ladies of the house mixed the ingredients for ice cream in with the sliced peaches they had picked from the trees. Those ingredients filled the small wood barrel of the ice cream maker, and closed with the churn handle on top. The whole shebang was covered with dry ice and that, in turn, was covered with old blankets. The children would take turns at the churn until they were worn out. Often the men in the family would finished the churning until the ice cream had hardened. The adults would sit on the lawn chairs and the children, again cross-legged, would sit on the lawn and feast in heaven on the home-made peach ice cream.

Fantasia. Neiderfrank’s peach was that good. i’m going back tomorrow to get a half-gallon.

You see, Neiderfrank’s is old school. There isn’t a lot of glitz, just perfect ice cream. Old school. Like me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *