In the years following WWII the hearse was the only ambulance the tiny town of Aurora, Missouri had. This meant the funeral director or an assistant was on call around the clock every day of the year. Now, calls were not necessarily coming in around the clock every day of the year, but if they did....well, you get the picture.
This meant that when we had a picnic or a gathering of any kind the huge concrete apron of the enormous garage housing the hearse became party central.
I don't mean partying. The hardest beverage available was iced tea. If we were lucky the kids got Kool Aid and home made cookies. If we weren't so lucky we got to share the iced tea.
But sometimes, just sometimes, there was home made ice cream in an old fashioned churn. 60 years later I can feel shivers of anticipation and the chill of sitting on the churn. The flavor might be whatever fresh local fruit was in season, but plain old vanilla was just as welcome. And I don't remember chocolate ever being an option.
At first we kids would turn the handle, but later the men would take turns as the mixture got thicker and harder. Eventually the paddles would begin rising as the bottom of the pail froze and pushed up. The smaller boys and girls would then take turns sitting on the churn while the men sweated the last crankings a few turns at a time as it got harder and harder.
Whoever was sitting on the crank when it was ready got the first lick of the extracted paddles. As hard as it was to sit still while your friends ran and played this was a glory moment. You usually only got one or two licks in before every kid gathered to share, but OH to be that first one!
Making ice cream was a long and arduous and expensive job that only happened once or twice a year, and was treasured for it's rarity. The ice cream from the drug store came in your choice of flavors, but the stuff we made on the apron of the funeral home garage tasted of summer and freedom, friends and reward. And in my memory my mom's curls catch fire as she turns in her lawn chair to smile at me, sitting in glory on the top of the churn.