ASHBURN'S ICE CREAM
Name me one person who grew up or spent a summer in Denison prior to 1984 who didn’t at least once eat an ice cream cone at Ashburn’s Ice Cream in the 600 block West Main in Denison and I’ll have a hard time believing it.
Everyone went to Ashburn’s for ice cream and that establishment probably is the most missed one that no longer exists. We’ve heard it said many times, "I’d give a dollar for an ice cream cone from Ashburn’s." Then again, a dollar wouldn’t buy an ice cream cone today. Visitors who returned to town made Ashburn’s their first stop after arriving.
Children were bribed by parents with an ice cream cone if they got their work done and paid-off big time with a cone if they got good grades on their report cards.
Recently we happened to see some writing on the side of the building next door to "My Front Porch," which once housed Ashburn’s. To our delight, a closer look revealed that still visible is the Ashburn’s Ice Cream Tastes Good sign painted on the brick wall.
Mementos of Ashburn’s are rare. There still are a few milk bottle tops to be found, but our search has turned up not a single milk bottle. Even Bill Ashburn, grandson of the founder, W.L. Ashburn Sr., doesn’t have any bottles or souvenirs of the family business where as a youngster he worked sacking ice cream sandwiches made at the Main Street Ice Cream Plant. He later donned the white paper hat and sold cones at the front counter, and eventually become owner of the business.
Just half a block from the old high school and later McDaniel Junior High, Ashburn’s was the logical stop for an ice cream snack. The company even allowed its telephone to be used to call for a ride home. Local calls only though. Everyone’s mom knew where the store was and it often it was the designated pick-up location. You could savor a cone while you waited for Mom or Dad.
Ashburn’s wasn’t always on Main Street, however. When it was founded by Bill’s grandfather, it was located at 115 South Rusk. Vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream were cranked in 10-gallon containers that were slowly cooled with ice and salt.
Mr. Ashburn Sr., first operated Ashburn’s Dairy, beginning in 1901. From that business milk and other dairy products were delivered throughout the Denison area by horse drawn delivery wagons.
Empty glass bottles with Ashburn’s Dairy painted in red letters on the side would be set out by the homeowner at night and early the next morning the cold, fresh milk in the same kind of bottle would replace the empty one. The dairy business was so successful that Mr. Ashburn had the idea of making ice cream. That venture definitely was a success.
But like any good product, business grew and in order to expand, the plant was moved to 615 West Main in 1918. Ashburn Sr.’s seven sons and one of two daughters were involved in the business at one time or another.
It even expanded to Sherman, Fort Worth and Dallas, but it is the Denison enterprise that we remember best.
You could buy a cone, a milk shake, an ice cream sundae, a quart or even a gallon of ice cream or fresh milk at the store and the wholesale business supplied drug stores with its products as well as groceries. All this developed right in the middle of downtown Denison.
A nickel went a long way at Ashburn’s. You could take that five-cent piece to their store on Main Street and buy a large dip of just about any flavor ice cream you could imagine. They expanded from the early three flavors to 30 or more of the delicious treats such as Hawaiian pineapple, cherry vanilla, black walnut and lots more.
While growing up in a drug store (Loi-Mac Pharmacy) and working there off and on during high school days, We remember the Ashburn’s Ice Cream truck making daily deliveries of ice cream and milk for sundaes, milkshakes and malted milk drinks. We bought the ice cream in 5-gallon insulated containers. Let it be known that these delivery trucks were motorized and the horse drawn wagons had long been turned out to pasture.
Loi-Mac had a great soda fountain, but in those days this writer wasn’t the most agile person when it came to cooking or mixing the ice cream treats. About the only action we got behind the fountain was helping wash a few dishes. In those days everything was served in glass unless it was a take-out and we put it in a real paper cup. There were no Styrofoam or plastic cups or plates. Dish washing was an important part of the operation. Or so my dad told me.
Like so many things, good things don’t always last and we’re sorry to say Ashburn’s Ice Cream is one of those examples. But if you want to feel a little nostalgic, look carefully for the sign as you to by the location and savor the flavor of a delicious ice cream cone. It’s certainly the season for it. – Donna Hunt