By Frank Lewis
August 9, 2013
PDT Staff Writer
Long before the advent of soft serve, all ice cream at county fairs across America’s heartland was a product of long hours of hand churning. The next step up was the gasoline powered ice cream maker, and so forth. However, Bob and Joanne Thomas of London, Ohio, stopped right there and they have been creating the rare treat of homemade ice cream to the delight of fair goers and people attending festivals around the state for a number of years.
“It’s a kind of a hobby, semi-retirement,” Bob Thomas said as the churner continued at a mesmerizing rhythm, every so many strokes going through almost a hiccup. “It’s a 1934. They call them a ‘hit-skip.’ This is a John Deere, but there’s a lot of of companies that made them back in those times. In fact, I think there were two or three companies around Portsmouth that made them.”
While Bob buys his ice cream mixes locally at grocery stores, he mixes his own and does not use pre-mix. He adds no sugar, no eggs, and there’s no cooking to it.
“It’s the recipe we’ve found that works the best on the road,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he and his wife will do around 15 events a year, but only two county fairs. The rest are festivals and tractor shows.
Is ice cream made in a gasoline powered churn unusual?
“There are some Amishmen who have gotten into the commercial manufacturing of this equipment,” Thomas said. “But it’s a little more work than some people like to put into it. They find out that it’s not quite as easy as it looks visually when you walk up to it.”
Thomas said there is a very good reason he takes his homemade ice cream maker on the road.
“We have a lot of fun and meet a lot of new people,” Thomas said.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.