BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL
“Wow! That really tastes good,” I said to Jimmy Pappas so many years ago, so many long years ago. I had just had my first taste of a Green River malted milk shake. What a treat and delight that was.
Who would have ever thought of marrying one of the greatest flavors made by man–malted milk–to Green River soda? A marriage made–in heaven?
No, a marriage performed often at the Pappas Ice Cream Shop, at the corner of 55th (Garfield Boulevard) and Halstead. In the Byrne Building.
Byrne Building. Credit Pat Telios Reagan
And I was the Best Man, along with my friend Bill Manion. There we sat, in the booth, savoring the minty-looking thick green malted milk shake in the tall ice-cream-parlor glass, with melting drippings running down the sides of the metal mixing container. Ahhh, a Green River malt (-ed milk shake).
Yum! So far from “the next best thing to sliced bread!”
It was heaven for us ice cream lovers (I still am) who would choose wisely between “a malt” or a hot fudge sundae. Choose wisely. Tastefully.
Milk Shake glasses [eBay]
Marriage: two entities who come together and pledge (“plithe their troth”–whatever that used to mean) to … standing before a minister (administer) of the state.
Jimmy Pappas was our minister. Bill and I sat, ready to partake in the marriage, not of two vines (as some wines and brandies are known as), but of a blend of the finest ingredients: icy cold vanilla ice cream, Horlick’s malted milk powder, and Green River soda fountain syrup flavoring (and color). “Blend and serve chilled in a …”
(As many know, or remember, “a malted milk shake” has that special powder, that “strengthening medicine” [malt extract] told Kanga to Roo in The House at Pooh Corner, and was also Tigger’s favorite food in the book.)
Horlick’s ad from Pinterest
Pharmacist James Horlick developed ideas for an improved, wheat and malt-based nutritional supplement for infants. With his brother William, in 1873 they formed J & W Horlicks, manufacturing an infant food in Chicago. In 1887 the company marketed its new product, trademarked the name “malted milk.” (See Wikipedia for more history.)
Like Ensure today, and similar drinks, malted milk found unexpected markets, customers drinking the new beverage for enjoyment. So malted milk became a standard offering at soda fountains, and found greater popularity when mixed with ice cream in a “malt.” “Malt shops” owe their name to the Horlick brothers. Additionally, I used to buy jars of malted milk tablets, chewing them like candy, making a glob of them in my mouth to suck on and melt away. Yummy!
Now, add the Green River syrup:
At the time of Prohibition, Green River soda was introduced to Midwestern drinkers when some breweries turned to making nonalcoholic drinks, while others were churning out ice cream. The Schoenhofen Edelweiss Brewing Company of Chicago turned to Green River in late 1919 as a non-alcoholic product that became popular as a soda fountain syrup, “trailing only Coca-Cola popularity throughout the Midwest.” However, after Prohibition ended in 1933 the Schoenhofen Brewery made Green River a second priority to alcoholic drinks. (The Brewery closed in 1950.) [Wikipedia]
Green River aficionados know that it’s not just another soda; it’s nostalgia in a bottle, being found at St. Patrick’s Day (being produced by WIT Beverage Company) and in some Chicago-area restaurants.
“With a Green River, please.”
We acquire tastes, our taste buds–and brain–telling us what we like: carbonated water, cane sugar, lime flavor, some lemon flavor, and all the special colors that are used to make it “look good.” Some do not like drinking something green or tasting lime-y.
But Jimmy Pappas put my mind at ease, and my taste buds accepting something green that was not mint-y. At first, the color tricked the brain. Then the taste buds received the message that found its way into my memory.
I grew up, then grew away from our favorite ice cream shop–and found Green River malts harder and harder to find.
In time, I learned that the Byrne Building was torn down in the late 70’s. Now the corner is occupied by a gas station. That was the end of the shop, but I have my memories of a time when Green River flowed freely and made its way into those great ice cream malts.
© James F. O’Neil 2015