Tag Archives: Byrne Building


“The Emperor of Ice-Cream” by Wallace Stevens:  “The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.”

“Why the emperor of ice cream?  It’s an odd combination: an absolute, imperial power and a benign, sweet treat.  Ice cream is a sensuous delight, eagerly anticipated and gleefully consumed.  If you wait too long to eat it, it’ll melt.  So much for the ice cream–now what about the emperor?

“Ice cream is like life: sweet, or at least hungrily indulged in, while it lasts.  It’s also like the dead: cold and destined to be consumed or to dissipate away.  Perhaps, then, the line that closes each stanza is a wake-up call to readers.  If the “only emperor” or dominant principle of the world is the one we’re reminded of when we see ice cream melting–(or, in a different way, when we attend a funeral  [shown in the poem])–we’d be well advised to heed it and make each moment count.”  –Austin Allen, Poetry [magazine] Foundation

Once upon a time: Rainbow cones on the South Side: 93rd and Western in Chicago.


There see the giant cone, with five or six colors in slices–not scoops–of ice cream piled on top of one another. 

We screamed with excitement for ice cream as our family made its special way farther south of our Marshfield home.  It was a drive from Marquette Boulevard.  No quick 45-mph trip like today.  Probably in the green ’52 Chevy, 25-30 mph, with plenty of stoplights interrupting the special occasion.

Now when it comes to memories in time about flavors, I don’t recall any special Rainbow offerings, but the colors were vibrant.  This is embedded in me.  And in days before Rainbow–and after–ice cream has been a special weakness of mine.  Not as an addiction, like anything-chocolate, but as that special “Good Nutrition My Plate” (nestled within the perfect food container that not only holds but is eaten) with its various food groups which include NUTS (coco-nut and chocolate peanut butter, pistachio and black walnut); FRUITS (like White House Cherry and rum raisin); DAIRY (lemon gelato and butter pecan);  PROTEIN (egg nog and phish food, and chunky monkey and chocolate Moose-tracks); VEGETABLES (carrot-cake and chocolate malted and mint chocolate chip); GRAINS (chocolate cookie dough, and Grape-nuts).

my plate image

However, Rainbow was but one special source of providing me with melting gustatory delights.  No doubt about it, Good Humor was like no other.


The bells of the truck signaled the Coming of the Man in White. He enticed us kids to come outside our homes or from our apartments, or made us stop dead in our playing-tracks.  If we had the twenty or twenty-five cents, our saved nickels and dimes, we made our purchases.

good-humor-man good humor dot comAnd?  “Coconut for me, please.”  The delicious-tasting ice cream bar on a stick, covered completely with a thin coat of white-something loaded with coconuts pieces.  Heaven as I ate it.  Heavenly.  If my favorite was not available, I had to settle for something like chocolate cake or perhaps succumb to savoring an orange creamsickle:

good humor orange creamsickle

Good Humor exists today, in supermarkets, in 7-11, in other places, and even with a few trucks in certain neighborhood locations.  “But it’s not the same.”  Yet I would never turn down a chocolate eclair, a toasted almond, or even a strawberry shortcake bar.

Howard Johnson’s at some time was a place I remember first seeing coconut milk on the menu.  I thought that it would provide me with a special ice cream treat: a coconut milk milkshake.  O YES!  YES!  YES!  And then, later, I asked, “A coconut malted milkshake, please.”  The nectar of the gods for sure!

Gus Pappas died in 1987.  He was 83–and that was a long-ago moment.  In 1953, “Mr. Pappas” (“Gus”) bought a corner confectionery in the Byrne Building, at Garfield (55th) and Halsted: Pappas Sweet Shop.  We just knew it as the ice cream shop.  It was a hangout for me and my friend Bill Manion, or with Joe Balint.  My sister and her friends found time to have their ice cream and their teen-age talk-sessions there.


No matter how warm outside, I remember the store was always cool inside, with its white tile floors and marble counter-tops.  Cool was needed to keep the dipped, rolled, and wrapped delicacies fresh and tasty (Oh, those chocolate-covered cherries!): Who needed Fannie May candies when we had Pappas on the corner?

Gus had a son, James (“Jimmy” to us), who worked in the store.  In my time, Jimmy began singing with the Chicago Metropolitan Opera.  Though his first role was in the chorus (My mother and I saw him in La Boheme.), he was a star to me.  He brought music and fun-with-music into my life, and an appreciation of opera that I do cherish.  And there is nothing today that compares to my savoring a Green River Malted Milkshake, with homemade ice cream, that Jimmy Pappas made for me.  Yum!

green river malt


©  James F. O’Neil  2016

 Vanilla-Coconut-Milkshake-Silk-PureCoconut COCONUT MILK

Major Ingredient of a Homemade Coconut Milkshake





“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.

BURNS BUILDING  Pat Telios Reagan

 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).

green river malt

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

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 …”

milk shake mixer tin

(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 pinterest

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!

horlicks white tablets

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

Green River bottle WIKIPEDIA






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