“Industrious and successful, some stories of work are veiled in fun little dress-up clothes. Our summer of entertaining tourists with our singing, our little skits and pantomime routines certainly didn’t seem like work. I felt a little guilty as I scampered back to our farm at the end of the day with my pay in hand.”
-Ellie Lydell, 1956
Modern technology, namely the Internet, brings wonderful little surprises to us. Sunday morning, I couldn’t have been more surprised to find a message to me, urging me to “click on this link.”
When I did, I was transported back in time by an old black and white picture with the headline, “Surrey with the Fringe on Top.”
In the picture, a mare named Princess stands with her 6-week-old Palomino filly close at her side. The mare is pulling a surrey with four boys seated inside. The one holding the reins is my husband, Doug. Standing nearby are two proud parents.
Business promoters. The article had been published some time around 1962. The article reads, in part, “A modern version of the ‘Surrey with the Fringe on Top,’ equipped with an old-fashioned cow bell to attract the attention of customers, is a familiar sight on the streets of New London this summer. The ice cream wagon, a new business venture of Don and Edie Sutherland’s four boys, is pulled by a mare named Princess, with her 6-week-old colt, Queen, following closely by her side. The little filly, who takes after her Palomino father in appearance, is a great attraction and a big asset to the business.
“When the boys first proposed the new project to their parents, they decided they would need a horse to pull the wagon which the boys and their father built from an old cart, adding wheels and the roof with the fringe on top. They bought Princess, not knowing they had such a bargain until the mare presented them with the little filly just a month after she was purchased by the Sutherlands.
“After the arrival of her colt, Princess was not interested in going anywhere unless she could have her youngster beside her, so as soon as Queenie was old enough she was tied to her mother’s harness and also went into the ice cream business. Now she trots along with her mother on the regular route and has become the darling of all the young and young-at-heart in New London.
“The boys, who are running their own business, are learning a lot about profit and loss (the ice cream they eat themselves does not bring a profit – but “it sure tastes good on a hot day!”) and they are learning a lot about horses too. They report that business is good and they sell a lot of ice cream bars, popsicles, fudgesicles and even ice cream by the pints and quarts.”
Sweet memories. Doug recalls that he and his brother Rod would take the larger part of the route, and averaged about $35 a week profit. The two younger boys, Terry and Larry, managed to make about $20 a week. They timed their route to arrive at the various factories in town at break time. Business was so good during the height of the summer season that they had to arrange to be met at a certain stop to restock their cooler.
It was quite an experience: Four young boys created a summer job with the built-in advantage of making some wonderful memories along the way while learning some earnings had to be put back in to inventory. The four boys still joke about it, accusing one or the other of eating up the profits or they all would have been on easy street by now.
The surrey with the fringe on top is still here, in beautiful shape after their father shined it up several years back to enter it in a parade. He was joined by his grandchildren for a ride through New London on that memorable day.
It is such a part of the Sutherland story that an artist captured it beautifully on my father-in-law’s black marble grave stone, the mare and filly appearing so life-like it takes the breath away.