On June 22, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Vermont State Dairy Festival in Rutland. The Festival held a barbecue that day in the President’s honor. When it was over, they presented the President and his Presidential Party with a 150-pound ice cream cake. The cake represented a day’s work for twenty cows.
It was a gift from the Stewart’s Shop on North Main Street in Rutland. “Hap” Haapala was the store manager at the time. Plant Manager Paul “Perky” Robinson made the cake at the Stewart’s Ice Cream Plant in Greenfield, Saratoga County. Melvin Tuttle, the owner of Tuttle’s Bakery on Church Street in Saratoga Springs, was responsible for the decorations. Bob Gailor told me that his father, Wally Gailor, was a baker at Tuttle’s and that he decorated the cake.
The Stewart’s Shops of today began after Percy and Charles V. Dake took over their family dairy farm in Middle Grove, Saratoga County, and began making Dake’s Delicious Ice Cream in 1921. In 1935, the brothers started Saratoga Dairy in an old barn in Saratoga Springs where they took advantage of being one of the few bulk pasteurization facilities at a time when New York began requiring all milk be pasteurized.
In 1938 they expanded into the Saratoga Springs’s old water works, and began producing cheese, powdered whey and casein, later buying another plant in nearby Greenfield. By 1940, the Stewart brothers’ products were being sold around the Northeast and as far south as Maryland.
In 1944, Percy and Charles V. Dake bought their first dairy shops, already known as Stewart’s, from their Ballston Spa owner Donald Stewart. This was quickly followed by locations in Saratoga Springs and South Glens Falls. Saratoga Dairy and Stewart’s Ice Cream were formally incorporated in 1950, and by 1955 there were over 50 Stewart’s Shops.
On that June day in 1955, while Eisenhower visited the Dairy Festival in Rutland, the company’s massive ice cream cake was carried by a refrigerated truck, arriving just in time to be placed on the table by Stewart’s General Manager Charles S. Dake and Public Relations Representative, Larry Mahar. Once those present had been served, the rest of the cake was divided between the Rutland Children’s Rehabilitation Center and the pediatric ward at the local hospital.
I discovered this historic ice cream cake anecdote while researching Stewart’s Ice Cream. In the 1950s, Stewart’s published a monthly brochure appropriately named “The Stewart’s Story.” It was a simple 8″ x 11″ paper folded in half. It contained sale promotions, new store openings, and happenings throughout the company. It included the “New Customer Column.”
The column listed the birth announcements of babies born to Stewart’s employees. In the issue that contained the story above, I was delighted to read the birth announcements of two past classmates born within days of my own June 1955 birth. One was Kathleen Eddy, whose father Burton Eddy was in charge of Stewart’s rural home deliveries. The second was Donna Hodges, whose father Douglas worked part-time at the old Church Street Stewarts. These little discoveries envelop me with a sense of place. When it comes to local history, there’s always a treasure to unearth.
Read more about the history of Stewart’s Shops here.
John Greenwood is a lifelong resident with an affection for Saratoga County’s place in history. He enjoyed a 45-year career in the dairy business, starting at Saratoga Dairy in 1974. During the 80s, John owned and operated Price’s Dairy. He spent the next 30 years in the Hauling Department at Stewart’s. His greatest joy is sharing stories about the everyday people and experiences that have enriched his life along the way. You can find those stories and more on his blog RainingIguanas.com and John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of Ike cuts a 150-Lb. Ice Cream Cake; the first Stewart’s Shop in Church Avenue, Ballston Spa, in 1945.