Friday, October 1, 2021

Sweet treats come to Raymond

By Ernest H. Knight

Ever since the late 19th or early 20th century, Raymond Village has been a mecca for tourists and summer visitors.

Along with the many advantages and attractions for them was refreshment to satisfy the summer palate in the form of homemade ice cream dispensed in the building that was used as a fishing tackle shop for years on Main Street in the village.

Several ice cream freezers like the one shown
were part of the original process of how ice 
cream was made and then sold in Raymond by
Daniel and Grace Mussey in the 19 century.
Built by Daniel and Grace Mussey, the buildings with a store on Maine Street with a dwelling in the rear and the very necessary ice house further behind that, were sandwiched between the old blacksmith shop, long since gone, and the Wharf Road.

Main Street at that time was the county road to Bridgton, later called Roosevelt Trail and Route 302. Wharf Road was the regularly traveled way from the village to the canal boat and steamboat landing built on the rocky shoal in front of Swan’s Island.

Before the days of minimum frontage lot sizes, village buildings were snuggled closely together, perhaps as a carryover from colonial days when closeness was a necessity for safety and survival. But with the towering elm trees through the village overshadowing the buildings, there was a charm and peacefulness in the combination that is now not as apparent.

Grace and Daniel built their shop for the sale of the ice cream that they made in the back room, together with homemade and commercial candies as well as novelty and souvenir items and a few necessities such as cigars and cut and plug tobacco. Also, Dan being the town barber kept an eye on two shops at once.

Ice cream that was made in the days before the invention of all the wonder chemicals and substitute food stuffs had to use natural ingredients – rich cream, fresh fruits and flavorings, without the solidifying sub-zero temperatures of mechanical refrigeration. Ice from the ice house, chipped and mixed with rock salt, provided the moderately low freezing temperatures and human muscle power provided the churning of the freezer that produced the soft texture for a tasty treat.

And so a part of the day’s ritual for travelers, for boarders at the nearby guest houses, and for the local gentry was apt to be a cooling dish of delicious homemade ice cream or a sweet.  

Later, the Mussey Ice Cream Parlor was taken over by Leta and John Leavitt, and the building and the business was expanded. A wide porch was added to the front and side to give more room for tables and provide comfortable relaxation on a hot summer day. While perhaps not equaling the “29 Flavors” made popular by the later Howard Johnson chain, there was a great variety of flavors, fruit and nutty mixtures and various toppings (all non-fattening of course) to suit at least some of the individual choices.

Natural ingredients were still the rule, but somewhere along the line, muscle power gave way to an engine-driven mixer, and after electricity came to Raymond in 1924, the acme of easy labor arrived with the electric motor that could be put to work with the mere flick of a switch.

The career of the building as a place of gastronomical refreshment ended with its years as a quick lunch emporium operated by Arnold Knox, where ice cream was still on the bill of fare, but now of the more prosaic commercial variety. It was colder and perhaps less apt to drip, but not the delectably rich, smooth and satisfying product of previous days.

For those who, along with the ice cream, appreciated local atmosphere, there was next door the old blacksmith shop of Irving (Scott) Morton with its flame-belching forge, the clang of a hammer on anvil and the pungent odor of hoof as the red-hot shoe was applied for a better fit as a horse or an ox was prepared for its work. And if the wind was right, perhaps a garnish of soft coal soot from the forge chimney in lieu of chocolate sprinkles crowning the topping. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.  

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