Ting-a-Ling?s Lemon Ice

by Harry T. Roman


Ask anyone who grew up along Bloomfield Avenue in the 1950s if they ever had a Ting-a-Ling lemon ice and watch their face glaze over as they remember the experience. They might even lick their lips to revitalize that summer taste of long ago. It certainly wasn’t anything like that sugary sweet artificial “glop” they spoon out today. This stuff was made in heaven.

The establishment was right there guarding the entrance to Branch Brook Park, anchoring the stairs to the downtown subway entrance. It was spoken with the same reverence as Dickey Dee’s, Jimmy Buff’s, Dugan’s pastries, and Barringer High School. Singing groups practiced a cappella harmonies outside the front door, while showing angelic smiles to frequently passing police cruisers. It was a delicate balance of youth, bravado, and gustatory delight—one I engaged in with regularity and delight.

My dad said the place got its name from the patriarch of the family, an Italian immigrant, like all of our grandparents, who peddled lemon ice from a wagon, with a little bell that went “ting-a-ling” to alert customers of his presence. From this the place grew to a store front and then a building that later offered pizza, sub sandwiches, hot dogs, ice cream floats, and of course the prized summer elixir, lemon ice. Later they even added a car wash.

There against the rhythmical “klickety-klack” of the City Subway cars, and bright neon signs, huge amounts of calories fueled the hungry bellies of many a faithful North Ward teenager, whether after a dance, a Barringer-Central football game, or after a spirited evening game of Box-Ball, Gorilla or Red Rover. If you wanted to be seen, you went to Ting-a-Ling’s.

I only lived a few blocks from it all, a quick walk to the subway and the other delights Newark offered back then. It was a nice place to grow up, with ethnic tastes and smells, warm memories, and the lingering taste of lemon ice under eternally green maple trees. How I would like to go back just one more time and hear my Dad whistle for me to come home for dinner. I could hear that whistle all the way into Branch Brook Park.


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