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At LA County Fair, MacPherson’s Ice Cream sets bar high for 100 years – Daily Bulletin

Schuyler MacPherson takes a vanilla ice cream out of the freezer, dips it twice in liquid chocolate, presses the crushed chocolate button, wraps the bare paper around the bottom to catch the dots, and hands it over the finished ice cream bar.

It is the signature product of MacPherson Ice Creama booth with a rich history, not to mention loaded calories LA County Fair. The annual event, which ends on Monday, is marking its anniversary. And so is MacPherson’s.

Continuing across four generations, MacPherson’s Ice Cream is the only direct link from the 1922 fair to the 2022 fair.

MacPherson’s 1922 origin can not be proven or disputed. Most of the early food vendors were lodges and clubs and the food did not get the publicity it does today. The oldest reference I have seen to MacPherson’s is from the fifth fair.

A September 28, 1926 story in Pomona Progress about the food suppliers of the fair that year mentions “MacPherson from Long Beach and his famous ice cream waffles” among the “main concerns for the maintenance of the cabins in the main tent”.

Kenzie Castaneda, 26, makes a cone at MacPherson’s Ice Cream at the LA County Fair. Castaneda’s mother, Nora, has been with the booth for 35 years and Kenzie’s five older sisters have also worked there. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)

MacPherson’s tradition in Pomona came about by chance.

Roy “Scotty” MacPherson, the story goes, was on the first fair in 1922 to show fruit from his citrus grove La Habra. When the fair organizers learned that he had a restaurant in Long Beach, they asked him if he would like to sell food as well.

“He said for sure,” says great-grandson Schuyler MacPherson, 48.

MacPherson’s first year items: burgers, pickled eggs and ice cream. Is it cheaper if I take it as a combination?

Scotty MacPherson kept coming back for later fairs. By the late 1930s, his sons Bob and Chet were running the booth. Hamburgers fell by the wayside, as did pickled eggs.

The ice cream stuck around, as did the MacPhersons.

“The ’40s to’ 60s was the peak,” says Schuyler. MacPherson’s had booths scattered across the fair grounds, operated by various branches of the family. They all had separate careers, but would converge on Pomona, rent a house, and work at the fair.

Schuyler was born in 1973.

“I remember being in first grade, sitting on a bench and taking people’s money,” he recalls. “Nobody thought of anything then to give a 6-year-old $ 20. The bars were 60 cents. “I was making a difference.”

He can remember when the unimaginable happened and the ice cream bar went to $ 1. Now they cost $ 6.

Schuyler MacPherson dips a vanilla ice cream in chocolate. MacPherson's Ice Cream has been present at the fair since its inception in 1922. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)
Schuyler MacPherson dips a vanilla ice cream in chocolate. MacPherson’s Ice Cream has been present at the fair since its inception in 1922. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)

His mother, Margaret, deserves the greatest credit for keeping MacPherson standing. (Beer with sea roots?) She was behind the counter for half a century.

She started selling ice cream there in the 1950s, when she and her future husband, Ray, were dating. They divorced in the 1970s. Ray held a residence, in the Food District. Margaret had the other one, in a showroom.

When Ray sold his, her name changed. Thus, the only remaining MacPherson’s stand was owned by his ex-wife, who ran it for a quarter of a century. When she died in 2009 at the age of 74, Schuyler took her.

“My mom, who was married to him, was the last one left,” says Schuyler, with some surprise. “It was not her family that started it.”

That may explain my unusual encounter with Margaret MacPherson in 2002, when the booth and fair turned 80 years old. I was introduced to seeking an interview for what I assumed would be an exciting artistic story.

She told me she had no time for an interview and did not want to be in the newspaper.

Surprised, I offered to return at a more convenient time.

“I have no interest in a story,” she replied. “Okay? I think I made it clear. Goodbye.”

That embarrassing meeting took a few paragraphs in my column and happens to be inside my new book about the fair. Schuyler bought a copy from me a week ago and gladly invited me to go see it during the fair.

Days later, with a little fear, I accept the offer. He is calm and friendly. In the middle of our conversation, I decide to risk telling him how his mother had ordered me to lose.

He bursts into laughter.

“I can see my mom doing this,” he says.

As a fifth grader, she was “very direct” and because her divorce was very unpleasant, her son speculates, “maybe she did not want to talk about his family side”.

This makes perfect sense to me in retrospect. I assumed she was a direct descendant. Who would want to talk about the 80 years of an ex-husband’s relatives?

Schuyler MacPherson expands a newly created ice cream bar. MacPherson's Ice Cream has been present at the fair since its inception in 1922. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)
Schuyler MacPherson expands a newly created ice cream bar. MacPherson’s Ice Cream has been present at the fair since its inception in 1922. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)

Schuyler says he now understands why he had never seen me at the counter before, despite my long interest in the fair. “I was directly frightened,” I tell him.

His mother could have been happier, he says, if her ex-husband’s name and all the luggage that came with it had not been pasted on the stand. And yet she endured. And that’s the only reason MacPherson’s Ice Cream still exists.

“Life is ridiculous,” he said. “The person you thought would be the death of the country is the one who saved it.”

He is the only MacPherson involved in MacPherson’s Ice Cream now, a business started by his great-grandfather when Warren Harding was president.

He does not take that inheritance lightly.

“You do not want to be the one to let him die, that is for sure,” he said.

Reflecting MacPherson’s nostalgic appeal, the booth walls are decorated with 1950s neon signs, modeled by Williams Sign Co. by Pomona. One reads “MacPherson’s custom-made ice cream bars.” Another says “Soft Serve” (with a neon cone) and a third says “Root Beer Floats” (with a lighted mug and straw).

At LA County Fair, MacPherson’s Ice Cream sets bar high for 100 years – Daily Bulletin Source link At LA County Fair, MacPherson’s Ice Cream sets bar high for 100 years – Daily Bulletin

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