In this summer of record-breaking temperatures, my mind is on ice cream. In particular, I’m remembering the fabulous ice cream parlors of my childhood. During the sixties, several businesses on Chicago’s Far North Side were famous for what were called “ice cream creations.”
I’m not sure anyone still uses that phrase, but it meant more than a scoop or two on a sugar cone. Drama and excitement were dished out with over-the-top, imaginatively named sundaes, shakes and sodas at places like Buffalo’s on Irving Park, Lockwood Castle on Devon and, in my own neighborhood, Loree’s Snack Shop.
Loree’s was a much-loved restaurant and ice cream parlor at 3232 West Foster Avenue in the North Park community, frequented by both North Park College (now University) and Von Steuben High School students. From 1962 to 1972, Loree’s was owned by the parents of my Peterson School classmate, Gayle Dicker. I asked Gayle to share the background of her family’s business.
Ice cream creations were the big draw, but Loree’s was a full-service diner. Here are a few items from Loree’s menu and the people who recalled them on a recent Facebook thread:
- Toasted pecan roll and coffee (Debbie Fishbein)
- Test Pilot Sundae (Merle Citrin Monroe)
- Eggs over medium, bacon, hash browns, coffee (Les Neudorf)
- Sundaes with multicolored whipped cream (Ferne Slotky Berman)
Gayle tells me another very popular item was the francheezie, a hot dog covered in melted cheese and wrapped in bacon. She explained that the Test Pilot Sundae had chocolate chips and two sugar wafers sticking out from the ice cream scoops like the wings of a plane. She also recalled milk shakes blended in metal cups on an old-fashioned milk shake mixer, “Sweet 16” sundaes and banana splits as being customer favorites. Her father made fresh whipped cream on site and added food coloring to it.
The original owners of Loree’s named the place after their daughter. The Dickers kept the name and the menu, but expanded the list of ice cream specialties.
No Piece of Cake
As popular as Loree’s was, it was no gold mine, Gayle told me. Her father put in long hours: breakfast through dinner added up to 15-hour days and Loree’s was open seven days a week. In fact, since her father always worked during dinner hours, Gayle and her mother and sister often went to the restaurant for dinner so they could see Bob. They also got to see Gayle’s grandmother, who worked at the restaurant and lived in the apartment building next door.
The business became even more family-run when Gayle started waitressing in eighth grade. She still remembers the first time she worked a Saturday night and made $13 in tips. At the time, it seemed like a small fortune .
Despite the hardships of owning a restaurant, Bob Dicker loved his work, Gayle says. He enjoyed talking to students and being his own boss. Ultimately, however, the hours were too much for the family and they sold the business. The new owners tore down the wall separating the adjacent storefront to enlarge the restaurant and kept it open as Loree’s for many years. Today, it’s a Starbucks.
Loree’s is one of many examples of former small businesses in this community that were owned by families who lived in the neighborhood.