Now that temperatures are nearing 100 degrees in North Texas, summer is officially upon us, and aside from keeping cool, it is time for a cold, delicious bowl of ice cream.

Now that temperatures are nearing 100 degrees in North Texas, summer is officially upon us, and aside from keeping cool, it is time for a cold, delicious bowl of ice cream.

We can thank a little man who, back in Denison’s early days, liked ice cream too. In fact, he opened a confectionery in the 300 block of West Main and eventually was credited with inventing the ice cream soda.

Denison may have been a rough and rugged town in its earliest days with all the ruffians and gunslingers that our town is credited with having, but there also was a genteel side. There were churchgoing families with children who were very much like families are today. What youngster then or now would turn down an ice cream cone? We adults like them pretty well ourselves. Last week I went to a meeting and root beer floats were served with the refreshments. These were all adults and many went back for seconds.

Mr. Euper came to Denison from Fort Smith, Ark., to help establish the town in 1872. He also liked ice cream. In fact, he liked it so well that he became Denison’s first confectioner as well as a city councilor. His confectionery and his activities crop up frequently in early day newspapers.

He joined in building the first street railway system and was connected with industrial and other developments in town.

But ice cream was really his interest. So much so that he had the courage to come to this frontier town and set himself up in business with nothing heartier than ice cream and soda water to offer in competition with the much stronger goods being sold down the street in one of the numerous saloons.

Euper’s masterpiece was the ice cream soda that he concocted during the late 1870s, probably in desperation as he tried to meet the (pun intended) stiff competition.

Actually the ice cream soda is believed to have come about more or less accidentally as the result of experiments as he "played around" looking for something new. He tried many different combinations, mixing ice cream with soda water, fresh fruit, juices and what have you until he concocted something that tasted good.

Merchants and other friends were his taste testers and many brushed aside their handlebar mustaches to sample the sweet concoction, smacking their lips in approval.

Since then, it is my guess that thousands of youngsters and oldsters alike have sipped sodas through straws, often sharing a soda with a charming member of the opposite sex.

I grew up in a drugstore, Loi Mac Pharmacy at 200 West Main, and we had an honest to goodness soda fountain and the "soda jerks" could mix up a soda, milkshake or frosted drink faster than one could imagine. And they mixed up lots of them. While I worked there all through high school, I never did take my turn behind the soda fountain.

Euper’s claim to inventing the ice cream soda has never been denied although a Michigan town actually celebrated a J.A. Euper Day in honor of his creation. His first ice cream parlor in Denison was a modest stand in the 100 block west Main. Later he had a parlor further up the street.

After he married a Denison girl, Carrie R. Aray, they moved to Los Angeles in 1906, where he gave up the confectionery business for real estate. He died in 1937 at the age of 87.

Not long after Euper moved to California, another ice cream confectionery opened in Denison at 115 South Rusk Age. W.L. Ashburn Sr. expanded the small dairy he had operated northwest of Denison since 1901 by establishing a small ice cream plant.

From the day that Ashburn cranked out his first ice cream in a 10-gallon freezer using ice and salt, Ashburn’s Ice Cream became a tradition and it is his ice cream that the older generation still remembers and dreams about today.

Through the years, youngsters were taken to Ashburn’s to sample one of the few flavors during the early years, then one of the many flavors as years have gone by. Everyone his a favorite flavor. Every time I have mentioned Ashburn’s ice cream in a story or column, I get emails wishing they could taste their favorite just one more time.

There was no mechanical refrigeration in Ashburn’s early shop, so ice and salt were used to store the vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream in wooden tubs. Wooden tubs also were used to deliver the ice cream packed in cans and kept cold with the ice and salt, much like the old fashioned hand-cranked freezers that some of us remember today.

The small plant prospered and by 1918 larger facilities were needed so a plant was built at 615 West Main. During the summer, patrons stood in line for an ice cream cone, banana split, ice cream soda or whatever could be put together.

Literally hundreds of youngsters got their first taste of the business world by serving ice cream cones over the counter at Ashburn’s. Riding herd on the crew of youngsters for more than 30 years was Robert Boney, who headed the ice cream manufacturing business and was in charge of the retail portion of the business.

Ray Shone was a veteran manager of the business and Ryal Skaggs also was active in the business for many years before becoming a Denison High School teacher. Verna Allen was an employee of the company for more than 20 years.

Ashburn Sr. had seven sons, all of whom were involved at one time or another in the Denison operation. The eldest, Martin, took over the plant after his father retired. Harrell and W.L. Jr. purchased the business in 1926 and Bill Ashburn took over the operation from his mother in the 1960s after working at the store since grade school days. He became the third generation to operate the establishment. It later was sold to Bennie Brigham of Dallas, whose grandmother was Annie Ashburn Brigham, a daughter of the founder.

Ice cream and summertime are synonymous and on warm July days now, just like then, Euper’s contribution to ice cream-loving Denisonians and ice cream-loving individuals all over the world still is a salute to Mr. Euper and the Ashburn family in Denison.

Donna Hunt is a former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at