"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe


Drawing of two children in front of a large glassed-in counter, and a lady in an apron holding a plate of candies at their level so they could choose

     HOT SUMMER AFTERNOONS and nights, bring to mind the days of the ice cream parlors. The two most popular in Lawrence were Zuttermeisters and Wiedemann's. Zuttermeisters was located in the 700 block on Mass. St. on the west side. Wiedemann's was in the 00 block.

     When one mentions Wiedemann's, it brings up a variety of memories. To some, the vanilla ice cream that was so rich and good, it stuck to the roof of your mouth -- to others, the candy -- Oyster stews -- Rotary and Kiwanis weekly lunches -- Music Club meetings -- Tea dances -- and beer and cokes. Perhaps you thought Wiedemann's started and ended at the same spot -- 835 Massachusetts -- as the stone marker on the face of the building reads, "1886". But it didn't start there.

     Sometime before 1868, there was a confectionery store at 11 East 8th street. Two gentlemen under the firm name of Harris and Terry, were the owners. In 1868, William Wiedemann, father of the Wm. Wiedemann we know, bought out Mr. Terry who had previously bought out his partner, Harris. Two years after that, Mr. Wiedemann moved to 833 Massachusetts street. At that time, he sold toys and confectionery. In 1879, the elder Wiedemann died and his son, William, took over the business. In 1886 the store was moved to 835 Mass. and there business went along under the name of Wiedemann's until the early 1940's.

     When the store was last moved to 835 Mass., it is presumed the soda fountain was installed and the toy business abolished. In those early years, the ice cream was made outside the back of the store. It was frozen literally by horse power. A horse was

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hitched to the freezer and as he walked around and around, the ice cream was frozen.

     In those early years, candy and ice cream stood out more than the social life that revolved around the store. When you were given a box of Wiedemann's chocolates, it was a special something. The boxes were covered with white, shiny paper, and across the top in gold lettering "Wm. Wiedemann". The contents of the box were arranged colorfully. Square pieces the size of a caramel, chocolate creams, some pieces covered with silver or gold foil, violet colored crystal-like mints that tasted like violet. green leaf-shaped mints that were mint flavored. And all through the box were scattered those tiny French, many-colored, many" flavored candies filled with perfume.

     The two most popular chocolates were the chocolate squares of fudge-like substance, topped with coconut and the vanilla creams that were called, "Cleveland's Choice". That name came from the fact that President Grover Cleveland had one time visited Lawrence. He was presented a box of Wiedemann's chocolates and reportedly he thought the creams the best he had ever eaten. For years after that, the candy maker refused to divulge the recipe for the filling. In fact, even the subsequent owners of Wiedemann's never knew what the filling consisted of.

     Other popular candies were, the taffies that were sold only in winter. When it was cold enough to make the taffy, the taffy pulling machine which was hand operated, was brought up and placed in the south front window and taffy was pulled to show the people that the taffy season had started. Black walnut, vanilla, chocolate and molasses were placed in large metal trays and put in the show case. When you bought taffy, the clerk used a small hammer to break it into smaller pieces for easy eating.

     Ribbon candy was another favorite. Once a year, Wiedemann's made small baskets of ribbon candy and filled them with fondant-covered fresh fruit. The colors of the fondant matched the fruit -- orange segments and green grapes. These baskets were made on special order for the Knights Templars' New Year's Eve dinner party held in their club rooms on the fifth (top) floor of the old Lawrence National Bank building.

     Wiedemann's ice cream was even richer than the present French ice cream. Maple Mousse was a favorite and fresh peach -- fresh strawberry -- in season -- any one for 10¢ a dish -- and it was a big dish. Ice cream sandwiches -- 2 for 5¢ were popular. They were made at the counter on order. A layer of ice cream was placed between two thin wafers similar to a Nabisco without the filling. We'd often sit on those high stools at the fountain to make sure the fountain boy who was a friend, would give us an extra bit of ice cream, with a little persuasion. When Grape Nuts cereal came into use, Wiedemann's served "Brown Bread Ice Cream" which was made with the cereal. This was served by

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the slice the size of a piece of bread, and we believe it too was 5¢ a slice.

All sorts of shapes of lead molds were on hand for special orders of ice cream for parties and special events -- hearts for Valentines -- Christmas bells and Santa, flowers of all kinds, wedding bells. The appropriate color was used and you had your choice of flavor.

     Hot chocolate with a big scoop of whipped cream before marshmallows were used, was a winter treat for 5¢. Oyster stew in season was served with the real oyster crackers. Chili for 10¢ and Banana Splits for 15¢ came in a little bit later. Fruit salad was a special for 10¢ -- "Sayso Cones" were 5¢ -- egg malted milk, 15¢, and phosphates 5¢. These were the days before Cokes. One menu listed Tailor Made Ginger Ale under Headache Reliefs, for 5¢, as also "Bromo" and "Caffiene".

     The store was quite large, running back about 75 feet. As you entered, you walked on a tile floor made up of tiny round pieces of tile. On your right was the long fountain with the high stools. On the left, immediately as you entered, was Mr. Wiedemann's "office". It consisted of a desk and chair placed on a small open platform. About three feet from the floor, was a brass rod that supported dark green velvet curtains to cover up the platform. From that vantage point, Mr. Wiedemann could look over the entire store. Next to this platform was a cashier's cage where Miss Adelle Weyermuller, Mr. Wiedemann's niece presided.

     After Miss Weyermuller's marriage to Otto Newhy, Miss Nettle Well (later Mrs. Clyde Teter), was cashier.

     The candy counters came next, with the walnut shelves in the back holding ribbon candy and stick candy in glass jars, and candy boxes. The candy and soda fountain area were separated from the ice cream parlor by three large, carved wooden arches. Here the floor was covered by carpet and the furnishings were white marble-topped tables and ice cream chairs. In summer, big ceiling fans revolved slowly to cool the room. Black belts ran back and forth on the ceiling to rotate the paddle-like blades of these fans.

     The Wiedemann family lived on the second floor and visitors climbed a long steep flight of stairs to get there. There was an outside and inside entrance. Miss Louise Wiedemann, Mr. Wiedemann's daughter, taught piano in her studio up there. She organized a pupils' music club. At the meetings, she would tell stories about the lives of composers, or tell the story part of operas. The meetings were well attended, partly because the refreshments were always ice cream -- her treat.

     We always looked upon Mr. Wiedemann with a little bit of awe. Anyone owning such a wonderful store commanded respect

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and awe, and he got it. After his death, the store was sold to Mrs. Pollock sometime in 1916.

     In the winter of 1920, Richard H. Wagstaff became the owner. A new era for Wiedemann's began. Major changes were made in the physical plant and in operation. Candy and ice cream making continued, but a Tea Room and a Grill were added. Dances were inaugurated in the Grill room. Booths were installed. The second floor was converted into a Tea room. An opening was cut on the south wall of the ice cream parlor where the Grill and kitchen were added. They extended to the back: of the next two buildings to the south.

     The Lawrence Music Club held their meetings there, as did Rotary and Kiwanis (35c for lunch). Women entertained with luncheons and cards.

     Mr. R. B. Wagstaff, father of the owner, had charge of the catering. It continued to be "the" place to go for entertainment and good food. Tea dances were popular with the University crowd. Some of the regular frequenters were accused by some of their less frivolous friends of being "Tea Hounds". All of the popular KU bands played there at one time or another. "Swede" Wilson, Eric Owen and "Shanty" Newhouse were popular. Pianoplaying "Chuck" Shofstall had "Buddy" Rogers as his drummer. Tike Kearney -- Tommy Johnston -- Frank Isenhart and Bob Jenks played there. No admittance was charged for the dances. A free-will collection was taken for the band players. Later, a 50¢ charge was made and all of the money went to the band.

     Then followed the years of spiked beer. The students would buy "Pale Beer" which was one-half of one percent alcohol and sneak in a small bottle of alcohol without the knowledge of the proprietor. They would pour a little into the beer, then mix it by placing a thumb over the open end of the bottle and turning it upside down. During these times, the Grill was patronized mostly by KU students. But Wiedemann's never lost its air of genteelness. In those college years, if there was to be a "Night Shirt" parade, Wiedemann's would make up more ice cream than usual, sometimes to be given free to the student participants.

     After prohibition was abolished, the KU beer days at Wiedemann's were over. The Grill became the popular gathering place for high school boys and girls. Dancing by Juke box and Cokes were the attraction.

     Wiedemann's was probably the first commercial air-cooled establishment in Lawrence. Mr. Wagstaff conceived the idea of water cooling from a well in the creamery across the alley, which he owned also. After this was installed, women would come for sandwiches or lunch and stay all afternoon and play bridge because it was the coolest place in town. During those hot summers, the only other cool spot was in a house basement with the fans going.

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     The first curb service for Lawrence was probably started at Wiedemann's also. Wooden ladder-like frames, made especially for this, were placed across the back of the front seat of a car, and each end rested on the open window of the back doors. Orders were brought out on a tray which was placed on the rack. Curb service on Massachusetts street, yet!

     Then came World War II. Wiedemann's again changed hands. Mr. John Parker became the next owner and shortly he went off to war. Sunflower Ordnance Works came -- and help was attracted to the plant for higher wages than could be met in Lawrence. Supplies became increasingly hard to get. About 1943, Wiedemann's was sold at auction -- truly a casualty of the war. And another mode of Lawrence living, died.

Printed in Journal-World Sept. 13, 1968

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