“It’s that chocolaty-coated ice cream
So big and thick, no room for a stick!”
Has anyone ever actually stopped to contemplate what he or she would be willing to do for a Klondike Bar? Perhaps only in the commercials, for most of us are fortunate to have a plentiful supply in the local frozen foods aisle. Why jump through hoops when you can simply toss a six-pack of the delightful, stick-less ice cream bars into your cart. And that’s exactly what millions of people have been doing for decades. It’s but a small price to pay to sink your teeth into one of those foil-wrapped delicacies, adorned with a familiar picture of the smiling polar bear wearing a red scarf.
It all started in Youngstown, Ohio, when a family of Swiss immigrants brought their dairy expertise to America around the turn of the century. From their small chain of dairy stores in the area, they began selling little square slices of vanilla ice cream that had been dipped into a pan full of rich, milk chocolate. They named the treats “Klondike Bars” purportedly after the Klondike River in Canada’s Yukon Territory (the site of a gold rush in the 1890s.) One of the Isaly brothers brought a stack of the family-made bars to the staff of a local newspaper in 1922 and word of frozen treats quickly spread to folks in the surrounding areas. By the 1940s, the Isaly family had 7 dairy facilities and over 300 stores. Things were looking up.
It wasn’t until 1978, however, that the Klondike Bar made its way out of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Thanks to the help of a newly built factory in Florida, The Klondike Bar began showing up along the East coast, particularly in New England, New York and Florida. And with a few years, a national marketing plan had swung into full force.
Klondike Bar television commercials began appearing around the clock, featuring man-on-the-street style interviews and asking seemingly-normal folks what they’d do for a Klondike Bar, even suggesting such tasks as playing patty cake or riding around on tricycles. Famous folks even got in on the “What would you do?” act during the “Famous Mouths” campaign, which featured celebrities such as: Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous host Robin Leach, comedian Steve Allen and Today Show movie critic Gene Shalit – each biting into and devouring the ice cream for all of TV-Land to witness.
Today, there are many flavors of Klondike bar, each bearing an image of the familiar smiling bear. If vanilla isn’t your thing, perhaps you would like chocolate, or the more exotic Neopolitan, Oreo Cookie, Cappucino, or Heath-flavored bars (to name but a few.) And should the day come when we are required to ride a tricycle, do a backflip, sing a song, or perform any other activity to acquire one these popular snacks, we probably will. It’s a small price to pay for something so sinfully delicious.
If you’ve eaten your share of Klondike bars on a hot summer’s day, we welcome any thoughts you would like to share in our comments section, as we fondly remember these frozen squares of yumminess, here at Retroland.