I thought I would share a story about a very special ice cream sandwich.
As you well know, I grew up a military brat. I lived all over the country and all over the world, which meant that we didn’t see our extended family, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, very often. So as you can imagine, trips to see my grandparents were pretty special.
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First, we were going to California, which has always been viewed by many as a magical place, and secondly, it would mean unique treats like Sees Candies, The Pop Shoppe, and It’s-IT ice cream sandwiches.
It’s-IT was my grandmother’s absolute favorite ice cream treat and to this day whenever I see an It’s-IT delivery truck on the road, I think of her. Given that It's-IT is based in the Bay Area, I see the trucks all the time and I am grateful for the weekly reminder of a truly fantastic woman.
There is nothing better as a child than sitting down with your grandparents with a delicious ice cream treat, telling stories, sharing dreams, and enjoying the moment.
You might now wonder…what the heck is an It's-IT??!! Well, it's a delicious ice cream sandwich made with vanilla ice cream, oatmeal cookies, and dipped in chocolate. When people first tasted it people declared it to be IT the end all be all of ice cream sandwiches!
I just spent the weekend in Bend, Oregon at a family reunion on my mother's side. And while it is always fun to see family (we do the reunion once every five years), I really do miss my grandma and her brothers and sisters, whose presence made any outing an event.
I told them I was writing this post about their mother's favorite ice cream and I asked my aunts and uncles about their It’s-IT memories. One of my aunts is an antique collector (she even has a store in historic Crockett) and is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to Bay Area history. She associated It's-IT with a standalone food stand outside of Playland-at-the-Beach in San Francisco.
My grandparents used to take my mother and her siblings to Playland-at-the-Beach for a weekend outing. My grandparents didn't have a lot of money, but they definitely created lots of adventures for their children with summer vacations at Lake Berryessa, RV trips, and outings to the city (San Francisco).
Playland-at-the-Beach was an amusement park at Ocean Beach a little ways down from the Cliffhouse. It was two blocks long and fashioned after a boardwalk with independently owned concessions. One of those concession stands was the Whitney Brother’s “This is IT” where they served hot dogs and hamburgers along with the now-famous ice cream sandwiches made by hand on the spot and then dipped in chocolate.
Playland-at-the-Beach closed on a Friday in 1972 and was set to be demolished on Monday. Throughout the weekend locals raided the site for souvenirs, pieces of the park, and of San Francisco’s history. A group of people, led by Richard Tuck, pulled together the mementos and souvenirs and created a museum in El Cerrito, California called “Playland-Not-at-the-Beach.” You can photos and artifacts of It’s-IT there.
The ONLY place to get It's-IT was Playland-at-the-Beach, so once it closed there was no place to get this amazing ice cream sandwich. That was a definite problem.
Thankfully in 1974, It’s-IT opened a small shop in SoMa. But their popularity soon forced them to find a bigger location and they eventually moved to their current location in Burlingame (where you can visit their store!).
What made this treat so special?
It was scarce. I could only have it when I visited my grandparents.
Now that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can have one anytime I want! And each and every time it is special because of the memories associated with it.
But guess what? It’s-IT is distributed in many other states (check out their website for a list of locations), so YOU have the opportunity to try this iconic ice cream sandwich. There are so many choices in the freezer aisle, but there are a few things you should know about It’s-IT.
They are family-owned and run.
When It’s-IT reached out to me to offer some of their treats for sampling, I first confessed that I already knew and loved It’s-IT so I wouldn’t really be “sampling.” They said that was okay because they bet I hadn’t tried any of their new flavors, which of course I had not because I love the classic. So I accepted their gracious offer and asked them to deliver them to my office because there was no way I could eat a dozen ice cream sandwiches on my own.
Even though I tried!
When the day of a delivery arrived, who should be there handing me over my own little slice of heaven but the grandson of the family that has been running It’s-IT since it left Playland-at-the-Beach. I told him how much my grandmother loved It’s-IT and how much I appreciated that a member of the original family came to meet me.
Family is important, how many other ice cream makers are still family-owned and run? That is one reason why you should consider seeking out and trying one of these babies.
The other? Really great ingredients.
Fresh creamy ice cream. Secret recipe oatmeal cookie. Chocolate.
I collected my hand-delivered ice cream up to my office, cut up the sandwiches so that my colleagues and I could share them and we went to town trying the new flavors: chocolate, strawberry, cappuccino, mint and pumpkin, along with the classic vanilla.
Half of my co-workers knew of It’s-IT and gladly participated and the other half, mainly the ones from places like New York, had not heard of it and are now super fans. In fact, one of my colleagues can’t stop talking about it and is now a pumpkin It’s-IT addict!
Food plays such an important role in my life. There are memories weaved into all my food experiences. I like that when I see an It’s-IT ice cream truck I think of my grandmother, it means that on a weekly basis I am reminded of all the good times I had with her prior to her departure. Sad to say, I don’t know if I would do that as often if it weren’t for It’s-IT.
Thank you It’s-IT for sending me over a little slice of heaven.
How about you? Do you food memories associated with your grandparents?
[Disclosure: I received a dozen complimentary It's-IT ice cream sandwiches, but as always all opinions are my own. I love these ice cream sandwiches!]
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