Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Memories of sundaes, wood type & more in Two Rivers November 14, 2022

A strawberry sundae served in a heavy tulip glass at the replica Berners’ Ice Cream Parlor, Two Rivers, Wisconsin. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2011)

EVERY DAY IS NATIONAL something or other day, right? Typically I hear or read about a national whatever designation and then promptly forget. But not National Sundae Day, which was Friday, November 11. Not wanting to detract from the really important designation for that date, Veterans Day, I delayed posting about this.

Signage marks the entry to the birthplace of the ice cream sundae in 1881. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2011)

When I heard about National Sundae Day, I was also reminded of the soda fountain owner who invented the sundae in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, back in 1881. I’ve been inside the Washington House, where Edward Berners first topped a dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce in a treat initially sold only on Sundays.

The historic Washington House in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2011)

Today visitors to The Washington House Museum and Visitor Center can still purchase sundaes and other treats inside this former 1850 hotel with replica ice cream parlor. I did in 2011, when Randy, our daughter Miranda, our son Caleb and I visited this charming Lake Michigan side town. At the time, Miranda lived in Appleton about an hour to the west.

The sprawling Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2011)

While the rest of my family headed to the ice cream parlor, I lagged behind at the neighboring Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. The working museum houses the world’s largest collection of type. For someone like me, with a journalism background and past employment at a weekly newspaper that used old typesetting equipment, this museum held great interest. I love old type. I love letterpress. I love the artsy look, the craftsmanship, the hands-on passion in creating. The ice cream sundae could wait.

A glimpse inside the working museum. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2011)

Eleven years after my tour of the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, I remember the joy I felt in being there. I remember, too, how the tour guide chided me for taking photos. Apparently he found my photographing intrusive, even though I lingered at the back far from other visitors. Despite his reaction, I still delighted in the smell of ink, the slim drawers holding type, the chunky blocks of wood type, the artsy results inked onto paper.

Beautiful Lake Michigan at Two Rivers. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2011)

A snippet of the historic Rogers Street Fishing Village. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2011)

A simply bucolic scene of Two Rivers. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2011)

And I delighted, too, in the community of Two Rivers. I recall its quaintness and beautiful natural setting along Lake Michigan. I recall, too, the historic Rogers Street Fishing Village. Just thinking about this eastern Wisconsin community makes me want to return. To view the expansive lake and follow the sandy beach. To take in weathered fishing boats and learn of lake lore. To meander through a museum that smells of ink with camera in hand. And then, finally, to step inside the Washington House ice cream parlor, the birthplace of the sundae, to savor a sundae served on more than just Sundays.

My second daughter and my son order ice cream sundaes at the replica Berners’ Ice Cream Parlor during a 2011 visit to Two Rivers. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2011)

TELL ME: Have you been to Two Rivers? What’s your favorite sundae flavor? Do you share my interest in wood type and printing? Yes, lots of questions today.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Memories of sundaes, wood type & more in Two Rivers”

  1. beth Says:

    I love the ice cream sundae history and the ice cream parlor looks just like I’d imagine one too look. the type and printing museum must have really been something to see too, I can imagine your excitement and glad you were able to take pictures to share.

  2. I may have to celebrate today since I missed it Friday. Hot fudge sundae for me, please.

  3. Nothing better than a chocolate sundae with strawberries or any type of berries! Growing up in that area there are times I miss the lakes as well as the mountains when I lived Out West. In all my living and traveling about I have taken pieces of places that remain in my heart and memories. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Valerie Says:

    I’ve never been to Two Rivers. It’s fun to learn it’s where ice cream sundae’s for their start…

  5. Bernadette Arlene Thomasy Says:

    Yes, I share your interest in old type and printing presses. When I first began as a reporter in 1970, the newspaper used the linotype machines and set the pages up in big metal trays line by line. One of my treasured possessions is my first name cast and set in a 72 pt headline font. We transitioned to computer set cold type in the mid-70s. I would love to visit the museum you highlighted.

    • Oh, my, what a treasure to have your first name cast and set in 72 point font. I would cherish that also. I share your linotype memories as The Gaylord Hub used linotype for auction ads and specialized printing when I started working there in 1978. I typed my stories on a manual typewriter and a typesetter then typed them into the typesetting machine. Such memories. Where was your first reporting job?

      • Bernadette Arlene Thomasy Says:

        The Blade in Toledo, Ohio. I was a staff writer there for nine years.

      • The Blade is an interesting name. That’s a long time at one newspaper. What did you cover? General assignment reporter or a specific beat?

      • Bernadette Arlene Thomasy Says:

        I was in features, the Living Today section. Since I had been a teacher for 2 years, I got many of the education-related stories but anything was fair game. Some memorable topics: children with Down Syndrome, unwed mothers, the beginning of women’s studies programs at universities and lots of breaking-the-glass-ceiling interviews in the Toledo/NW Ohio area. I loved the job because I got to learn about something new with every assignment. Thanks for your interest. I think you covered hard news, right? Did you have a beat?

      • Feature writing is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable aspect of journalism. You hear these stories that are often unique and interested, just as those you list here.

        Given I worked for weekly newspapers and then two dailies (Mankato, in the St. James News Bureau, and Owatonna), I covered everything from hard news to city council/school board/county board to features. Basically whatever needed covering. I enjoyed features the most and least liked sitting through those long public meetings. It was demanding, time-consuming, low-paying work. But I loved it.

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