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 Texas : Feature : Columns : Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories :

The Purity Ice Cream Factory
and the Ten O’Clock Valve

by Bill Cherry
Excerpted from his book Galveston Memories

A few years ago the Jack King family bought the Purity Ice Cream Co. it’s real estate at 12th and Avenue E, and its equipment and recipes from the estate of G. B. Brynston. Their reason for the acquisition was to be able to manufacture ice cream for their popular Strand business, La King’s Confectionery.

Laura Elder, then a reporter for the Houston Business Journal, wrote in a front page article that Purity would soon resume manufacturing ice cream to be sold elsewhere, perhaps up to the 5,000 gallons a month the factory made and sold when Brynston was the owner.

Purity Ice Cream neon sign in Galveston, Texas
Purity Ice Cream
Photo courtesy Chris Adams

Like Blue Bell ice cream, until it closed, Purity was so popular in Galveston County that few drugstore soda fountains or neighborhood grocery stores carried any other brand. In fact, all of the public school cafeterias had it in individual cup servings with little wooden spoons.

The ice cream was high in butter fat and was, in the main, flavored with natural ingredients like real strawberries, and it was always fresh, so you can imagine it started the taste race far ahead of its competition.

At special times of the year like Christmas and New Year’s, seasonal flavors arrived like peppermint and eggnog. In addition to the normal favorites – vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry – butter pecan was the most popular. The King family won’t have any trouble Whatsoever in getting testimony from oldtime locals that not even Blue Bell has approached the goodness of Brynston’s Purity.

In addition to his famous ice cream, Brynston, although a quiet behind-the-scenes kind of businessman, was an astute marketer. Drugstore soda fountains were major sources of ice cream sales in those days, and there were an enormous number of family-owned neighborhood throughout the county. In fact in Galveston of the forty drugstores, only Walgreen’s at 22nd and Postoffice was owned by a national firm.

To not only get the account but assure allegiance, Brynston would supply at Purity’s cost the soda fountain ice cream freezers and would provide the store’s fancy outside neon sign with the name of the store on top and Purity’s name below. And when the cash flow was short for the drugstore owner, he could depend on quietly making a very low interest rate, unsecured loan with Brynston to get the store over the hump.

For years Brynston resisted installing an automatic valve on a certain piece of equipment at the factory, and no matter what, according to Brynston, that valve had to be manually turned off at exactly ten o’clock each evening. He claimed it was not only impossible but silly to expect to find a regular employee who would sit in the plant from five o’clock in the afternoon until 10 o’clock that evening with the sole duty of turning off that valve.

So Brynston set up a couple of top loaded freezers in the plant’s front office and a counter where people in their neighborhood could come in and buy a pint, quart or half-gallon of freshly made ice cream. To handle the sales and the turning off of that important valve at exactly ten o’clock, he hired school teachers, a different one to work each night.

His pitch to the teachers was that they could grade papers and make money at the same time. But more importantly, in those days if school employees contributed to Social Security as well as the mandatory Teacher’s Retirement, they were able to draw both when they retired. Brynston’s plan gave those teachers like Riley H. Lefevers, George W. Bertschler, William O. Barlow and Arthur L. Graham, who moonlighted with Purity, that extra advantage.

I concluded long ago that Brynston purposely chose not to automate that valve, and the decision had nothing whatsoever to do with the ice cream manufacturing business. And further, maybe it didn’t even need to be turned off at exactly ten o’clock each night. It seems much more likely to me that the whole thing was a dignified scheme to help teachers.

G. B. Brynston was like that.

Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories
September 6, 2009 column
Copyright William S. Cherry. All rights reserved

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Bill Cherry, a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston County Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold thousands, and is still available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other bookstores.
Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories
 
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