Sweet Swindle

By Nancy Spitler
Photo by Robert G. Hufford ’43

More than 100 years ago, Clemson began making ice cream.

The Dairy Department already was producing milk, cheese and butter and, in 1904, began manufacturing ice cream. The ice cream quickly became a favorite among students, so much so that it served as the basis of a major prank played on freshmen for years.

When Clemson was still an all-male military school, freshmen were known as “rats” and were subject to hazing, sometimes more lighthearted than others. One hoax seemed to work every year.

During lunch, an announcement would be made on the PA system that the freezers had broken down at the creamery and free ice cream was available. Freshmen would grab stainless steel milk pitchers from the table and rush over to the creamery, only to be met by upperclassmen telling them they needed something bigger — milk cans or trashcans — so they could bring ice cream back for them as well.

A crowd of 300-400 freshmen would line up outside the sales room, some of them missing classes to stay in line, only to find out when they entered the sales room that it was all a joke. This story and scene is depicted at the Cadet Life Garden located within the South Carolina Botanical Garden. The scene was based on a 1939 photograph by Robert G. Hufford ’43, published in The Tiger. Hufford was a photographer for both TAPS and The Tiger while he was at Clemson.

According to an article in a 1919 issue of The Ice Cream Trade Journal by Assistant Professor of Dairying L.B. Cannon, Clemson was training men “in the manufacturing of ice cream as well as in the management of ice cream plants.”

The training and experience received — both theoretical and practical — is still going on today, courtesy of the student-run microcreamery created in 2001. In 2006, a gift from the Class of 1955 funded the opening of the current retail store in the Hendrix Student Center, named the ’55 Exchange. The proprietary mix is custom manufactured to the original specifications by a private company using milk from various farms. Students use a small-batch freezing process located in Newman Hall to convert it into Clemson Ice Cream.

For years, the students who work in the ’55 Exchange have not only manufactured ice cream; they’ve created new flavors, marketed their products, designed packaging and gained experience running a small business. This past year, they took the leap of adding online ordering and nationwide shipping, which kept sales going throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The beginning of Clemson Ice Cream.

Creamery operations moved from the original dairy building, located behind Sikes Hall, to Newman Hall.

The manufacturing of Clemson Ice Cream subcontracted to an outside vendor located in Wisconsin.

On-campus, student-run microcreamery created and the freezing of Clemson Ice Cream returned to Newman Hall.

A generous gift by the Class of 1955 funded the opening of the current Clemson Ice Cream retail store, named ’55 Exchange in honor of Clemson’s last all-military class.

Students began accepting online orders and shipping Clemson Ice Cream nationwide.

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