LANDMARKS & LEGENDS

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.

Do you have a story to share about Clemson ice cream? Send that to nspitle@clemson.edu or include it in comments below. To learn more or to order, go to clemson.edu/icecream.

Clemson Ice Cream Highlights:

1904
The beginning of Clemson Ice Cream.

1965
Creamery operations moved from the original dairy building, located behind Sikes Hall, to Newman Hall.

1995
The manufacturing of Clemson Ice Cream subcontracted to an outside vendor located in Wisconsin.

2001
On-campus, student-run microcreamery created and the freezing of Clemson Ice Cream returned to Newman Hall.

2006
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.

2020
Students began accepting online orders and shipping Clemson Ice Cream nationwide.

10 replies
  1. Fredna S. Prince says:

    As a family, we have enjoyed Clemson ice Cream and always made it our first stop on Sundays after the football games. As prefab residents while Ray was a student, we had easy access. Then Phil a student and now grandchildren and great grandchildren, all have enjoyed Clemson ice Cream. I miss it as I am unable to go to the games, therefore no ice cream😢that is why we make these memories when we can. Fredna Prince

    Reply
  2. Thomas C Pritchard says:

    I’m a Dairy Science major, Class of 1980! Worked in the Creamery and Dairy barns. Spend my whole career in ice cream manufacturing. Took me all over the world. You just never know where a Clemson degree will take you!

    Reply
    • Rhett Flanders says:

      Hi Thomas. I graduated in ‘84 with a dairy science degree and was in the industry for 35 years. Much the same story – moved all over the country working most of that time for Dean Foods. Last year I came back to Clemson and now work with the students at the ‘55 Exchange. My Clemson degree has brought me full circle!

      Reply
  3. William (Bill) Key says:

    Back in the 1950’s when there was a vacancy at your table in the mess hall, it was customary to “Hossengoggle” for the extra serving of ice cream (or dessert). This was done by everyone holding up one hand and saying together “Eins, Zwei, Hossegoggle” while extending any number of fingers from 1 to 5. The fingers were totaled. The table commandant selected a person as #1 and then counted this total number around to the recipient of the extra ice cream. Note: Some math major had wrongly figured that 3 fingers were the average number usually presented and they would put up the correct number of fingers to get the ice cream. Nevetheless, this was a fun way to win an extra ice cream!
    GO TOGERS!

    William (Bill) Key “55
    (the last class to graduate from The Clemson Agricultural College, where before the name change rats had to brace and eat square meals, and the student body became co-ed.)

    Reply
  4. Marcie Shaffer says:

    I worked at Ag Sales in Newman Hall in 1992-1994. I have fond memories of going home covered in runaway milkshakes (orange pineapple was always the worst) and having a line out the door on home football game Saturdays. I didn’t like butter pecan ice cream until I had Clemson’s. While it may look a little different, I’m glad the ice cream making tradition carries on.

    Reply
  5. Claire Oppenheim says:

    Best ice cream ever! I would walk from Clemson House on Saturdays to get ice cream as a weekend treat. A pleasant Clemson memory — one of many. (MA English ’96)

    Reply
  6. Jason says:

    I graduated from Clemson in 1997. I use to get ice cream from time to time. I’m bringing my family to Clemson this week and want to treat them to ice cream and some blue cheese. Where do I go? Thanks!

    Reply

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