Those Years I Worked in an Ice Cream Shop

Published 22 June, 2011; last updated on 14 May, 2020; originally posted at

I was the surly teenager behind the waffle bakers in Townsville 1994 and Werribee 1995-1999.

My Dad was obsessed with the idea of being his own boss. We opened a Copperart shop in Ballarat around 1985. The family home was furnished in copper and brass. I recognise just about everything from this ad. I don’t know what happened — I was only eight at the time — but we were back in Melbourne a year later.

That didn’t stop Dad though. After a brief dalliance with the idea of opening a Cut Price Deli (they had a great ad; unfortunately I can’t find it online) we decided to open a Great Australian Ice Creamery in Townsville. It was 1994, I was fifteen, and as I was yet to find my shitty teenage career, I was put to work.

It didn’t take long to realise that my surly teenage boy shtick wasn’t a good fit for the Ice Creamery’s cheery, bubbly brand, so I was put to work making waffle cones. Eight hour shifts behind the waffle bakers in the tropical air taught me a whole lot about work — mainly that it sucked.

Townsville didn’t end up being a great place for us, so the next year we moved back down to Melbourne. Serendipitously, the Great Australian Ice Creamery in Werribee came up for sale that year, so my folks snapped it up. Mum ran that shop for the next ten years or so. I kept up my duties as chief waffle cone maker until I graduated from uni, hearing the same stoner jokes about “pulling cones” at least weekly.

At the end of most shifts—as long as Dad wasn’t around to tell me off—I rewarded myself with a knock-off sundae. It was usually a Flamin’ Warratah (strawberry and boysenberry ice cream with a strawberry puree, cream, and sherbet) or a Great Australian Bite (a banana split with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, chocolate and strawberry topping, pineapple, cream and a wafer). The whole menu had an Australiana theme. There was the Mt. Kosciusko (lots of vanilla ice cream in a tall glass), the Ballarat Gold Digger (“veins of butterscotch sauce leading to nuggets of banana”) and the Ned Kelly Dog (a double-barrelled hot dog).

Surprisingly, I never got sick of ice cream—just fussy.