xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Retro Baltimore: When eggnog ice cream was all the rage around the holidays

The ads appeared for Hendler’s eggnog ice cream this time of year while the well known East Baltimore frozen dessert maker was dominant in the field.

Hendler’s made the eggnog flavor only in the late fall and winter and it sold and sold. Many added a quart or two of the rum-based ice cream to their own homemade eggnog.

Advertisement

Hendler’s Creamery Co. was run in its final years by its president, George H. A. Kommalan.

“He was essentially the last real president of the firm until the mid 1960s,” said his son, Bill Kommalan. “Dad succeeded the Hendler family of Manuel Hendler, the founder, his brother and Manuel’s son. When I was 15 and 16 years old I worked for the firm in the quality control laboratory as a summer job.”

Advertisement

“Daily we had to test each batch produced for the day to know it was according to the formula and pasteurized correctly. We also tested our competition’s product. We did not have a coffee break, rather an ice cream break. I think I gained five pounds during my time there. As I ran cross country races in high school, I would lose the weight.”

The elder Kommalan began working for Hendler’s as an accountant in the late 1930s. He was a graduate of Baltimore City College and attended the University of Baltimore but did not graduate.

“At the time of World War II, Manuel “Manny” Hendler made a decision to keep my dad at the firm and not let him be drafted into military service,” Kommalan said. “He declared my dad as essential to making a product for the military as well as the domestic market. "

The elder Kommalan became president of the firm and ran it until 1965 or 1966. He was also a Mid-Atlantic Regional Vice President of the Borden Co. Inc., which controlled the stock in the business.

The eggnog ice cream was promoted heavily around Christmas. About 60 years ago Hendler’s produced about 53% of the ice cream sold in Baltimore City, principally because of the Baltimore City School contract and Read’s Drug Stores. Read’s, a popular drug and sundries chain, was based in Baltimore and had shops throughout the state. Another large account was the old Pimlico Hotel in Northwest Baltimore.

“On occasion you could find Dad at the Read’s store on Howard Street at Lexington, after a sales call on the headquarter office, serving behind the counter,” his son said. “I’ve encountered people who were regular customers at the counter that recall him there. As a teenager, Dad worked as a soda jerk at a drug store in Canton.

“My father was in a continuous discussion with Borden Co. in Manhattan because they wanted him to cheapen the product to gain more supermarket sales, “ Kommalan said. “They would impose revenue or sales projections to match their corporate strategy. Dad knew the firm well enough to meet their projections without changing the product.”

The Borden firm transferred the senior Kommalan to New York City. The succeeding president was instructed to take the fancy forms — ice cream made to special order in the shapes of fruits or clowns for children’s birthday parties — and destroy them.

“Fancy forms were [made] famous by Hendler’s and Dad used them extensively to promote the firm. If you were sick, a box of ice cream bonbons would arrive at the hospital or your home,” Kommalan said. “They would look like fruits such as walnuts, strawberries, bananas etc. One product was used often for political meals, where a slice of ice cream would be presented to each person with a silk-screened picture of the honoree on to the serving.”

Another favorite product was the harlequin-style ice cream of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, all layered together. At Christmas, special rectangular shaped blocks of vanilla ice cream were imprinted with green holiday trees.

“Yes, the eggnog ice cream was popular and was always served at our house,” said Kommalan. “Dad added rye whiskey to boost the flavor. I brought a college fraternity brother home one time. He asked my dad how did he sell the eggnog, ‘by the shot?’”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement