Who, What and How? by James R. Coggins

Who are Frank Epperson and Harry Burt, what did they each invent, and how did it have a direct impact on my life?

In 1905 in Oakland, California, an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson was on his front porch stirring a powdered drink. He was called away and left the drink outside. When he returned the next morning, he discovered the drink had frozen solid, with the stir stick still in it. He had inadvertently created a now well-known frozen treat. When Frank grew up, he made the treats for his children. He called them Epp-icicles or Epsicles, after his last name. However, his children preferred to call them after the name by which they knew their father, their “Pop.” In the 1920s, Frank quit his job and set up a company to manufacture and sell his frozen treats.

Around the same time, in Youngstown, Ohio, Harry Burt was trying to make ice cream treats. He discovered that if he dipped ice cream bars in chocolate, they would hold their shape better, they would melt more slowly, and they would be protected from contamination and be less likely to spoil. However, his children complained that they were very messy to eat. Since his background was in candy, Harry inserted a lollipop stick into the ice cream. He began selling his ice cream on a stick. He then invented the ice cream truck, the first food truck. Because people were cautious about eating food from a truck, he painted the trucks white and dressed the drivers in white uniforms. He said that eating these treats would put people in a “Good Humor.” He even painted that on the side of his trucks.

Harry Burt acquired a US patent for the design of his frozen treats. He would sue anyone who tried to copy the technology but then make a deal with them to become franchisees, continuing to make the treats but paying a royalty to him.

Frank Epperson also had a patent for his frozen treat technology, and the two companies sued each other in court. In order to avoid legal costs, Epperson’s partners made a deal with Burt to become Good Humor franchisees, pulling the company out from under Epperson. Epperson sold his patent and went on to invent other things. Eventually, Good Humor gained control of Popsicle.

In the summer of 1968, my sister Mary (in whose steps I often followed) went to work for a company called J.B. Jackson Ltd. In Simcoe, Ontario. The next summer, I joined her there. Under licence, J.B. Jackson manufactured Good Humor ice cream products and popsicles. We worked there for several summers, wearing white uniforms. The money we earned paid for a large part of our university education. Without that education, I would not have been able to do many of the things I have done or written many of the things I have written.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is www.coggins.ca
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