Podcast: History of Sweets and Indulgence in Galveston

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Galveston, Texas discovered itself being a major port city before the civil war. On this thriving metropolitan island, stores and shops began to take shape for commerce of all shapes and sizes.

After the civil war concluded in 1865, during reconstruction and the occupation of the U.S. military, Galveston Island boomed in population and experienced a colossal influx of cash that transformed the city to a metropolitan powerhouse.

Along with the flood of people and money coming to Galveston, the island was inundated with ideas and products from around the world.

The downtown district became home to some of the first businesses of their kind in Texas and the Southern U.S.

Like many growing cities of the time, Galvestonian's cravings included sweets and indulgences!

Confectionary shops became a popular staple around the city to purchase Taffy, Licorice, butterscotch, peppermints and general sweet treats! Chocolate wasn't widely available until the early 1900s!

Drug stores were the place to sit down and have a sweet soda while waiting on your prescription! As in much of the country in the late 1800s, Drugstores began installing soda fountains. The first soda fountain was brought to Galveston after the Civil War. People would seek fountain drinks from their local drugstore to cure physical ailments. At the time, many fountain drinks were concoctions or extracts of flavored drugs. Among the popular ingredients found in pharmacy drinks were a combination of Cocaine and caffeine as a treatment for headaches! As patients began to suffer rebound headaches, they would return again and again for more drinks to treat their pain. The practice of mixing drugs into a sweet soda to enjoy at the pharmacy has since gone out of style!

It is funny to think that soda and candy were in the same category in those days! Regardless, I am sure the local dentists were happy to have an office nearby!

Galveston had its eyes on what the rest of the country was up to as it pertained to sweet treats.

It was not until 1889 when Galveston was one of the most populous and prominent that the island would be granted the gift of Texas' first Ice Cream producer!

A small family operation began importing cream from Lufkin, TX and started the first ice cream company in Texas. Purity Ice Cream Co., Texas’ oldest ice cream company became so popular in Galveston County that few drugstore soda fountains or neighborhood grocery stores carried any other ice cream product.

The confectionery or drug stores would proudly display the Purity neon signs. Purity's factory on 1202 Postoffice worked up to churning eighteen flavors to be distributed around the Island and the state! The ice cream was high in butter fat and was mainly flavored with natural ingredients like real fruit.

During its heyday, this small plant manufactured 5,000 gallons of ice cream per month to be delivered to local shops by horse-drawn wagons.

In fact, all of the public school cafeterias had it in individual cup servings with little wooden spoons.

Even during times of war when ingredients were scarce, Purity still produced popular ice cream flavors like chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. During World War II, Camp Wallace, the Hitchcock Naval Air Station in Hitchcock, TX, and Fort Crockett were Purity's biggest customers.

Eventually, with stiff competition such as Blue Bell, Purity Ice Cream Co. closed its doors in 1979 after almost a century of ice cream sales. In 1983, the King family bought the Purity Ice Cream Co., its equipment and real estate as well as the famous Purity formulas. Fortunately, Purity Ice cream can still be enjoyed today by taking a step back in time into an old-time confectionery, soda and ice cream shop on the Strand at La Kings! Enjoy old-time candy, ice cream and the soda fountain, most of which maintain the same recipes from the early days! Except for the soda, the narcotics have been removed from the recipe!

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Author

J.R. Shaw Creator & Host of Galveston Unscripted

J.R. Shaw is the creator and host of Galveston Unscripted Podcast & audio tour. Shaw recognizes that history is nuanced and learning it can be powerful. He's made it his mission to reduce the friction between true history and anyone who is willing to listen! J.R. Shaw focuses on telling the full story through podcasting and social media with the goal of making learning accurate history easy and entertaining for all who seek it.

J.R. grew up along the Texas Gulf Coast, where he learned to love talking with anyone about anything! He started Galveston Unscripted after he realized how much he loved talking to people about their stories related to Galveston Island and Texas History. "So much of our history is lost when we don't have the opportunity to hear from those who lived it or have second-hand knowledge."