50 Years of Chilling: Aunt Stelle's Sno Cones in Oak Cliff
A white Mercedes CLS 500 slowly turns right off Clarendon and parks along the curb on the wrong side of the street. The tail end of the car is sticking out just a bit. The driver and his date, a young couple, get in line behind a family of six, all who just piled out of a black Suburban. Cars are parked haphazardly along the street, a continuous stream squeezing in and out of tight spots.
Owner Lee Albert in middle with husband Ed Schwartz on left and long-time family friend Mark Harris on right.
"We have everyone in our line. Entire families, young kids, people that have been coming here for generations, cops," said the owner of Aunt Stelle's Sno Cone stand, Lee Albert. "I guess snow cones just bring people together."
Albert's dad bought this tiny building at the corner of Clarendon and Marlborough in Oak Cliff five decades ago -- the exact day was May 12, 1962. When that day passed this year, Aunt Stelle's quietly celebrated 50 years of shaving ice and marauding it with sweet bright syrup.
Back then, when this neighborhood snow cone stand was in its infancy, Albert was 7 years old and technically didn't work that first year because she couldn't see over the counter. But, she gained a few inches that following year and they put her to work when she was 8.
"My dad just wanted us to have something to do during the summer," explained Albert. "Years later I would joke with him, 'Did you realize the monster you created back then?'"
Since the family lived just two blocks away, it was an easy foot commute. The snow cones cost a nickel that first year (although in '63 they got serious about things and raised the price to a dime). A family friend gave them the ice machine, but her dad replaced the blade mechanism, which he went on and got a patent for, and to this day they still use that same machine. They sharpen the blade about once a week and only once had to replace the motor.