This is the story of my great-great uncle, Aloysius Josh Pincus, the man for whom I am named.
Just prior to the turn of the twentieth century, Aloysius ran the soda fountain at Blehall’s Pharmacy, a sprawling retail establishment housed on the street level of a massive and ornate building at the corner of 14th and Broad in center city Philadelphia. The multi-department store offered a variety of merchandise that met the needs of the developing downtown community. A small stock of a multitude of items allowed Blehall’s to be in mild competition with the powerhouse department stores like Gimbel Brothers, Lit Brothers and the iron-fisted, fearsome Wanamaker Triplets. But it was Aloysius’s soda fountain that gave Blehall’s a competitive edge. Owner Emil Blehall operated the retail end of the store. He allowed Aloysius complete control of the fountain, a decision with which he was quite comfortable.
The fountain area, a beautiful marriage of dark oak and elegant white marble with sparkling swan-head seltzer dispensers, was tucked along the back wall of Blehall’s, adjacent to the pharmacy. Customers filling prescriptions would often bide their waiting time with a slice of pie or a quick liquid refreshment. Aloysius’s fruit beverages were wildly popular and famous throughout the city. Excited praise for his wonderful citrus and dairy blended concoctions reached as far as the Jersey shore. Sure, the sandwiches served at the fountain’s small counter were good — sometimes even rivaling the surrounding luncheonettes and pushcarts— but, it was Aloysius’s nectar amalgams that brought the crowds in.
But Aloysius Pincus was never satisfied. He was on a constant quest to find new and innovative flavors. He took tediously long trips. He traveled around the world — by train, motorcar, carriage, barge, and sometimes horseback — to find exotic essences and extracts that would add a unique zing to his standard offerings. Besides fulfilling his loyal customers’ cravings, Aloysius was driven by another purpose. He needed to bring down Julius Orangestein, the bane of his existence.
Julius Orangestein was the inventor of the renowned “Orange Julius,” a sweet fruit and milk beverage that was gaining popularity on the West coast. Orangestein had set up a single 10 foot by 10 foot stand in an empty lot in downtown Los Angeles and thirsty patrons came from miles, sometimes standing in line for hours. Cheerful teens in bowties and paper hats rapidly took customers’ orders and served them as fast as they could. They squeezed and poured and blended the ingredients with lightning-quick choreography. Orangestein stocked the barebones stand with three blenders, milk from northern California cows and bushels and bushels of southern California oranges. In an area at the rear of the stand rested a large and ominous chest freezer. The freezer held the secret to the success of the Orange Julius. The fresh-faced employees would first fill the blender canisters with the juice from several squished oranges and add a few glugs from a pitcher of milk. Then, with their backs to the customer, they would scoop something from the freezer and, in one fluid motion, place the container on the base and whirr the mixture into cold, frothy heaven.
Aloysius was determined to outdo his cross country rival. He tirelessly worked long after Blehall’s posted closing time, until the wee hours of the night. He mixed and blended the assortment of fruits, berries and other exotic additives he collected on his globe-spanning journeys. He experimented with different measurements of the ingredients and after much tasting and trial-and-error, Aloysius was content. This was his chance to show up old Orangestein before he had the opportunity to move his product eastward. Aloysius felt he had a few advantages over Orangestein. He used ingredients to which Orangestein had no access. He had also befriended a young and eager appliance salesman named Hamilton Beach and purchased exclusive distribution rights to his new blending machine. So, armed with his culinary knowledge, special ingredients and Beach’s “Electro-fied Blenderizer,” Aloysius defiantly took on his enemy.
The next day he displayed a huge hand-painted sign on a large easel near the fountain counter. The sign announced the arrival of the newest delight — “The Delicious Aloysius.” So well respected was Aloysius’s soda fountain prowess, the queue for the new beverage stretched for blocks within the first few minutes of the store’s opening. The general reaction from the crowd was positive, but soon a few contrary comments caught Aloysius’s ear.
“This is good,” began one bearded gentleman after a sip of his Delicious Aloysius, “but I just returned from Los Angeles and it really is no comparison to the Orange Julius.”
Several more men, those who traveled extensively for business, echoed the first man’s sentiment. Soon, Blehall’s Pharmacy was buzzing with curiosity and praise for the Orange Julius. Aloysius was incensed. Damn Orangestein. Damn him and his Orange Julius.
The World’s Fair was held in Chicago from May to October of 1893. People from across the country came to see the newest innovations in technology – a veritable glimpse into the future. Julius Orangestein and Aloysius Josh Pincus each planned to introduce their product on a national level at the event. They were given similar-sized stalls in the food section of the Fair, among the booths introducing Cracker Jack, Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit gum and hamburgers. Aloysius had secured a ride to the fair from his friend Milton Hershey, who came to observe and possibly purchase a European exhibitor’s chocolate manufacturing equipment. Hershey had designs on adding chocolate to his failing caramel business, hoping that would give it the boost it needed. Aloysius began setting up his stand, making it presentable for the Fair’s opening the next day. He was lugging trays of boxed chokeberries and fresh maypops, when he looked up and saw Julius Orangestein directing some workmen at a stand one away from his own. The workers were guiding equipment, wooden crates of produce and serving paraphernalia, all piled on a huge chest freezer set upon four wheeled dollies. Aloysius fumed. He realized he would have to spend the next six months with his mortal and commercial foe, separated only by the ten feet that was the Fair’s Aunt Jemima pancake mix headquarters. Suddenly, Aloysius had an intriguing thought. He eyed the mysterious freezer. He was now determined to uncover the secret of Orangestein’s prosperity.
The Fair was bustling on opening day. The crowds were excited by the buildings, lit electrically thanks to a joint venture by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse. They visited the wondrous exhibition halls that touted marvels of the future and offered visual insight into the lives of those from foreign lands. They sampled the varied food offerings. Both Aloysius and Orangestein were doing brisk business. From the piles of discarded cups, it looked as though Orangestein was doing slightly better. Aloysius still kept his pace, serving his namesake drinks, but he also kept Orangestein and his staff in his peripheral vision. While he worked, he stood on tiptoes and craned his neck to sneak a peak each time the chest freezer lid was raised a slender crack, just enough to extract a portion of the secret ingredient. To his dismay, the staff was well-trained. Aloysius wasn’t able to catch the tiniest glimpse of the elusive component that set the Orange Julius head-and-shoulders above the Delicious Aloysius.
After one night – opening night – Aloysius could not stand it any longer. He could not stand the competition. He could not stand the animosity. And he could not stand Orangestein’s triumph. He decided to make his move. By late evening, the food vendors were tidying up their stands and securing their wares and equipment for the night. Everyone was in a hurry to get a good viewing spot for the spectacular fireworks display and even the exhibitors didn’t wish to be left out. The food area was deserted. Aloysius silently slunk through the aisles amid the locked stands. He dropped to the ground and squeezed his way under the brightly-colored, thick oilcloth surrounding the wooden frame that was the Orange Julius stand. In the dim lighting, the clean blenders glowed ethereally. The oranges were crated and stacked neatly, waiting for the next day’s business. The silver milk cans stood like silent sentinels. At the rear of the stand, the freezer hummed malevolently. Aloysius crept to it. The only obstacle that stood between Aloysius and the freezer’s contents was a small hasp through which a tiny padlock had been threaded. A new secretarial-assistance item of twisted tin called “The Paper Clip” was introduced at the Fair and Aloysius used a straightened one to deftly pick the lock, which he then tossed aside. He carefully but eagerly lifted the heavy lid and — at long last — looked inside. He was astonished. He was furious. It was so…. so obvious! He reached in and tried to grab a handful. It was cold, frozen solid. A metal pick with a gnarled wooden handle lay on the surface. Aloysius grabbed it and feverishly chipped away. After several minutes of labor, he lifted a helping in his cupped hand and raised it to his nose and mouth. He inhaled. Sweetness filled his nostrils. He licked. Tartness flowed across his taste buds. Again, he was overcome by both anger and bewilderment. All at once, Aloysius leaped to his feet and burst through the protective white sheet that encircled Orangestein’s closed concession. He scrambled down the sawdust-covered walkway, first muttering, then screaming.
“Frozen!,” he yelled, “He freezes it!”
The majority of the crowd had their sights trained on the colorful explosions in the sky. The ones in close proximity to Aloysius turned their gaze towards him, dumbfounded. Some were even drawn out of the Streets of Cairo exhibit, finding the commotion outside more compelling than Little Egypt doing her “hootchie-cootchie” dance. They wondered what prompted this lunatic’s ranting. He continued to shout. His legs flying in all directions, his outstretched hands filled with glowing pale orange crystals, some dropping as he ran.
He headed towards George Ferris’s 264-foot tall Observation Wheel. Aloysius hollered as he ran. “He freezes it!,” he shrieked,” That’s his secret!”
As the Wheel moved in a slow “loading and unloading” pattern, Aloysius jumped into the last empty gondola. The Wheel began to make its single non-stop revolution and picked up speed. The shocked onlookers on the ground murmured and pointed as Aloysius fidgeted in the gondola, anxious to announce his discovery to as many as would listen. He was giddy at the notion that he was about to unleash information that would ruin Orangestein, earning the Delicious Aloysius its rightful position as favorite blended fruit and dairy drink. Aloysius, a man possessed, precariously stood up in the gondola. “It’s frozen, goddammit!” cried Aloysius, “Orangestein freezes the orange j… ”
He trailed off. An errant piece of Orangestein’s secret ingredient had fallen from Aloysius’s hand and landed on the metal footrest of the gondola. Aloysius slipped on it and plummeted to the ground, never able to finish his revelation. And never able to finish Orangestein. The Delicious Aloysius was soon forgotten and the secret of the Orange Julius remained a secret.