Forty years of anything is worth celebrating. It’s a ruby-studded wedding anniversary. It’s the first official birthday of “middle age.” And if you’re a fudge-covered whale made of ice cream, it’s a chance to reflect on four decades of pop culture icon status.
By the 1970s, Tom Carvel—the inventor of the soft serve ice cream machine back in 1936—had already been selling ice cream cakes via his franchised stores and order-by-phone delivery service in a variety of the usual shapes you’d expect—circles, squares, and rectangles—using the company’s made-fresh-daily ice cream. But Carvel, ever the innovator, started dabbling with less-geometric cakes, including early creations like Hug Me the Bear and Dumpy the Pumpkin, and soon a whole parade of ice cream-filled characters was be born.
“He’d say ‘I want something different, I don’t want Mickey Mouse and I don’t want Big Bird, I want something that people can associate with Carvel, with our ice cream,’” recalls Kathy Dumas, a former Carvel employee who started working at the company store in Yonkers, NY when she 16 years old. “Somewhere back in the history, and it was way before my time, there was some little logo or icon or something that a had a little fish at the top and he kept saying ‘you know we do everything big for Mother’s Day, for Christmas and these other holidays, but we do nothing for Father’s day. I want to do something.’”