Waving Hands Make Magic: The Music, Restaurants and Unique Career of Bud Averill

Cardboard America, Close Cover
1931-12-24 -  The San Bernardino County Sun, 24 Dec 1931, Thu, Page 11.jpg

 San Bernadino County Sun – December 24, 1931

Sometimes I come across a piece of ephemera from my collection that sends me down countless wormholes and side stories that I seem to lose all track of time and place. Such is the case with Bud Averill’s Airport.

The restaurant was the second Bud Averill restaurant at the same location. The first establishment, known as “Bud” Averill’s Paradise Cafe. Featuring dining, dancing and in-house entertainment from Averill himself playing a THEREMIN. This is where I lost track of the world.

Cyrus Edward “Bud” Averill, Jr. was born in Elberton, Washington on February 14, 1896. It is said that Averill was the first WWI volunteer from the state of Idaho, but I cannot find any corroborating evidence. After he was discharged from his duties in naval aviation, Averill homesteaded north of Casper, Wyoming, where he joined the Powder River Orchestra.

During the early 1920s, Casper, Wyoming was a booming oil town desperately lacking entertainment. Averill and a group called Arminto’s Jolly 7 were brought to town on a multi-month engagement at Oil Center Hall starting March, 1921. A baritone tenor vocalist by trade, Averill would sing the top hits of the day and became something of a hit in the region.

1921-03-11 -  Casper Star-Tribune, 11 Mar 1921, Fri, Page 3.jpg

Casper Star-Tribune – March 11, 1921

Averill would sing as pre-show entertainment for stage productions such “The Idol of the North” starring Dorothy Dalton as “the beautiful dance hall girl on the frontier of civilization.”

1921-05-11 - Casper Star-Tribune, 11 May 1921, Wed, Page 4

Casper Star-Tribune – March 11, 1921

For the next few years Averill would hone his skills in the Casper area, slowly adding comedy to his performances and eventually become a vaudeville-style performer. Bud Averill, serious vocalist was all but forgotten for a while and Bud Averill “the world’s funniest human” was captivating audiences in Wyoming, Montana and Utah. He and his wife, Virginia Nelson, moved to Salt Lake for a brief period before settling in California.

1927-07-09 - The Anaconda Standard, 09 Jul 1927, Sat, Page 2

Anaconda Standard – July 9, 1927

A brief tour of Los Angeles, as part of a show called “Revue of Revues” opened a new  world of possibilities for Averill. In 1929 alone, he appeared (in chronological order) as a serious vocalist for the KEJK dance orchestra; a lead performer in the show called “Rose Garden Revue” at the Million Dollar Stage in downtown Los Angeles; a vaudeville performer on radio station KPLA; and a cast member in the all-talking melodrama called “The Isle of Lost Ships” at the RKO Theatre (8th & Hill Sts). He was also a coach for the Los Angeles Orpheum ensemble and appears as if he did some uncredited vocal work on multiple motion pictures.

1929-10-31 -  The Los Angeles Times, 31 Oct 1929, Thu, Page 34.jpg

The Los Angeles Times – October 31, 1929

A tour of the United States followed in 1930. Bud Averill and His 18 Sensational Songsters (Some Steins! A Table! Songs Ringing Clear!) joined several other acts as a traveling vaudeville show. There were dates from Montana, Utah, Oklahoma, St. Louis, New York and several others.

Other shows and radio gigs followed in 1931 and 1932. It may be somewhere in this time that Averill discovered the ethereal sounds of the theremin. The theremin is an instrument played without any physical contact, making it extremely difficult to play. The instrument was only a few years old in the 1930s after it had made its way over from the Soviet Union. There were only a few thereminsts in the United States and around 1930 & 1931, it reached oddity status on the stage and radio. There are no known stories of when and how Averill learned to play, but soon he would be showcasing his skills.

By the summer and fall of 1933, Averill’s talents were mostly being showcased on radio station KRKD at 3:15 in the afternoon. He was also doing shows around Los Angeles. After a stint with his orchestra at the Boos Brothers Beer Garden, Averill opened a new restaurant called Bud Averill’s Paradise Gardens in October 1933. The new place located at 674 South Vermont Avenue and featured “legal” beverages and delicious sandwiches.

1933-10-06 -  The Los Angeles Times, 06 Oct 1933, Fri, Main Edition, Page 23.jpg

The Los Angeles Times – October 6, 1933

The music for the new place was provided by, you guessed it, Bud Averill. Originally he and his orchestra were the main focus but plans changed and the focus would be on him and his theremin playing. Now we are back to where we started. A matchcover from the Paradise Cafe (Gardens) features an illustration of Averill playing his magical music machine. One can only guess how diners reacted to the sounds of the theremin as they ate their sandwiches and drank their not-illegal drinks.

The restaurant would stay open for sometime and eventually go through a name and theme switch to become the Bud Averill’s Airport restaurant this piece was supposed to be about. Information is sparse about when the switch occurred and when Bud Averill’s Airport (named for his aviation days) closed. I found evidence that it was named the Airport in 1943 and was open during World War II but I would guess it probably didn’t last much into the 1950s.

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There was another Bud Averill owned and operated restaurant called Carmel Gardens by the Sea at the corner of 2nd & Broadway in Santa Monica, California. Information about this place is even more sparse. Only experts mix their drinks.

The matchcover says they had dining, dancing and entertainment. The time frame for this place looks about the same as the other(s), with a similar design to that of the Airport.

Seeing as there just isn’t much information to be gleaned from the internet about these restaurants, lets get back to what sidetracked this whole piece to begin with – the musical stylings of Bud Averill.

Throughout the remainder of the 1930s, Averill would continue to perform, tour and host a radio show – this time on KMTR at 11:30pm with the cleverly titled “Bud Averill’s Dance Band.” In 1938, Averill moved to KMPC and hosted a “Toast to the States” with songs about every state in the nation (all 48 of them) in alphabetical order. A year later, he was on KFWB with a 10pm show.

In 1941, Averill released a set of three 78RPM records of his theremin recordings of Stephen Foster songs with the following titles: “Beautiful Dreamer”; “Old Folks at Home”, “Massa’s in De Cold, Cold Ground”; “Old Black Joe”; “My Old Kentucky Home”; “Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair”. The songs were recorded in Hollywood and featured Bob Thompson at the organ.

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Courtesy of Discogs

Averill remained active during World War II. Too old to serve, he volunteered his time elsewhere. He teamed with Hayden Simpson to write and record “U.S.S. Los Angeles.” All proceeds from the recording were donated to the athletic and silver service funds. By this point, Bud had been an active Hollywood songwriter composing tunes for movies and radio.

The summer of 1947 saw Averill in the middle of a controversy and lawsuit. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) banned Averill’s latest jingle “Union Pacific Steamliner,” ruling that the song wasn’t really a song as much as it was an unpaid advertisement for the railroad. Similar songs by other composers entitled “In My Merry Oldsmobile,” “El Rancho Vegas,” “Rum and Coca-Cola,” and “Love in a Greyhound Bus” were accused of doing the exact same thing but were allowed to remain on the air.

1947-06-23 - The Pittsburgh Press, 23 Jun 1947, Mon, Page 10

The Pittsburgh Press – June 23, 1947

Averill thought this unfair and brought forth a lawsuit against NBC.The suit sought a large sum of $1,000,000 in damages. Averill asserted the song was copyrighted April 15 and published in sheet music, so it must be a real song. He alleged that advertisers have called NBC and its affiliates for the song, but the network refused such requests. Reports of the outcome of the lawsuit are nowhere to be found, so I am guessing it ultimately led nowhere.

Off and on tours continued for Averill throughout the remainder of the 1940s and into the early 1950s. He and his theremin would return to his old familiar Salt Lake and Wyoming homes for special appearances.

1950-08-19 - Salt Lake Telegram, 19 Aug 1950, Sat, Page 5

Salt Lake Telegram – August 19, 1950

A foray into the fairly new world of television followed in 1951, with the short-lived “Pardon My French.” He would continue to appear sporadically on local Los Angeles television shows. But Averill’s star faded as the 1950s progressed and he passed away on July 20, 1956 at the age of 60. The cause of death is unknown.

Averill is completely forgotten now, but he was truly a unique entertainer with a set of skills few could ever duplicate.

Idaho Skunks Are Not To Be Sniffed At: The Roadside Signs of Fearless Farris’ Stinker Stations

Cardboard America

“Fearless” Farris Lind had an eye for adventure. Born in 1915 outside of Twin Falls, Idaho, he graduated from Twin Falls High School in 1934. Shortly thereafter he worked as an attendant at a local gas station and then became manage of a small theater. Not too long after, Lind received a “Spanish Prisoner Letter” from a jailed businessman in Mexico. The letter was smuggled from the prison and mailed to Lind – the businessman and Lind had a mutual acquaintance.

The letter asked Lind to come to Mexico. Once there, he was to bribe a guard at the jail with $500, the guard would give him claim checks to the businessman’s trunks which contained $250,000 in a false bottom. The businessman also stated that he would be forever grateful if Lind would escort the businessman’s daughter to the United States.

Lind quit his theater job immediately, borrowed on his insurance and readied himself for a Mexican adventure. When Lind arrived in Mexico City,  a U.S. Consul officer told him that it was an old trick. There was no “businessman.” There were no riches and Lind’s $500 was gone forever. Lind was one of many who had fallen for the ruse.

Despondent, after a month long trip to Mexico, Lind returned to the U.S. dirty, with no money and on a third-class mail coach.

In 1938, Lind headed to Toronto on a six-week visa. There he took a job for an advertising firm. His job, in conjunction with a Richfield Hi-Octane gasoline promotion,was to respond to the the thousands of letters as Jimmie Allen, hero of popular 15-minute radio serial “The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen.”

The Times, 23 Jan 1938, Sun, Page 36

An advertisement for “The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen”  from The Times – January 23, 1938

Canadian officials soon learned that the American on a short-term visa had a full-time job and he was quickly deported. Broke yet again, Lind moved to Denver. There he found a job as a road salesman for a refinery. The job was miserable, but his time in Denver wasn’t all bad. He met an art student named Virginia Johns and the two were married on November 5, 1939.

The young couple moved to Butte, Montana where Lind opened a petroleum brokerage firm. It was a flop. Lind was broke yet again. The two headed to back to Lind’s home state of Idaho. In 1941, Idaho governor Chase A. Clark was embroiled in a dispute with oil retailers. Clark insisted the prices being charged were way too high and threatened to open state-owned retailers. Lind, sensing an opportunity, spoke with Clark and told him that if he wanted to keep costs down he should make it easier for independent gas and oil companies to compete with the big boys. Lind insisted that making cheap land available to the small companies on a state lease would solve the problem. The governor agreed.

Lind got a lease on an old truck weigh station near Twin Falls. After borrowing $5 from his sister, Lind was able to haul old storage tanks to the weigh station and began dispensing gas. He called the new station Fearless Farris and he kept prices low.

Then came World War II. Lind served as a Naval flight instructor and tested new planes. After three years, Lind was discharged. He and some former Navy buddies utilized their flying skills and started a spraying service with 12 planes. The company was called Fearless Farris Pest Control Service.

 

The Post-Register, 20 Jun 1948, Sun, Page 13

The Post-Register – June 20, 1948

Business was tough. In the three year the spraying service was operating, seven of the company’s 12 planes crashed and two pilots died. Lind himself suffered two accidents. He sold his shares of the company in 1949 and devoted all of his time to his plucky little service station.

The gas station’s low prices began to take hold and Lind was able to open several new stations in the area. This didn’t come without ruffling a few feathers. Local oil retailers began to despise Lind and called him “The Stinker.” Lind loved it and almost immediately began calling his stations Fearless Farris’ Stinker Stations with a skunk wearing boxing gloves as a mascot. The skunk mascot adorned eye-catching neon signs that demanded motorists’ attention.

The Pittsburgh Press, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 118

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

Dozens of new locations popped up every year in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Nevada.

The Eugene Guard, 03 Jan 1952, Thu, Page 6

The Eugene Guard – January 3, 1952

Ever the salesmen, Lind offered everything from candy and toys to lure families to trips to Hawaii and diamond rings. He was always looking for a way to draw attention to Stinker. In the late 40s/early 50s Lind would come up with an idea, almost by accident, that would make him and his business known state and nation-wide.

The Salt Lake Tribune, 10 Jun 1959, Wed, Page 26

The Salt-Lake Tribune – June 10, 1959

In 1969, Lind would tell the tell story of his great idea. He bought plywood, the only wood he could afford, to build signs for the first station. He continued,

“The plywood had to be painted on both sides to seal the sign against moisture. As long as the back of the sign was painted, I got the idea of putting humor or curiosity-catching remarks on the back side.”

The signs were a perfect idea. On old Highway 30, the precursor to Interstate 80 (now Interstate 84), there was nothing but desert sagebrush and hills for hundreds upon hundreds of miles. Lind placed roadside signs to spice up the landscape and get the word out about Stinker.

Just as the barren wasteland begins to feel as if it will stretch on into eternity, a simple yellow sign with black letter emerges on the roadside, as if reading the driver’s thoughts. The sign simply says, “Ain’t This Monotonous?”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 202

The Philadelphia Inquirer – May 20, 1956

There is no other message on the sign. The driver begins to wonder what they just saw. A few minutes later another sign emerges. “This is Not Sagebrush, You’re In Idaho Clover.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer - May 20, 1956

The Philadelphia Inquirer – May 20, 1956

Then nothing. No signs again for several miles. The driver doesn’t know what the signs are about. The desert begins to feel endless. Suddenly, a bigger sign emerges: Warning: Idaho is Full of Beautiful Lonely Women.” This is the one that catches everyone’s attention.

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There is still no indication about the meaning of the signs, but the driver begins to look for more.  Suddenly, every 15 minutes a new sign emerges, then another and then another. As the driver makes their way to Boise, the message become closer together.  One hundred signs line the drive in to town.

The messages are all different:

“Nudist Area, Keep Your Eyes on the Road – Cowboys Please Remove Spurs”
(with a nude mannequin covered in a leaf and cowboy clothing, boots and a whiskey bottle on an old plank)

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“Sheepherders Headed for Town Have Right Of Way”

Stinker2

“Petrified Watermelons – Take One Home to Your Mother-In-Law ”
(complete with heavy, round lava rocks)

Stinker4

“Warning To Tourists –  Do Not Laugh at the Natives”
(Image courtesy of Roadside Nut)

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“Have Tea With Me – Bring Your Own Bag”

The Pittsburgh Press, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 119

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

“Rain Checks Cashed – Suckers Welcome – The Bank of Snake River”

The Pittsburgh Press, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 119 2

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

A few more of the known signs:

“This Road For Men Only – Curves and Soft Shoulders – Women Take the Detour”
“Cattle Country – Watch Out For Bum Steers”
“Idaho Skunks Are Not To Be Sniffed At”
“Fishermen: Do You Have Worms?”
“Lava is Free. Make Your Own Soap”
“Methodists – Watch Out For Mormon Crickets”
“Boise is Full of Taxpayers”
“This Area is For the Birds – It’s Fowl Territory”
“State Highway Obstacle Course”
“Sagebrush is Free, Take Some Home to Your Mother-In-Law”
“Quiet Please, Entering Ghost Town”
“For a Fast Pickup, Pass a State Patrolman”
“Don’t Just Sit There, Nag Your Husband”
“No Trespassing, This Area is For the Birds”
“No Fishing Within 100 Yards of the Road””Don’t Just Sit There, Nag Your Husband”
“If Your Wife Wants to Drive, Don’t Stand In Her Way”
“Hysterical Marker – Chief Saccatabacca Starved to Death Here”
“Do You Have a Reservation or Aren’t You an Indian?”
“If You Lived Here You’d Be Home Now”
“Sitting Bull Stood Up Here”
“Why Be a Wage Slave? Find Your Wife a Job”

“Warning: The Wind Will Blow Up This Road”

The Pittsburgh Press - May 20, 1956

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

As the signs increase you begin to see the Stinker skunk on the edge of the sign. Then the messages become a billboard advertising Stinker Cut-Rate Gas Station in Boise. The tourist then feels compelled to come to the station for gasoline or, at the very least, an explanation.

The signs became a sensation. Stinker Stations became the go-to fuel place in Boise. Word about the signs began to spread as tourists brought their stories and pictures back with them. National newspapers (many used here) gave even more attention to the signs. Lind was a hit. He expanded his empire to over 50 stores.  Business was stronger than ever but Fearless Farris was not.

Lind was diagnosed with polio in the 1950s and was bed-ridden most of the remainder of his life. He finally succumbed in 1983. The Lind family sold the business in 2002.

The roadside signs are a different story. While a few remain, many were removed when in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the highway beautification act that banned most commercial signs from rural highways. The signs were quietly removed, but their legacy lives on. Stinker Stations are still a staple of the region and they employ more than 700 people.  The skunk is still part of the advertising, a fitting tribute to the original stinker, Fearless Farris Lind.

Coon Chicken Inn

Cardboard America, Uncategorized

I want to start by saying that there is no way I could ever possibly do a good enough job covering the racial significance of this chain of restaurant to warrant a full post. That is definitely best left to sites such as the Jim Crow Museum, the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor Project, and everyone else far more qualified than me.

However, I will touch on a bit of the history of these locations and share some advertising and other pieces of history that might not be shared elsewhere.

According to blackpast.org:

Maxon Lester Graham and his wife Adelaide founded the Coon Chicken Inn in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1925. The early success of this location prompted the opening of two additional chains in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington in the early 1930s. The patrons and employees of the Coon Chicken Inn chains were predominantly white, though African-Americans were hired to work in the kitchen of the Salt Lake City branch.

The first Coon Chicken Inn:

Cardcow.com

The second location in  Seattle location opened in 1929 at 8500 Bothell Way.

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Courtesy of the fabulous Restaurant-ing Through History

The Portland restaurant was the third and final location and it opened in 1931 and closed in 1949.

Coon Chicken Inn - Portland, Oregon

From my collection

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The 1942 postcard order form for the Portland location from Curt Teich & Co. and the Illinois Digital Archives.

Patrons would enter the restaurant through the mouth of the caricatures

The huge, 12-foot black face was added to attract more children and families to the restaurant, the history states.

Election Night, November 8, 1932 advertising from The Salt Lake Tribune

Here’s a little history from the Coon Chicken Inn website:

All three sites were booming and a cabaret and orchestra were added in Seattle and Salt Lake with a larger dining room and the addition of delivery trucks for outside catering. 

Maxon decided that if a gimmick were added for the children, it would help bring in the parents. He added the famous head logo to the entrances of the Inns it was a huge winking, grinning face of a black man wearing a porters cap. The words “Coon Chicken Inn” were spelled out on teeth framed by monstrous red lips. The doorway was through the middle of the mouth. At the time it proved quite popular. The logo of the Inn was on every dish, silverware item, menu and paper product.

The Salt Lake Tribune – May 3, 1934

There was a variety of food served but the specialty of the house was, of course, fried chicken. Flickr user Krystal South has uploaded the menu. The cover, the left inside, the right inside and the back cover.

The caricature was controversial from the beginning. At the 1930 Seattle location, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in conjunction with The Northwest Enterprise, an African-American newspaper protested the opening of the restaurant. A lawsuit was filed claiming defamation of race. The restaurant agreed to remove the “Coon” name from all delivery cars and to pain the entrance face blue instead of black.

But according to the site, he eventually violated his agreement with the NAACP. The restaurants in Oregon and Washington closed in 1949, but Salt Lake City’s remained open until 1957.

In the late 1950s the Grahams got out of the restaurant business, keeping the properties and leasing them out to other restaurant operators. 

The final Coon Chicken in Salt Lake City closed in 1957.

The Salt Lake City and Seattle sites have been razed. Only the Portland site remains

The Portland site became the Prime Rib years ago and it is still going.

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You can see the shell of its former occupants.

Only that building and the lasting memories of the past are left of a business that thrived for more than two decades.

Snelgrove Ice Cream Co. – Salt Lake City, Utah

Cardboard America, Uncategorized

Originally located at  1055 East 21st South  and 2100 South, the first Snelgrove ice cream shop was established by Charles Snelgrove in (1887-1976) in 1929, later managed by his eldest son C. Laird Snelgrove. Snelgrove’s remained family owned until 1990.

The Salt Lake Tribune – November 27, 1935

Snelgrove’s Distinctive ice cream was founded

As Snelgrove’s started to gain a reputation, Charles Snelgrove had an idea that would prove to be a smart one.

In 1931, Snelgrove saw that the Paramount and Capitol Theatres in Salt Lake City had recently purchased refrigerators and he saw an opportunity. He donated gallons of ice cream to the theatres but not for them to sell. The ice cream was to be given to the patrons.

“See a good show and enjoy, complimentary, a dish of Snelgrove’s Distinctive Ice Cream, served from a General Electric Refrigerator,” read a newspaper ad from the summer of 1931. The idea worked and Snelgrove’s Distinctive Ice cream became a big hit.

 In 1935, Snelgrove’s sent ice cream to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia for 375 guests at at Thanksgiving feast. The guests loved it.

During World War II, Snelgrove’s, like many other companies, sacrificed and had to adjust in order to stay in business. Snelgrove’s reduced their menu from 32 flavors to 15 due to difficulty obtaining enough milk and cream.

Snelgrove’s survived the War and successfully expanded their business.  In the 1930s there were three locations: 1055 East 21st South, 307 South 4th East and 222 East South Temple in Salt Lake City.However, by the end of the 1950s there was only one location remaining at 850 East 21st South.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the business expanded and a manufacturing facility and a newly built ice cream parlor were built just a few blocks west, at 850 E. 2100 South.

The Salt Lake Tribune – August 22, 1961

Snelgrove’s at the 2100 South location was famous for its large, rotating, double-scoop, double cone sign.

The sign on 2100 South was built in 1962 by the Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO).

The sign was YESCO’s “first three-dimensional design. The giant cone  was built on a metal frame with wire mesh on it to give it its form and the entire thing was then covered in fiberglass. It was painted pink and brown to represent a strawberry and chocolate ice cream cone.

The cone worked almost too well. Snelgrove’s couldn’t keep up with the orderes for the strawberry and chocolate cones like the one on the sign.

Snelgrove’s was just an ice cream parlor, they also packaged and sold their ice cream at grocery stores around the region. They also made chocolates.

Snelgrove’s struggled to survive as cheaper ice cream came to dominate the market. In 1991, the Snelgrove’s sold the company to MKD Distributors and all of the stores were closed.

According to this article by Amy McDonald in the Salt Lake Tribune:

In 2008, Dreyer announced it would stop producing Snelgrove ice cream because of business realities, a company spokesperson told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Squirrel Brothers Ice Cream, at 605 E. 400 South, formerly a Snelgrove franchise, was the last shop to offer Snelgrove brand ice cream. The building is now occupied by a Jimmy John’s, but the double cone still spins atop the sandwich shop, albeit painted completely black.

In the coming weeks, the names Nestle and Dreyer will be added and, Dreyer factory manager Laura Adams said, the ice cream scoops’ original flavors — er, colors — will be restored. And what will become of the original Snelgrove neon lettering? Dreyer has promised to give it to the Sugar House Community Council, which plans to preserve it along with other historical signs in the area.

The sign is such a part of the Sugar House area of Salt Lake City that it was featured on a 2002 Winter Olympics pin.

2002 Olympic Coca-cola double Scoop Ice Cream Cone Sponsor Pin