When I was a girl, people knew me as my mom's shadow. I was an only child, she wasn't married and we didn't have a car until I was in sixth grade, so when she went walking around the 7th Ward visiting family and friends, I was with her — always. The highlights of my walks were always stopping somewhere for hucklebucks.
Some people call them frozen cups or huck-a-bucks, and in other Southern cities they are called cool cups, cold cups and icebergs, but hucklebucks are solid sno-balls sold in Dixie cups. To make them, you freeze a mixture of sno-ball syrup and water.
Of course, there are variations. Riding Ms. Biagas' van to McDonogh No. 39 Elementary School, I remember hearing kids from New Orleans East say they knew a hucklebuck lady who put gumballs in the bottom of her hucklebucks. Other kids talked about a woman who wrapped quarters in tinfoil and put them at the bottom of each of hers.
There were quite a few "hucklebuck ladies" in the 7th Ward when I was a girl, including several who lived near Hardin Park. The one I remember most was Ms. Theriot. Like most hucklebuck ladies, she was a senior citizen with a house full of china cats, colorful afghans and macrame plant towers.
When my mom and I visited her, she'd always let me pick a hucklebuck from her Frigidaire. Blue bubble gum, coconut, nectar, spearmint, pineapple and strawberry were my favorite flavors. She often had layered hucklebucks like red, white and blue which were strawberry, coconut and bubble gum or red and yellow which were strawberry and pineapple. My paw-paw said when he was a boy at Gilbert Academy, the girls who had pineapple and strawberry sno-balls or hucklebucks would say, "Red and yella, catch a fella!"
My research for Gambit's "Cheap Thrills" issue (June 25, 2013) led me back to the part of the 7th Ward near Hardin Park, in search of the hucklebuck ladies I hadn't seen — or looked for — in more than a decade.
"Are there hucklebuck ladies around here anymore?" I asked a woman sitting on her Hope Street porch. "I'm sure all the ones I knew growing up are dead."
"No, not anymore," she responded, a hint of longing in her voice. As I hung my head a little, feeling embarrassed for asking the question, she shouted, "Well, there might be a lady by the park, but I don't know."
I wondered if my search would be fruitless. I saw a man who seemed to be my age and asked him if there were any hucklebuck ladies in the 7th Ward. He confirmed their absence. I turned down New Orleans Street, thinking of the hucklebuck ladies around Hardin Park I knew growing up. Perhaps hucklebuck ladies were casualties of Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods.
A friend of mine told me his mom sold hucklebucks around St. Augustine High School every afternoon from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., but I didn't see her. I wondered if I had been given the hucklebuck okie-doke.
On North Dorgenois Street, across from Hardin Park, I saw two men sitting on a porch. They looked vaguely familiar — if my mom were alive, they'd probably all figure out we were "couzans" in the 7th Ward Creole way. I asked them if they knew a hucklebuck lady.
"Yeah, right around the corner," one responded. "And she just went home!" the other added.
I thanked them and dashed to my car. I made a quick turn down Allen Street and saw what I thought only existed in the recesses of my mind: the definitive 7th Ward hucklebuck lady.
She was younger, wore a tank top instead of a housecoat and had some new-school flavors like cake and mango, but I could tell the archetypal 7th Ward hucklebuck lady hadn't changed.
Once I got my hucklebuck, I firmly but slowly rolled it between my hands to loosen it from the plastic cup so I could flip it over and eat it the best way. I popped-and-flipped it perfectly, as expertly as I did when I was a girl. Turns out, I hadn't changed either.