Story by Emma Christensen, Photos provided by Brent Scollie
For the better part of a century, nothing said “summer in Fort William” like Scollie’s Dairy. Known locally for its homemade ice cream, the dairy’s iconic Creamix bar was a summer staple many Thunder Bay residents will remember. What fewer folks may recall is its historic role in the region’s dairy distribution business.
Bill Scollie is a former city councillor, owner of the Ski Haus, and a member of the third generation of Scollies to make ice cream. He recalls working alongside his uncle Fred to mix homemade syrup for their chocolate ice cream. “He knew when the formula was right—there was no measuring. Just like a grandmother with her favorite recipe, nothing’s ever been written down,” says Bill. He reveals that using quality, authentic ingredients contributed to the success of the family’s ice cream products, including favourite flavours like maple walnut and burgundy cherry. “We had a higher than average butterfat content, and the products that went in there were all genuine,” he says.
Scollie’s Dairy at the rear of 600 Catherine Street, showing delivery cart and horses. The dairy was constructed the summer of 1914, so this photo dates from after 1914, likely prior to 1920.
Arguably, none of Scollie’s ice cream treats were as dearly loved—or are as sorely missed—as the legendary Creamix, created by Frederick Jr. and William Scollie. Made with a caramel-infused vanilla ice cream base, Creamixes were frozen onto sticks for easy eating. Although the Scollie family didn’t experiment with different flavours, Bill’s uncle Fred occasionally added a special ingredient to the Creamixes he whipped up for his curling club companions at the Branch Six Legion. “This was when the curling club didn’t have a liquor license,” says Bill. “So there you would see all the veterans from Branch Six curling at the Fort William Curling Club, eating Creamixes spiked with rum.”
Fred L. Scollie driving a McLaughlin truck filled with tubs.
The locally famous ice cream wasn’t always made in-house. When the enterprising Frederick Scollie—Bill’s grandfather—moved his family to Fort William to start his dairy business in 1905, he imported ice cream by boat from Duluth. And ice cream wasn’t the only thing he brought in. “He wanted a reliable supply of milk, so he imported the cows and subsidized them to the farmers,” Bill says. Frederick Scollie maintained good relationships with area farmers, and these connections paid off. By 1913, Scollie’s was supplying 50% of the district’s dairy products.
Scollie’s Dairy Divco truck. The driver was not seated but had to stand. It could be driven from four positions, front, rear, or either running board. Fred J. Scollie sold it to a Detroit automotive museum where it currently resides.
The ice cream operation was housed in several Fort William locations over the years, beginning with space rented from the Fort William Creamery on Marks Street—a business which Frederick Scollie eventually purchased. Between 1914 and 1961, Scollie’s Dairy also operated out of the basement of the family’s home on Norah Street, in a storefront across from the C.P.R. station on Syndicate Avenue, and in a plant in the backyard of the Scollie home on Catherine Street. In 1961, Scollie’s Dairy moved into a brand new manufacturing plant on Walsh and Waterloo Streets, where it remained for decades. The business was eventually sold out of the family when Frederick Sr.’s sons, Fred Jr. and William, retired in the mid-1970s. The plant remained in operation until late 1989.
Fort William Creamery delivery sleigh, driven by Harold Goodfellow. Harold Goodfellow’s mother was a Scollie.
For several years after the plant closed its doors, Bill continued to sell Scollie’s Ice Cream out of his own business, the Ski Haus on Brodie Street. But the ice cream parlour, which now serves up products made in London, Ontario, was lacking one very important menu item. Disappointed customers asked for Creamixes daily—and sometimes still do.
Although Creamixes are no longer available to the public, the favourite formula hasn’t been forgotten. “One of these days I’m going to make a batch for my grandkids,” says Bill.
Scollie ice cream parlor on Syndicate Avenue circa 1909–14. (The Uniwon Jacks suggest that it was a public holiday.)