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Besides fighting for property tax relief in the Nebraska State Legislature, I believe it is important to give proper recognition to those living in Western Nebraska who have made a significant contribution to our history, culture and heritage. So, last week the Executive Board of the Nebraska State Legislature held a public hearing on a resolution I introduced to declare the Tin Roof Sundae as the official sundae of Nebraska. The Tin Roof Sundae is a Nebraska original creation, and so deserves to be recognized as our state’s official ice cream sundae.
Back in the early 1930’s Harold Dean Thayer, the son of a pharmacist, James Earl Thayer, began working as a soda jerk at the Potter Sundry in the village of Potter in Cheyenne County. Back in those days Harold was affectionately known as “Pinky” due to his bright red, wavy hair and vibrant personality.
Pinky Thayer enjoyed concocting spectacular ice cream sundaes and creating new recipes. According to his brother James, Pinky would create a new sundae every other day. Besides the Tin Roof Sundae, Pinky also created the Blitzer and the Zombie. But, at the young age of 14, Pinky created the first ever Tin Roof Sundae. This was the sundae that would stick. The Tin Roof Sundae won the hearts and the pallets of the sundry’s ice cream connoisseurs.
So, what is it like? The Tin Roof Sundae is an original ice cream sundae which was designed to be served in a soda glass. The recipe calls for heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with a generous amount of chocolate syrup, then scoops of chocolate ice cream covered with marshmallow sauce, and topped with whole roasted, skin-on, Spanish peanuts.
So, how did it get its name? This has been a source of controversy. Most people believe that Pinky named the sundae after the tin roof of the Potter Sundry; however, his brother James once told a different story. According to Dr. James E. Thayer, Pinky’s younger brother, the Tin Roof Sundae was named after the tin roof of a livery stable located across the street from the Potter Sundry; however, James also confessed that Pinky liked to pull the leg of his little brother.
Pinky Thayer’s creation soon became a national sensation. As the saying goes, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Several ice cream brands have replicated the flavors of the Tin Roof Sundae. Among them are Baskin-Robbins, Blue Bell, Blue Bunny, Blue Ribbon, Breyers, Deans, Hiland-Roberts, Island Farms, Jerseymaid, Kemps, Lucerne, State Bros., Turkey Hill, and Umqua. Besides replicating the flavor in ice cream brands, the Tin Roof Sundae has also inspired the creation of new desserts, such as pies and bars.
The Tin Roof Sundae has received national recognition for being a distinctly Nebraska tradition. In December 1998 Gordon Tustin, writing for the Sidney Telegraph, suggested that the Potter Sundry along with the Tin Roof Sundae may have ascended to the ranks of being a Nebraska institution, but in 2018 it was the Food Network that formally recognized the Tin Roof Sundae as an iconic Nebraska dessert. Besides including the Tin Roof Sundae in their list of the best desserts in the country, the Food Network declared that the “…Potter Sundry is the actual drugstore-soda fountain where the tin roof sundae was created.”
The Potter Sundry continues to make the original Tin Roof Sundae. The sundry is located at 324 Chestnut Street in Potter, Nebraska. If you have never tried the original Tin Roof Sundae, then I must ask you the following question: “What are you waiting for?” As the Nebraska Legislature moves to declare the Tin Roof Sundae as Nebraska’s official sundae with LR 282, now is great time to make your way to the village of Potter to try Nebraska’s soon-to-be official State sundae.