Unknowable history

An old ice cream sign leaves many questions unanswered.

Sometime shortly after moving to the Creston neighborhood 15 years ago, I noticed an old sign while walking along Plainfield Avenue. It’s tucked away on the side of a building and there’s not much left of it. When you look closely, you can just make out an ice cream cone — rusted and fading, yet still visible. I’ve always assumed that there used to be an ice cream store in the building and, sure enough, a search through old city directories and real estate listings confirms this. There were actually three ice cream shops that inhabited this building from about 1930 through 1960: Miller’s, Joppe’s and the East End Dairy.

Even after researching that sign, I still don’t feel like I really know why it’s there. And since it’s on a side of the building that doesn’t show in most photographs, I doubt I ever will. I think I’m okay with that, though. I enjoy soaking up the history of my neighborhood and our city, but I stay interested because there’s so much I still don’t know (and there always will be). There’s an infinite number of stories and experiences, just within Grand Rapids. For me, the remnants of an old ice cream sign remind me that I won’t ever know everything, but I will stay curious.

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