The Tip of the ICEE-berg

July 11th is National Slurpee Day.  According to priceonomics.com, every year, more than 7 million gallons of Slurpee are consumed worldwide, that equals 12 Olympic-size pools and the worst case of brainfreeze ever. 

The Slurpee’s history can be traced back to a small Kansas town.

Omar Knedlik was born and raised in Barnes, Kansas (population: 148) in 1916. 

He grew up a poor farm kid and would serve his country during World War II. 

When he returned from war, he purchased several hotels in Coffeyville and eventually he would buy a Dairy Queen franchise in the late 1950s. 

The story goes that Knedlik did not have a soda fountain, so instead he put bottles of soda in a freezer.  Some of the pops turned into slush, but he served them anyway.   It turns out the semi-frozen bottles of coke were more popular than the fountain drinks. 

Knedlik began tinkering, hoping to reproduce the slushy soda on demand, using an old ice cream machine,

Five years later, in 1960, he patented the ICEE machine.

Ruth E. Taylor, A local artist came up with the name ICEE and also created the logo.

Soon, Knedlik was advertising his new invention as “The Coldest Drink in Town” with Root Beer being the first flavor.

In 1966, 7-Eleven bought some of the machines, and named their drink – the Slurpee. 

Knedlik retired in 1967 after also inventing a pump for soft-serve ice cream and the Baby Cannon Fishing Rod Holder.

He received royalty payments from 7-Eleven for 17 years, until the machine’s patent expired in 1983. 

He died of kidney failure at age 73 in 1989.

Today, the ICEE company, headquartered in California, employs about 800 people.

The company estimates that half a billion ICEEs are sold each year.

Interesting note: In 1994, 7-Eleven trademarked the term “brainfreeze” to describe that weird sensation that comes from drinking a Slurpee too fast.  

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