- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 20, 2003

ICONIUM, Mo. — A sweet and simple ritual has endured here for about 30 years. It brings comfort to homesick boys and reassures the older and more jaded that innocent pleasure still exists in a complicated and uncertain world.

Dusk brings Scouts by the score to Scott’s Iconium Store, where they line up at the snack bar window to earn a whimsical merit badge — for the Peach Float Trip.

Qualifying is easy: Just slurp down a soothing concoction of soft ice cream twirled into a cup of Peach Nehi soda.

Scott’s sells about 25,000 of the $1.50 peach floats each summer. That’s more than 1,500 gallons of Peach Nehi.



“There are two obvious ingredients, the vanilla ice cream and the Peach Nehi,” says Ginger Scott, whose husband’s relatives began running the store in 1947. “But there is a third ingredient: love. We just love these boys and they love us back.”

The boys make a short, sweaty hike over from the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation, where groups of them spend about a week in the summer.

They call Mrs. Scott “Mom”; some second-generation campers even call her “Grandma.”

She likes it. After all, it was a Scout who concocted the peach float, for which her family business has accumulated cultlike fame among boys and their families across Missouri.

Soon after the Scotts took over the family business in the mid-1970s, a soda pop distributor brought in a couple of cases of canned Peach Nehi.

“He told me, ‘I can’t get rid of these, so will you just take them, no charge?’” Mrs. Scott recalls.

She took them. The cans gathered dust. Then one day, a group of Scouts came in and spotted the obscure brand beverages.

“They wanted to know how it tastes,” Mrs. Scott says. “I said, ‘Let’s get some ice and see.’ They all liked it, but one boy poured his over a cup of vanilla ice cream and — wow. That’s how it started. That kid is my hero — and I’m sorry to say I don’t even know his name.”

Thousands of Scouts have since followed that inspired peach soda pathfinder. Testimonials flow from happy converts.

Joe Watts, 14, Kansas City, Troop 341: “The peach float is like a root beer float but without the root beer, and it’s a whole lot better. Peach Nehis are awesome, and I’ve never seen one in Kansas City. It’s not a city treat.”

Matt Selecman, 17, Raytown, a junior Scout leader from Troop 341: “I once drank four peach floats on a dare and won about $15. Then I laid down. Man, did I feel full.”

Mark Young, an adult assistant from Blue Springs, helping lead Troop 692: “It’s been camp food all week, and tonight we had corn dogs, and that’s one of the better menus. So a peach float is a well-deserved treat.”

Andrew Morris, 11, steps up to the counter in search of the fizzy pink elixir. He reached for his first Peach Nehi float, its soda bubbles clustered in a cloud at the base of a vanilla pinnacle. There’s a tentative sip, then a vigorous one, then Andrew picks up his long plastic spoon and gobs of pink-tinted ice cream disappear.

The boy from Excelsior Springs smiles a satisfied smile: “Cold. Peachy. Mmmmmm.

Next year marks the 75th anniversary of the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation. There are projections of more than 5,000 visitors during one celebratory weekend.

“We don’t know how we’re going to handle them,” Mrs. Scott says, not too unhappily. No doubt she’ll need to order more Peach Nehi.

Her husband, Wayne Scott, usually keeps almost 200 cases on hand. He says Peach Nehi outsells Coca-Cola and Pepsi products combined “just about 10-to-1.”

Just after dark, Ginger Scott shouts: “Last call for floats and ice cream.”

A few stragglers line up — some for seconds.

Then the group, some with floats in hand, forms neat lines and begin marching back to camp along the gravel shoulders of a rural country road.

And from the belly of the peaceful woods come a few distinctive sounds: gravel crunching underfoot, the clanking of six-packs of Peach Nehi and the scraping of spoons against foam cups, audibly marking the search for peach float remnants.

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