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Columnist

Cindy Lange-Kubick joined the Lincoln Journal Star in 1994 and has loved covering life in her hometown ever since. Will write for chocolate. Or coffee.

No one calls the ice cream lady Clarice.

As long as she can remember, it’s been Hap, a nickname given to her when she was a baby who never seemed to cry.

And Clarice "Hap" Loomis still seems plenty happy nearly 80 years later -- running her ice cream stand on the edge of Pioneers Park for half her happy life now.

C & L Dairy Sweet served its first cone on an April day in 1979 and, last week, Loomis swept out the winter dust and filled up the toppings for another season.

The mother of three -- now a great-grandmother -- had never swirled a cone or worked in a restaurant before she opened the “order here” window for business.

“This was a pretty scary adventure,” she says. “But I thought this would be an ideal spot.”

She thought right.

It’s a 77-degree Tuesday afternoon at the intersection of Coddington and West Van Dorn.

A new roundabout is directing traffic. The giant fiberglass chicken in front of Lee’s is back keeping watch again after being kidnapped a few years back. A backhoe is clearing brush from a long-neglected house to the north.

And the first lemon cones of the season are being licked into satisfying oblivion.

“You got lemon today, dontcha?” asks a customer who just crunched up the rocky drive in his pickup.

“You have the lemon today?” inquires another before ordering up a medium cone.

On a summer night, the line for that daisy yellow ice cream will stretch down the long circle driveway, nearly to the road.

Customers will wait patiently as Loomis and a part-time helper fill cones and cups until closing time.

Loomis serves burgers and hot dogs, too, malts and sundaes, banana boats and parfaits, dip cones and popcorn. She makes a sweet treat called a Billie Bar and another called a Monkey Tail.

There’s chocolate and vanilla soft serve every day and that something special on Tuesday and Wednesday.

She wanted a third flavor, Loomis says, sitting outside during a lull in sales. Strawberry? Boring.

Lemon? Perfect.

Loomis is laid-back and friendly, wearing a blue T-shirt designed with the help of a daughter and granddaughter. There’s a swirl of yellow atop a cone across the back: Home of the LEMON CONE.

That lemon cone. It’s what sets them apart, what customers rave about when they talk about the small stop on the edge of town.

And this is how it started.

Long ago, the Loomis family -- Hap and Ed and their three daughters -- lived on this land in the little house tucked off to the west. The girls had horses and chickens and pigeons. They had a barn and corrals and an arena to ride in.

Eventually, the family moved down the road and took their animals with them. And when Hap and Ed got divorced, he kept the new place and she kept the old one.

“She had a vision for that spot,” says her middle daughter, Chris Kliment. “She thought with the park out there, it would be a perfect place.”

The girls weren’t using the arena anymore and a friend was getting ready to pack up and move to Florida and leave her own Dairy Sweet on West O behind.

So Loomis hired a crew who picked up the pint-sized ice cream stand and hauled it east and south to her 1½ acres.

She added a wooden awning and blue trim, benches and picnic tables.

She scrubbed half the original name off the old sign and added her own: C & L.

The sign is still standing.

The original malt mixer is still making malts and the stainless steel freezer is still keeping the Cool Cookies and the Super Bars solid.

A radio plays low and fuzzy in the back room where Loomis plops burgers on a George Foreman, more speedy than the old-school grill.

Lunch used to be a bigger affair before Russ’s opened down the road, Loomis says.

And the two-year roundabout project left customers with just one way in -- prompting Kliment to purchase flutter flags to let ice cream-craving drivers know they were indeed still open for business.

Loomis used to offer lemon only on Tuesdays, before her daughter got on her case because the one-day-a-week offering caused all sorts of traffic trouble.

“I’d say, ‘Mother, this is going to be a hazard,’” Kliment says.

All three daughters worked at the Dairy Sweet. All six grandkids have worked the window, too.

And too many neighborhood kids to keep track of had their first jobs at C & L, learning to make cones and count change and keep up with a crowd with Loomis as their teacher.

“One of the things that prides her the most, is now they’re bringing their own kids,” Kliment says.

It feels like a small town ice cream shop here on the west edge of the city, she says, where they know their regulars both by name and by what they order.

Here comes a medium cone and a small Pepsi. Here comes a chocolate malt and a crunch cone. Here comes a quart of lemon.

And behind the window: There’s Hap.

“Mom is known for always being there," Kliment says.

A work ethic that won’t quit, the daughter says.

She still mows the wide expanse of grass behind the stand. She can fix fence and pull a toilet and fix a clogged sink.

She once climbed in the narrow order window when she locked her keys inside.

“I’m not sure I could still do that,” she laughs.

But she has no plans to slow down.

She’ll be here Saturday in her blue shirt -- along with her daughters -- Lee, Chris, and Carla -- and grandkids giving away hot dogs and chips to the first 200 customers, thanking Lincoln for 40 years.

“I’ll be here just as long as I’m healthy, I guess,” she says. “If I get worn down, I’ll just have to hire more people, won’t I?”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @TheRealCLK.

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