We’re in the heat of summer, and here’s the story of a guy who helped everybody cool down: Omar Knedlik, the inventor of the ICEE.

Knedlik grew up on a farm in northern Kansas in 1916, and later served in World War II.

And by the 1950s he was running a Dairy Queen in southern Kansas.

That was a time when soda fountains were popular, only the one in the shop he’d bought didn’t work.

The story goes that Knedlik did the next best thing: he took bottles of soda and put them in the freezer, calling them the “coldest drink in town.”

This was a hit, but of course one can leave soda in the freezer too long.

So Knedlik tried to build a machine that would make soda thick and slushy without turning it frozen solid.

It took him five years, but he got the machine to work just as he’d intended, and he partnered with a Texas company to produce and sell his invention.

When he told a friend the drink was supposed to be colder than ice, the friend suggested both the name ICEE and the famous logo with snow on the tops of the letters.

The product didn’t take off right away, but after a few years of tinkering (and marketing), the cold drink got hot.

ICEE’s parent company says today, they sell 500 million frozen drinks a year.

Today in 1924, Don Knotts was born in Morgantown, West Virginia.

The town pays tribute to its famous resident with a statue downtown.

I bet a lot of people whistle the Andy Griffith song when they walk by.

Remembering Omar Knedlik, the Rural Kansas Man Who Invented the ICEE (Kansas Public Radio)

Don Knotts Statue (Atlas Obscura)

Keep cool as a backer of this show on Patreon

Photo via Steve Snodgrass via Flickr/Creative Commons