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story.lead_photo.caption Liv Paggiarino/News Tribune In this News Tribune file photo, a few cars line up in the designated testing area at St. Mary’s Hospital on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 to get tested for coronavirus. St. Mary’s will hold an ice cream social in the same parking lot.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it might be a good time to reminisce about the good ol' days, long before COVID-19 became a household name.

We're talking 1957, with bobby socks, leather jackets and pomade.

And the ice cream social.

After a one-year hiatus, the St. Mary's Hospital Auxiliary Ice Cream Social is returning 11 a.m.-6 p.m. June 16. It began in 1956.

The social operated for the first few years as a cake-and-ice cream event. However, after a couple of years, organizers began offering hot dogs.

For years, organizers held it at the old St. Mary's Hospital site at Missouri Boulevard and U.S. 54/63. Over the years, hospital construction or other activities forced it to move periodically.

It had found a new home. For more than a decade, the event that brings in about $20,000 annually for the auxiliary settled into the undercroft at St. Joseph Cathedral.

But the pandemic caused it to be canceled last year, the first time in 63 years.

And church organizers anticipate major remodeling to the undercroft to begin any time now.

So, the social has returned to the hospital, in St. Mary's new location (since 2014) at 2505 Mission Drive.

It will be held in the parking lot for the Health Plaza East entrance, where staff conducted free drive-thru COVID-19 testing for more than a year, said Bev Stafford, director of the St. Mary's Hospital Foundation.

No one could guarantee the undercroft would be available for the event, which serves more than 1,200 people every year, Stafford said.

"It's a pretty cool story — six months ago, this parking lot was full of people waiting for testing," she said. "We'll still be using the carport."

It will be repurposed for fun, she added.

Customers need not feel the need to drive through and keep going. Organizers are making arrangements for them to stop and eat a hot dog, popcorn and other goodies. And enjoy the carnival atmosphere, Stafford said.

St. Mary's Hospital staff and volunteers will dish up generous servings of homemade cupcakes and brownies topped with Central Dairy ice cream. Tickets for ice cream and cupcakes are $3 and may be purchased in advance at Carrie's Hallmark, Downtown Book and Toy, and Samuel's Tuxedo.

Proceeds benefit the auxiliary's scholarship fund, which provides financial assistance to hospital employees, participants of the Medical Explorers group, auxiliary members, and their family members participating in health-related education or professional development.

Hot dogs, chips, popcorn and more will also be available for purchase the day of the event. Additionally, St. Mary's Auxiliary Busy Fingers quilting group will sell tickets for a raffle drawing for two donated vintage quilts.

"In a way for us, it marks the 'It's all behind us,' (moment)," Stafford said. "This is a celebration, in a way."

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