Canning: Iceballs and friendship on the Northside


Gus and Stella outside of the Kalaris Iceball Cart. (Photo courtesy John Canning).

Recently, while waiting to see a dental specialist whose office is in the East End, I thought of a lifetime of visits to various specialists.

When I met the doctor, he asked where I lived. The “Northside” reply left his guessing for the few landmarks he knew. Of course the two ballparks on the North Shore were his first choices.

The he said, “I do take my sons to that Ice-Ball man by the park. Isn’t that on the Northside too?” Bingo! In my book he had hit the jackpot. I then proceeded to take up my pre-numbed time telling him about Gus and Yia-Yia, who are the ultimate specialists in their craft  – friendship.

This month, at their annual dinner, the Allegheny City Society is honoring two of the Northside’s special neighbors— Gus and Stella “Yia-Yia” Kalaris.

The Kalaris Ice-Ball cart has been in operation along Western Avenue since 1934, when Gus’s Dad set the business in operation. For the next 70+ years the Kalaris family has been producing thousands of wonderfully flavored cups of hand shaved ice.

Gus and Stella have been, and continue to be, very special neighbors for Northside folks who on a “scorcher” walk to the park for a refreshing orange-pineapple, cherry, lime, rootbeer or, as every kid has tried, the all favorite “Rainbow” Ice-Ball.

 On any summer day or evening the line at the Ice-Ball cart always will include many non-Northsiders or expatriate Northside folks who have driven in from the various far-flung regions of the Greater North Side: Ross, Mt. Troy, Ingomar, Wexford and even Cranberry.

Recently while perusing a website called “Born and Raised on the Northside” there was a picture postings of Gus and Yia-Yia’s orange and white cart with the multi-colored umbrella from folks living in the Carolinas, Texas and Arizona. Some were taken decades ago.

When returning to the area for family events and class reunions many messages described the excitement of bringing their own kids and grandkids to enjoy, as one message read, “the greatest ice ball in the country.”

Gus and Stella were “born and raised on the Northside.’ Stella grew up in the California-Kirkbride neighborhood and went to Columbus Elementary and then to Oliver High. Gus’s home was on Sandusky Street, just above AGH. He attended Cowley, Latimer and then Allegheny High. They have lived in Brighton Heights for many years raising their two lovely daughters, Penny and Chrissy.

During those “child rearing” years when Stella was with the girls, Gus’s mom, Yi-Yia (Grandmother in Greek), was at the stand helping serve and converse with friends and customers.
In recent years, as Stella is now the Yia-Yia to her own grandchildren, she is often at the cart meeting and greeting folks as they wait for their favorite flavored treat. Everyone who has frequented that stand for any period of time has become a friend as well as a customer.

Stella and Gus are the ultimate Northside good neighbors. They have been at it, as the sign on the cart reads “Since Your Dad Was A Lad.”  

Indeed, they do sell the greatest Ice-Balls in the Country, but even more so, they specialize in friendship to everyone!  

The April 25 ACS dinner and program is open to all.  Information is available at the or by calling Ruth McCartan at 412.364.6132 or John Canning 412.322.3974.

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