I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
And scream they did, all those grass-stained Little Leaguers who crowded into the ice cream shop where I worked summers during high school, clamoring for chocolate, strawberry and peppermint stick.
It was the mid-1970s and the place was my hometown Friendly’s—the once-mighty Massachusetts ice cream and restaurant chain. Little boys who played organized baseball on weekday evenings in the spring and summer descended upon Friendly’s whether they’d won or lost, hollering and jostling for my attention.
“Two scoops for me, lady. Coach said I could have two scoops ‘cause I hit a homer.”
“If you’re gettin’ two, I’m gettin’ two. I pitched!”
“Yeah, but you gave up 8 runs.”
An exhausted-looking coach standing behind the grass-stained gang would shake his head and hold up one finger. “One scoop,” he’d mouth. “They all get one scoop.”
The Friendly uniform for females in those days was a pale gray cotton dress (almost knee length) with a white ruffled collar and a white ruffled apron. I often felt as though I was living a double life. On my own time I wore faded jeans and t-shirts, but had to button myself into a Church Lady get-up for work. And scooping ice cream was not a ruffle kind of job. By the end of a busy night, my right arm would be coated with a dense, sticky film from bumping against the side of ice cream cans and my apron would be stiff with sundae syrup.
I didn’t touch ice cream for a few years after I punched my last Friendly’s time card and headed off to college. I couldn’t even stand the smell of it. (You don’t think ice cream has a smell? I’m here to take the other side of that argument.) But eventually my olfactory sensitivity disappeared, and I fell in love with ice cream anew.
Emack & Bolios in Boston was the site of my re-entry into the seductive world of a cone on a warm summer evening. E & B was the first small batch ice cream I ever experienced, a whole new taste sensation.
Then I moved to Maine and wrote for a newspaper that had its office a mile up the road from Big Daddy’s in Wells. Many a summer afternoon featured a staff pilgrimage to BD’s, where the reporters and editors at the York County Coast Star held extended debates about which of its many chocolate variations was the best.
Ben and Jerry’s had a store in the Old Port in the 1980s, downstairs from the then-office of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, where I worked as a law student. Training myself to pass it by on my way in and out of 97A Exchange Street was good practice for my current discipline, which is to pretend that the Mt. Desert Ice Cream Shop at 51 Exchange Street, two doors down from my current office, does not even exist.
I admit that back in the day, the temptation of New York Super Fudge Chunk lured me into B & Js on occasion, and I confess that every now and then I find myself stealing a glance at MDIC’s flavor board (Callebaut Chocolate. Blueberry Buttermilk Sherbet. Nutella.) But I rarely step foot inside. Honest.
I cannot lie, however, about my vulnerability when driving across Route 3 between Belfast and Augusta, where amazing ice cream is sold at a simple yellow wood-frame building with mint-colored picnic tables in the Town of Liberty, known and loved by true aficionados as John’s Ice Cream Factory.
I was put in the know about John’s by a friend who worked in Augusta. She described it as “25.9 miles east of the State House.” Her exactitude impressed me, so the next time I had occasion to drive that stretch of Route 3 I swung into the small (and always full, I have learned) parking lot.
Friends, I’m here to tell you, John’s ice cream is the best in the State of Maine. The Peach boasts big chunks of local peaches. The Lemon is the creamiest lemon ice cream you can imagine. The Ginger is sublime, and my personal favorite—Chocolate Orange Peel—is so good it makes me want to scream.
Now that I’ve confessed my rekindled passion for ice cream, I want to hear from you, dear blog readers. What are your ice cream memories? What’s your favorite ice cream stand? (Extra points if it’s in Maine). What is your go-to flavor?
Brenda Buchanan is the author of the Joe Gale Mystery Series, featuring a diehard Maine newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Three books—QUICK PIVOT, COVER STORY and TRUTH BEAT—are available everywhere e-books are sold. These days she’s hard at work on new projects.