Screaming for Ice Cream

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.

Baseball and ice cream, a winning combination

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.”

The Friendly’s where I worked looked quite similar to this one.

“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.”

friendly uniform

Yep, this was my outfit. Exactly the same but our aprons also had ruffles, and of course my name tag said “Brenda.”

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.

Site of many a delicious cone.

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.

For illustration purposes only. I avoid this place like the plague. Really.

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.

Mecca for Maine ice cream lovers, IMHO.

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.

One day at a time . . .

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.

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15 Responses to Screaming for Ice Cream

  1. David Plimpton says:

    Thanks, Brenda, for the info on great IC places anf memories, but I now wish I had some for breakfast!

    Scoops, in South Portland’s Willard Square, a great neighborhood near Willard Beach, is a place we used to take our grandchildren that had good ice cream and a good selection of flavors and is still there. My favorite there was Salt Caramel, one of their alpha and omega offerings.

    All time favorite – Ho Jo’s Mocha Chip, one of the original 28 flavors – which I fondly recall from the old days in New Jersey. And whenever I went to Augusta, Maine for work some years ago, I’d try to get it at the Western Avenue Ho Jo, until one time they didn’t have it anymore. And I thought – more evidence the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

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    • I remember that mocha chip — it was one of my favorite HoJo flavors!

      Fun fact: the lyricist who wrote the song “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream” in the 1920s was named Howard Johnson (undoubtedly unrelated).

      I’ve heard good things about Scoops. Thanks for the tip!

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  2. kaitlynkathy says:

    My favorite flavor is maple walnut, not to be confused with commercial brands of ice cream that are only maple walnut flavored. But I’m forced to admit that my best childhood ice cream memory is of soft-serve vanilla ice cream. There was what we used to call (in rural New York State) a “custard stand” just a short distance from my house. It was a regular stop on walks after supper on summer evenings as well as on hot afternoons.

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    • My Mom was a big fan of maple walnut (like you, the real kind). I think the only other flavor of ice cream she ever ordered was coffee.

      I’m not a soft-serve fan, but love frozen custard. There’s a terrific place called Mainely Custard on Route 1 in Freeport, where you can check ahead online to learn the flavor of the day. Frozen custard and online scouting – the perfect mix of old fashioned and new.

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  3. Liz Milliron says:

    I’ve never been to Maine, sorry. There is a local place that makes it’s own ice cream. Brr-Kees. Open all year ’round and even in the winter has a good crowd. I love their black raspberry chocolate.
    Growing up in was a treat if we could go to the Dairy Queen down the street. It was a REAL treat if my parents took us to Charlaps across town.

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  4. Lea Wait says:

    I know Gifford’s is a Maine favorite for some, but for me you can’t beat chocolate raspberry chip or peach at Round Top in Damariscotta.

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  5. Shirley says:

    I can not remember the first store bought ice cream I had. I do remember living in Americus Georgia and making fresh peach ice cream.We made it in one of those hand crank makers where we as kids took turns sitting on top while the adults took turns hand cranking it .You had to put rock salt around the inner container,that is what froze it. Best ice cream I’ve ever eaten.The closest I’ve come to homemade from store is BlueBell from down here in Texas

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    • That is a terrific memory, Shirley! I recently found when cleaning my garage an ice cream maker shaped like a ball. You fill a metal cylinder in the middle with rock salt and get the kids shake or play catch with the ball (it’s made of plastic) and after a while – voila – ice cream! I plan on giving it to my sister’s grandkids next time I see them. I suspect they will be intrigued.

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  6. bethc2015 says:

    Now I need to go to John’s and order a 4 scoop dish because I want to try every flavor you mentioned. I’ve never done that before but there is no time like the present.

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  7. susanvaughan says:

    Oh my goodness, I must go to John’s Ice Cream Factory. Another great place for ice cream is the Harjula Farm here in South Thomaston. They serve Gifford’s flavors, and you can’t beat the size of the servings. A small is two huge scoops. And the view! Seated on picnic benches on a Saturday or Sunday evening, waiting for the sunset, you view their farm fields, the Saint George River, and the Camden Hills beyond. Yum.

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  8. Sandra Neily says:

    Oh thank you Brenda! I married (three years ago) an ice cream-a-holic and now as we head home we’ll be using route 3 and finding John’s. (I showed him this post and then we had to go out for Giffords in the Greenville Dairy Bar. Always the award winning chocolate.) Beals (I used to live near the Veranda St. one in Portland) has amazing black raspberry choc chip. But the best part of your post was the awful waitress uniform and how during the day you were coated with goo. I wore a uniform for 5 summers in Boothbay (Fishermans Wharf) and was slimed head to toe with lobster butter. I can relate. Thanks for taking the time to take us on this perfectly timed adventure.

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