Small Town Ice Cream Karma

Another Saturday night, and we’re in line at Herrell’s.

If you live around these parts or you’ve ever been to Massachusetts, you know Herrell’s. In 1973, Steve Herrell opened Steve’s Ice Cream. He’s credited with inventing super premium ice cream and the mix-in (and should therefore receive the Congressional Medal of Honor). He sold the Steve’s chain in 1977 and opened Herrell’s in Northampton in 1980. Damn lucky for us.

So hard to choose.

On any summer Saturday evening, the line at Herrell’s is always long and always worth it. Out-of-towners look at the line and leave. We smirk: shorter wait for us. Burnt Sugar and Butter, Tipsy Cake Batter, Elvis’ Favorite, Malted Vanilla. (Cue Homer Simpson reverie noises). The frozen yogurt is as good as most ice cream. (I have to be fair and note that Go Berry around the corner has superb frozen yogurt, too). Most importantly, they are always happy to put a cherry on the top of Ted’s chocolate-with-rainbow-sprinkles-in-a-cake-cone.

On this night, we get in line with Ted and notice three of Chuck’s friends in the adjacent computer store. They see Ted and, in a very sweet move, immediately look around expectantly for Chuck. I shake my head and they look crestfallen. A minute later, one of them, whom I’ll call “S,” appears in front of us.

“Are you Chuck’s mom and dad? Will you hold a place in line for us while we run to CVS?”

I’m amused that they send the one who barely knows us.

I look him over skeptically, but decide to be kind: “Sure, if you get back in time. The line can go pretty quickly.”

Five minutes later, they’re back. (They probably had to go buy combs. These 13-year-old boys must have combs on them at all time to prevent the errant pouffy hair).

“Before I let you in, you have to tell me a secret about Chuck.”

They look at me blankly.

“Oh, nevermind.”

We move through the line at a reasonable pace, with time for me to imagine what kind of ice cream I’d get if I were actually getting ice cream. It also gives us time to get a little woozy from the aroma of the homemade hot fudge topping.

As we’re ordering, I notice there’s a conflict going on in front of me. Apparently S has ordered a large complicated sundae, and he doesn’t have enough to pay for it. His friends can’t front him because they have equally huge sundaes. Much to his relief, I offer S the few extra dollars he needs. Call it small town karma: one of these days, Chuck will be standing at Herrell’s with a sundae and a shortage of funds and another parent will be there to help him out.

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6 Responses to Small Town Ice Cream Karma

  1. James McRae says:

    Thank you for that vignette. Sounds like a wonderful karma to be part of, from this rattling underground train in the suburbs of London……

  2. k2 says:

    Ye gods, I miss Herrell’s. On the plus side, I don’t eat nearly as much ice cream as I used to before I moved away, which is probably a good thing for my weight, but man, I miss my Burnt Sugar & Butter/some-variation-of-Mudpie cones.

  3. Judy Cockerton says:

    I remember moving to Boston in the 1970s and traveling with all of
    my roommates to Steve’s Ice Cream in Somerville at least once a week.
    Lines snaked out the door, down the block & around the corner. It was
    THE place to be. Nobody else made ice cream like Steve Herrell…
    Imagine my delight when I came upon Herrell’s in Northampton !!!

  4. Margaret Miller says:

    I remember going to Steve’s in the 70’s with my older sister who lived in Cambridge and being amazed. Now I am thrilled to live in Herrell’s town and have braved the line too. (It does move fast thanks to their amazing crew of ice cream baristas) Recently I overindulged and ate a huge waffle cone rimmed with chocolate and filled with coffee ice cream. I am a coffee heath bar addict.

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