Recalling nearly a century of Locke’s ice cream

HOLLIS – In 1969, Bill Marvel carved his name and the name of his then-girlfriend, Lynn, into the top of a table at Locke’s Ice Cream Parlor in Hollis.

“I remember carving my name,” he said recently, laughing when he was asked about it. “That is just so funny. I was about 16, just got my license.”

Bill and Lynn were married in 1975 and now live in Rye.

That table and other pieces of Locke memorabilia are now owned by the Hollis Historical Society.

Locke’s Ice Cream Parlor was opened in 1901 by Mary Cleasby Locke in the dining room of her home, located a short distance from the town common. It was open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The ice cream was made in a four-quart, hand-cranked freezer packed with ice. She later invested in a 20-quart model.

The ice cream was completely local. The cream was supplied by Roby Farm in Nashua, and later by C.P. Brown, of Hollis. The ice came from G.A. Ladd. Fresh fruits and berries came from area farms as they were available.

Locke devised away to remove seeds from the raspberries without cooking them and making a popular flavor.

The hand-cranked freezer was replaced by a gas-powered model in 1918, and that was replaced by an electric one in 1924.

In 1921, the Lockes moved the parlor out of their house into a separate building beside the house and fitted it with tables and benches. They also added a “modern” telephone for customers to use.

Eventually, Locke’s husband gave up teaching and devoted himself to ice cream making.

In 1974, Susan Gondola and Donna Muzzy interviewed Loren Locke, who had been in the ice cream business all his life, which was started by his parents.

By the time the business closed in 1980, Loren Locke was making 100 gallons of ice cream three times a week. He had a commercial freezer, which made five gallons at a time and the whole process took up to eight hours.

Loren Locke recalled receiving an order for 12 quarts of ice cream. The buyers packed it in dry ice intending to take it to South Africa.

In 2005, the Hollis Historical Society presented a special program on Locke Ice Cream. Members asked people to write comments in a notebook, and many of them did, including people who had worked there and those who simply enjoyed the local ice cream.

Among the recollections were squeaky floor boards, a tall, round black fan, a jukebox and a pop corn machine. One writer recalled that the booths and tables “were somewhat darkish wood.”

Many recalled the double, or “boat,” cone, which held two scoops side by side with a single handle. A favorite flavor was chocolate chip, “made with the whole chip.”

Another favorite was fresh peach. A single scoop of ice cream cost 10 cents.

Jan H. Burtt wrote that life was simpler back then and people didn’t spend money on electronic entertainment or travel to distant shores for vacations.

“A cherished pleasure was to indulge in a large cone or a dish of Locke’s luscious ice cream,” she wrote.

Several called it “the best ice cream in the world.”

Marvel, who grew up at the other end of Hollis, recalled walking to the center of town with a friend, getting a basketball and playing at Town Hall. “Then we’d go to Locke’s,” he said.

He recalled going there with Lynn.

“We’d have one ice cream cone each and sit there talking all afternoon. They never told us to leave,” Marvel said.

They also drank orange freeze, orange soda and vanilla ice cream whipped together like a frappe. “That was great in the summer time,” he added.

According to various Internet sources, Nancy Johnson, of Philadelphia, received the first patent for a small hand-cranked ice cream freezer in 1843. Ice cream sodas were introduced soon afterward. Sundaes were invented in the late 1800s.

Ice cream cones and banana splits became popular in the early 20th century. According to legend, the first cones were produced at the world’s fair in St. Louis in 1904 using waffles.

July 24 has been designated as National Ice Cream Day, but Marvell and many others agreed that any day is ice cream day, particularly in a spell of hot weather.

Locke’s ice cream stand was torn down in 1990.