TBT: A love letter to Trowbridge’s and a banana split

In honor of Throwback Thursday, here’s a story of one of my favorite restaurants in my hometown. (This story was previously published on a now-dead blog I started. I guess that makes it a double-throwback!)

Best place in town for ice cream, chili dogs (if you like those skinny little red weenies), and Coke in a bottle so the straw floats up.
Best place in town for ice cream, chili dogs (if you like those skinny little red weenies), and Coke in a bottle so the straw floats up.

When I was ten, my mom had to go out of town for a week. Since my dad didn’t get home from work until late, my college-aged sister got babysitting duty. She worked for a furniture store downtown, where I got to hang out with her after school that week. I thought it was extremely cool to lounge around on the beanbag chairs in the television department instead of sitting on a regular couch to watch tv. Or to wander around and pretend I lived in the houses that had some of that furniture…

Something even better than playing on the furniture was across the street from the store. Trowbridge’s. The local ice-cream and sandwich shop. A trip to Trowbridge’s was a real treat, saved for special shopping trips or rewards most of the time. After much begging, my sister agreed that I was old enough to go across the street to Trowbridge’s ALL BY MYSELF to get my after-school snack one day. She handed me some money and said I could get whatever I wanted. I tried to play it cool, like I did things like this every day, but I’m sure my face gave away my excitement. I was sure this meant I was practically grown up!

I crossed the street, making sure to look both ways, and walked through the glass door into heaven. I stood for a moment, considering. Did I want to sit in one of the booths with the slick, plastic-covered, bouncy seats? Or at a table with the crome-backed chairs? Nope. I went for it…the counter. I had to climb up onto the high bar stool with the help of the chrome foot rail at the bottom of the counter. I couldn’t resist giving the stool a little swivel as I settled onto it. (Surely even a grown-up had to appreciate the joy of a swivel bar stool!)

It was mid-afternoon, only about an hour before they closed, so there weren’t many people there besides me. At least, not that I remember. The counter lady came to take my order. Bless her heart, she was patient with me and didn’t laugh.
I know I stared up at the menu hanging over the big mirrors behind the counter for at least 5 minutes and changed my mind at least 20 times before I decided that ice cream definitely trumped a grilled cheese. I considered my options carefully. I counted my money. I added up the cost of what I wanted. Then I went for it…a banana split! AND a coke! Never had I felt so decadent in my whole life.

The lady behind the counter brought me my Coke in the bottle and I happily floated the straw in it while I watched her create the biggest dish of ice cream I had ever seen. Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry with firm slices of banana on each side. Chocolate syrup on top, then a long, generous squirt of whipped cream. Finally, cherries on top. When she set it on the counter in front of me, I know my eyes were huge!

Now keep in mind that at age ten, I was tiny. The shortest kid in class. I weighed maybe 65 pounds. And I was sitting in front of three large scoops of ice cream dressed with all the trimmings. But I dug in. Believe it or not, I managed to eat almost all of it. I figured if I had spent probably $3 on ice cream (remember, it was the 70s!), I was darn well going to get my money’s worth!

When I made it back across the street to the furniture store, my sister met me at the front door. Turns out I was gone for more than half an hour and she was starting to get more than a little freaked out. (She thought I’d only be gone about 10 minutes…she didn’t know there was a banana split calling my name!) She was mad enough to say she wasn’t going to let me go out on my own downtown anymore. As I fell into the beanbag in front of the tv, I just grinned and decided it was worth it!

Trowbridge’s is still there now. You can still get a banana split, a sundae (mmm…hot butterscotch!), or an ice cream cone. My daughter begs to walk to Trowbridge’s for ice cream whenever I am downtown getting my hair cut. I usually let her.

The booths are still covered in slick plastic and the table tops are still white formica with gold glitter embedded in it. There’s still counter service with swivelly stools. The menu is still hanging over the huge mirrors behind the counter and still has the same items on it. Everyone in town has been there sometime and can tell you their favorite item with no hesitation, whether its chicken salad sandwiches, chili dogs, or a grilled cheese. They still serve Cokes in bottles so you can watch your straw float up and out of the bottle. And the ice cream is still yummy. The prices haven’t changed too much either.

At lunchtime, you can barely move between the tables or get out the door to leave. You are almost certain to see someone you know when you have lunch there.

Trowbridge’s is fast approaching its 100-year anniversary in the same location, as the old photos on the walls can testify. Here’s hoping they will be there making memories for another 100-years-worth of kids and adults!

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