When I was a kid, it was always a special treat when we stopped at Birdsall’s for ice cream. Having been in business since 1931, Birdsall’s has been a favorite place of my entire family for decades. While my all-time favorite has to be their hard scooped ice cream, sometimes I even settled for their slushes.
In the summertime, my sister and I would search high and low through the house looking for spare change, hoping we could come up with enough from the laundry room and from under the couch cushions to have enough money for a treat. Then we’d hop on our bikes, suffering through the heat and humidity to ride to Birdsall’s just to get that sweet treat.
After ball games or school programs, or sometimes just when my parents or grandparents wanted to take us somewhere fun, pulling into the Birdsall’s parking lot just immediately made my heart race. It was small-town, it was comfort, and not to mention–the ice cream is AMAZING.
I moved away from Mason City in 1987, but still– Birdsall’s is always a priority at least once (sometimes twice) during every visit back. For as long as I can remember, my order has always been the same– one scoop of chippermint and one scoop of peppermint on a sugar cone. (Other than those few times we couldn’t find enough change and we had to get slushies.)
As I got older, my sister and I both having families of our own, with very busy lives, we can always come back to Mason City knowing Birdsall’s is still around. With the same one-armed chairs lining up the wall, the red & white striped signage out front, the vinyl bar stools at the white counter, and the same friendly smiles when we walk back in the door each time.
Over the years, Birdsall’s has not only become a place my family has gathered in times of happiness, but recently we’ve found that it’s also a shelter from the storm in times of sadness and grief. Coming back to Mason City for my grandmother’s funeral in the fall of 2014 and my grandfather’s funeral in the spring of 2015, our families went to Birdsall’s to take a break and enjoy family time. Emotionally, we were spent. We were tired and overwhelmed, but something about gathering together during these sad times at a place that is so familiar to us was so comforting.
After my grandmother’s funeral, we stopped in and were immediately greeted by Dave, whom I think is the manager. Not sure, but he’s there every single time we stop in. He immediately came over to us and gave his condolences, and then began taking orders and scooping ice cream.
My most favorite visit ever was when we visited in March 2015 when my grandpa passed away. I can’t recall if it was right after my grandpa’s visitation or after his funeral. My family, my sister’s family, and my parents all decided a trip to Birdsall’s was definitely in order. It had been a rough few days for everyone, and ice cream was needed to soothe our souls.
As soon as we walked in, eyes swollen from crying, there was Dave again. He took one look at our family and said “I was wondering if you guys were going to stop in tonight.” Again, he then quietly got to work taking orders and scooping ice cream.
Birdsall’s. It feels like HOME.
This post was originally published on my old blog on July 22, 2015