The Sugar Bowl Was a Sweet Spot
in Late 1950s Sandwich

By Chip Hamlen

You can drive just about anywhere in Sandwich today and find a place to stop in for ice cream, but back when the population of the town was only a couple of thousand people, it wasn’t that way.

 

In the 1940s and 50s, local restaurants and snack bars served ice cream and milkshakes, and you could get boxed ice cream and novelties in the grocery stores.  Pratt’s Pharmacy had a soda fountain, but there wasn’t an “ice cream parlor,” in town, per se.

 

That changed when The Sugar Bowl opened on Jarves Street.

 

The Sugar Bowl was an offshoot of Fran’s Restaurant, an eatery which had been opened in the late 1940s by Frances Maguire in the block where MacDonald’s Emporium, Collections Gallery, and Anchors Aweigh Discovery Shop are today.

 

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Outside The Sugar Bowl on Jarves Street, circa late 1940s.  (Photo courtesy of Marybeth Burbank)

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Fran’s Restaurant also served ice cream, but at the time, there wasn’t much for the kids in town to do.  Fran felt that they should have a place to go to that was “theirs,” so she moved the ice cream business from her restaurant to a separate storefront in the building, put it in the capable hands of her brother, Bunny DiPietro, and the result was The Sugar Bowl, also known as “Bunny’s Sugar Bowl.”

 

An ice cream parlor probably doesn’t seem like much today, but to kids of that generation, The Sugar Bowl was big news.  It was a lively place, full of high schoolers who had needed a hangout, and now suddenly had one. 

 

It wasn’t an elaborate set up. 

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Bunny DiPietro (right) and a fishing buddy outside The Sugar Bowl on Jarves Street, circa late 1940s.  (Photo courtesy of Marybeth Burbank)

According to Charlie van Buskirk, who was growing up in Sandwich at that time, the soda fountain and stools ran along the right hand wall of the shop, with additional seating to the left.  Glassware was under the counter and on shelves; mixers were on a side wall work counter, with the menu posted on the upper side wall.  There was also a large pass through window from the back room into the shop. 

 

A decorative, pressed tin ceiling and a jukebox completed the décor.

 

Nothing fancy, but it had everything the kids needed.

 

The shop served Hendries Ice Cream.  A small soda cost a nickel; a large soda a dime.  Elaine Cary remembers having her first Coca-Cola there.  Linda Crocker, then in elementary school, remembered her aunt, “Muzzie” Richter, taking her in for ice cream.  And Charlie van Buskirk’s favorite treat at The Sugar Bowl was a root beer float, called a “Horse’s Neck,” which cost a stiff fifteen cents.  Charlie noted that, when funds were low, cherry and lemon cokes were good economical alternatives.  Jack Liberty, a teenager at the time The Sugar Bowl was in operation, splurged (“if cash was plentiful”) for the twenty-cent coffee frappe.

 

While the kids dove into their sundaes and banana splits and hashed over the latest news from school, the nickel jukebox provided background ambiance with songs like “Buttons and Bows,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “My Foolish Heart,” and “Too Young.”

Jack Liberty noted, “It was THE stop after school, or baseball practice at Casino Field, or on a Saturday.”  Bobby Quirk, Frances Silva (who became the Town Nurse), Jack McArdle, George ‘Buddy’ Elvander (who joined the Sandwich Police Force), Judy Hendy (who later worked in the Town Clerk’s office), Barbara Gates, and Skip Brady were only part of the gang that went there.  But it wasn’t just a place for the kids to hang out; Bunny also hired high school students to work the place, although he was always there supervising.  Employees were allowed to eat as much ice cream as they wanted, but the hard and fast rule was, “No freebies to your friends!”  Inevitably, the new hires would feast on the treats, but within a couple of weeks, (perhaps after overdoing the employee perk), their enthusiasm for the free ice cream tapered off. 

 

“Bunny was a great gentleman and allowed the crowd a lot of leeway,” Jack Liberty said.

 

From all accounts, Bunny handled his clientele with humor and patience, and was a positive influence on all of them.  If things got out of hand all he had to do was calmly tell everyone to cool it.  He only had to say it once.  The kids liked, and, perhaps more importantly, respected Bunny, and were grateful that The Sugar Bowl was “their place.” 

 

The back room of The Sugar Bowl eventually served a somewhat surprising function.  Fishing equipment from Red Top Bait and Tackle was sold there, and Bunny, an avid fisherman, later went on to manage Red Top in Buzzard’s Bay.

 

The Sugar Bowl closed in the early 1950s.  Today, Anchors Aweigh Discovery Shop occupies the storefront where The Sugar Bowl was.

 

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There are options for ice cream all over town now, including The Shipwreck, Twin Acres, Sweet Caroline’s, and Penguin’s.  But for a brief time, The Sugar Bowl was the only bona fide ice cream parlor in Sandwich, one which the kids of that generation spoke of with great fondness and which was an important part of their youth, not only for a place to gather, but for the job opportunities Bunny provided for them.  It’s all but forgotten today, but thanks to Fran Maguire (who is now 103) and her brother, Bunny, the teenagers of mid-20th century Sandwich had a place that was especially for them; a sweet spot on Jarves Street that they could call their own.

 

Many thanks to Marybeth Burbank, Elaine Cary, Linda Crocker, Tim DiPietro, Jack Liberty, and Charlie van Buskirk for sharing their memories of The Sugar Bowl.  Thanks, especially to Frances Maguire, for her memories of how The Sugar Bowl came to be, and for understanding that the kids in that then very small town of Sandwich needed a place of their own to go to.

Ad for 'Bunny's Sugar Bowl' from Sandwich Board of Trade pamphlet, circa 1948.  (Courtesy of Bill Chase)