2018-08-10 / Community

A Window on the Past

Bennett’s Ice Cream Bar made name for itself
By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society


Bennett’s Icea Cream Bar from “South Portland: A Nostalgic Look at Our Neighborhood Stores” by Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo, published in 2006. (Courtesy photo) Bennett’s Icea Cream Bar from “South Portland: A Nostalgic Look at Our Neighborhood Stores” by Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo, published in 2006. (Courtesy photo) Bennett’s Ice Cream Bar was established by Thomas and Helen Bennett in 1941. The shop was built on to the side of their house at 12 Ardsley Avenue, facing Main Street with a large parking lot in front. Bennett’s Ice Cream Bar was a seasonal business, open from March to November. During World War II, before the Maine Turnpike was built, buses carrying shipyard workers would stop at Bennett’s so the workers could enjoy an ice cream cone before heading home. The Bennetts ran the business for more than 30 years, serving homemade ice cream, sodas, pastries and sandwiches. They were known for keeping a clean, immaculate store.

Thomas Bennett was the brother of Stanley T. Bennett, who was the founder of Oakhurst Dairy. Thomas worked for Oakhurst for more than 20 years before opening Bennett’s Ice Cream Bar with his wife. He continued working part time for Oakhurst during winter and “also enjoyed hunting and ice fishing,” says his son, Tom. “His hobby was whittling, and his chickadees and seagulls were well known.”

Inside Bennett’s Ice Cream Bar there was a jukebox, with all the new songs of the day, and booth seating. For the most part, though, customers would come in and order their food and treats at the counter for take out.

With the store attached to the house, Thomas and Helen were always busy. Helen would bake pies, cakes, brownies and other custom-prepared foods for customers. She was known for her excellent marmalade, which would disappear soon after making it out onto the customer.

“Helen’s hobbies were rug braiding, crochet and needlepoint work,” says her son, Tom.

One former employee, Alice Smith Dunlop, remembers how much everyone loved the Bennett’s peach ice cream.

“They had a big peach tree,” says Dunlop, “and they would pick the peaches and make peach ice cream.”

Helen and Thomas Bennett retired and sold their home/store in the 1970s. The building was later torn down and the site is now the location of Town & Country Federal Credit Union.

The book “South Portland: A Nostalgic Look at Our Neighborhood Stores” is available for sale in the society’s gift shop at the museum. To learn more about South Portland’s history, we encourage you to visit the South Portland Historical Society’s museum at Bug Light Park. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also search for and view more than 10,000 historic images of South Portland on the society’s online museum. Link to it at www.sphistory.org.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of South Portland Historical Society.

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