The interior of Glennie’s Belgian Candy Store, which was located at the corner of Gorham and Appleston streets in Lowell.	courtesy photoSun staff
The interior of Glennie's Belgian Candy Store, which was located at the corner of Gorham and Appleston streets in Lowell. courtesy photo

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By John R. Glennie

Several years ago in a B&B in rural Virginia, my wife and I heard that distinctive Massachusetts accent from the couple breakfasting nearby. "Where are you from," I asked.

Contemporaries of mine, they, like me, had grown up in Lowell. We reminisced about Lowell during the 1950s and '60s. They chatted about going to Glennie's for ice cream during sultry summer evenings and I of serving up frappes, cones, sundaes, sodas and more. As one of the Glennie's "boys," I scooped ice cream during summers and school vacations for a decade. My favorite was a creamy, red raspberry with berries grown in Lowell.

Glennie's Ice Cream, later to add "Belgian Butter Creams, Inc.", was part of the Lowell story for four decades, starting in the 1930s. Dad (John A.) was the Glennie of "Glennie's." Mom (Olive) was active behind the scenes.

A gathering spot

By the mid-1950s when I began working at Dad's, Glennie's had become an institution. During sweltering summer evenings, moms and dads packed kids into the car and headed to Glennie's to get out and cool off. Swarms of Lowell High football fans lined up after games at Glennie's on Rogers Street. Teens on dates would swing by. Bathers frequented Glennie's on the Pawtucket Boulevard, across from the bathhouses.

The Belgian Candy store downtown was a stop for regulars on lunch breaks and customers shopping for homemade chocolates, candy Easter baskets, Halloween treats and more.

Glennie's Ice Cream and other Lowell businesses of that time were part of what Lowell was and became. They weathered the Great Depression, sacrificed during global warfare, and endured economic malaise endemic to Lowell. Then, in the 1970s, the abandoned mills along the Merrimack were rediscovered as historic sites. Wang, the once-great computer company, relocated in Lowell.

But where did this resurgence leave the legacies of Glennie's and its contemporaries? Sidelined like sentimental sundries warehoused in grandma's attic?

I think not. Glennie's Ice Cream and other homegrown businesses -- Anton's Cleaners, J. Arthur Poitras shoes, Gagnon Hardware, the Costello-owned Lincoln-then-Cadillac dealership on Gorham Street and so many more -- endure still in the fabric of the city.

In the case of Glennie's, well over 1,000 high school and college students and others from the Lowell area worked there a summer or more.

Who might have served you, or your parents, or grandparents at Glennie's? John Axon, ice cream maker, or Leo Rayball, Rogers Street manager, both Marines in World War II; Ed Biron, later head of the First Federal S & L of Lowell; Charlie Green, former pro baseball pitcher and Glennie's manager; Joey Regan, city tennis star and prominent Lowell attorney; or maybe Dad, who was known to pick up a scoop every now and then to show how it should be done. They and many others didn't just serve ice cream in Lowell; they served the Lowell community.

For more, see: www.johnandhuiglennie.com. Click the "More" tab at the top, then click "Glennie's Ice Cream and Belgian Candy store" for the narrative and a second tab for a movie of Glennie's. Also under "More," is the "Old Family Movies" tab with footage Dad took of Lowell celebrating V-E Day.